A recent Gallup poll of Americans showed that 56% of smokers believe they are at least occasionally discriminated against in public or employment life with 13% of them claiming that they are discriminated against daily. Smokers report the most common forms of discrimination come in the forms of bans at places such as beaches and parks. In addition, smokers face higher insurance rates and smokers claim they are discriminated against in the hiring process.
My posts generally revolve around hiring so I will neglect the challenges smokers face at the beach and in Yellowstone and focus on their hiring dilemmas. Yes, smokers do face discrimination during the hiring process and may be turned down for employment solely because of their habit. Reasons for this are smokers have higher health care costs and absenteeism from work. Co-workers are also likely to grow annoyed with the frequent smoke breaks that smokers take. For instance my son, a non-smoker, frequently complained about having to leave work late because the individual who was assigned to take over his register first wanted to have a cigarette before coming on duty.
A few states protect smokers from job discrimination but is this reasonable? If an employee or job applicant is engaged in a habit that is scientifically proven to be detrimental to themselves, to those around them and increases company expenses, why would that individual not expect some sort of negative reaction? An employee sneaking off for five minutes every hour to look at pornography on their mobile device would expect a rightful reprimand even if their behavior in no way affected their co-workers or cost the company an increase in expenses. Why then are smokers miffed?
I used to smoke back when smoking wasn’t so out of vogue. I sympathize with the cravings smokers have but I also worked and never smoked until I departed work. Not smoking is possible for long stretches of time. A smoker cannot expect their fellow co-workers not to grow perturbed by their frequent cigarette breaks especially if the non-smokers must pick up the slack in their co-worker’s absence.
Wikipedia defines addiction as “a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences.” If an individual is not truly addicted to smoking then their best course of action is to quit or at the very least, refrain from stepping outside every hour. However, if they claim to be addicted, then by definition they must expect adverse consequences. These adverse consequences may manifest as discrimination in the hiring process. I take issue with using the word “discrimination” though. Not hiring an employee engaged in a bad habit that causes them to work less and costs the company more in healthcare costs sounds more like plain common sense than prejudice.
Do you agree or disagree?
Yes, you read that correctly. EEGs, as in electroencephalogram, a device full of small disks and electrodes that doctors hook to one’s head to monitor the electrical activity of a patient’s brain, could one day be used in the hiring process.
Several companies have developed what are described as “consumer-friendly EEG headsets” which look similar to a wireless headset that a gamer might wear. An employee would conceivably arrive at a company, don the headset with the help of a technician, and begin a series of tasks while the computer records data. The data is then uploaded and interpreted into a report by proprietary software. The report can then provide customized suggestions to the employee about how they can achieve greater productivity and engagement. These suggestions are based on the employee’s high or low levels of activity while performing certain tasks. Sounds pretty complicated doesn’t it, and I will admit I don’t fully understand how EEGs work in general, but in short the more active your brain is, the more engaged you are.
EEGs can also measure different skills by monitoring the networks of the brain responsible for those skills. The skills determined can be broad, such as social rapport building, to detailed, such as whether an individual prefers to communicate via email or by talking. The detail depends on how many biosensors a headset offers.
I was impressed to find out this technology is pretty affordable. The headset above costs only $79.99 and moves upward from there depending on how many apps are bundled with it. When you examine how video interviewing has evolved in price from expensive multi-conference units costing thousands to the now more affordable vendor based services that enable you to interview for a few bucks a candidate, one could logically deduce that the price of these headsets will continue to drop as adoption increases while simultaneously the performance of the apps improve.
Are these devices the future of hiring though? One of the earlier impediments to the adoption of video interviewing was the perceived potential for discrimination. I’m curious how the brain wave activities of varying ethnicities, ages and genders may differ from one another and if one group produces what might be labeled a “preferred” brain wave pattern. Additionally as was the concern with video interviewing, the candidate’s race, gender, ethnicity, etc. will have to be determined prior to the face to face interview. The technology, while affordable enough for companies to repeatedly use, is still too expensive to require a job candidate or employee to purchase themselves. Thus the employee or candidate would have to be outfitted by an employee with the company’s hardware. Obviously their age, gender ethnicity will be revealed at this stage.
