“Being good is easy, what is difficult is being just.”
When organizations select their future employees they have to follow existing laws, but also need be fair towards all job applicants. For instance, in most countries or regions, anti-discrimination laws protect applicants and employees against decisions based on their gender, age, ethnicity, disabilities, etc. In addition to potential legal issues, not offering a fair process to all candidates may hurt the organization's reputation.
Unfortunately, not all managers or organizations offer a completely fair process to all job candidates. This can happen because organizations do to rely on clear and structured process. Alternatively, managers sometimes rely on stereotypes when interacting with job applicants who are different from them, thus (consciously or unconsciously) biasing their assessments and decisions.
In addition to the clearly protected grounds for discrimination (like age or gender), my research looks at new groups of individuals who might receive less legal protection and be stigmatized and discriminated against. For instance, applicants' chances to get a job could be reduced because their have a tattoo or piercing, or because of their smoking habits.
Together with Eva Derous (Ghent University, Belgium) and her team, we proposed a theoretical framework explaining how and why job applicants can be discriminated against in a job interview. Building on dual-process theory, we investigated how stigmatizing applicant characteristics affect interviewers' information processing during the three main stages of the interview