As a former search consultant who has used behavioral assessments and video interviewing in the hiring process, and has at times received push back from job candidates on such measures, I wonder how employers will be able to hook such devices up to candidates without resistance? Employees might be less inclined to resist than job candidates but HR will need to ensure they maintain the privacy of the employee’s data and educate the employee fully on what data will be gleaned from these devices.
I am not thoroughly educated on the extent of what brain wave patterns reveal, but if they can determine if a candidate’s preferred method of communication might they not also determine if a candidate is more pre-disposed to alcoholism, rage or sociopathy? Are we not opening up a whole new world where not only our bodies are discriminated against but our minds too?
Why do we have laws protecting job candidates from discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity, age, gender and so on? Because hiring managers have preconceived notions about whether candidates of a particular race, ethnicity, etc. will fit into their corporate culture and are capable or intellectual enough to execute the duties of their open positions. You know this. Minorities are the underdog. Well this recent story reveals how foolish and off base are biases are. Read more
Hire-Intelligence, in coordination with Synchronized Resources Inc., will present “Access, Accommodations & Video Interviewing” on August 5th in Washington D.C. at the National Industry Liaison Conference. Read more
Right off the bat those in the Human Resources profession may take offense to my use of the word “fear” for surely so small a thing as a webcam does not scare them. Search your soul though soldiers of compliance. I’ve been a part of enough discussions both in person and online to have learned by now that some of you want little to do with video interviewing. What have I learned? Well I’ve learned that some HR managers, far more so than any other group, believes video interviewing will make it easier for hiring managers to discriminate. Additionally you believe that having recorded videos on hand, perhaps potentially showing your manager’s discriminatory behavior, will expose you to litigation.
Many of these fears are born from a misunderstanding of how video interviewing technologies work. Here are a few ways that video interviewing actually counters discrimination.
- Structured interviews: A number of video interviewing vendors provide a solution where candidates can take the interview on their own and at their convenience by means of an automated interviewing solution. Each candidate applying for a particular position is administered the same set of questions. Structured interviews of this nature, whereby every candidate regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity and so on, answers the same questions, reduces discrimination. Hiring managers, in other words, aren’t allowed to deviate from their script of questions based on the demographics of the candidate sitting before them.
- Video interviews provide a record of your non-discriminatory practices. You probably didn’t think of this, did you, while you were so preoccupied with the assumption that your biased managers would get caught red handed on tape. Imagine if an issue arose with a disgruntled candidate and you could point to a video interview clearly showing no discrimination took place. Furthermore by comparing the disgruntled candidate to the other candidates who applied for the role, you can demonstrate why one candidate made it further in the hiring process than another. Ever hear of the Hawthorne effect? This is a psychology term used to describe the increasing performance levels that occur amongst workers when they know they are being observed. When your hiring managers are conducting recorded live interviews, ones they will share with others, I imagine they understand that observing good interviewing practices are in their best interest.
- Video interviews can actually screen candidates into the process. One recruiter approached us after video interviewing a candidate and said his client had refused to move forward with the candidate because he thought the candidate, based on the candidate’s resume, lacked the energy level to do the job. This is a nice way of saying that the client thought the candidate was too old. After the recruiter showed the interview to the hiring manager, the hiring manager was able to see the candidate’s energy and enthusiasm for the opportunity. As a result, the candidate got the interview and eventually the job. An additional example is of a candidate that I encountered with a very ethnic name. He was originally dismissed because the hiring manager determined he probably could not speak English. Once he demonstrated his English speaking prowess on video, he got the job.
Now, after everything I’ve said, won’t you sleep easier tonight knowing that video interviewing means you no harm whatsoever?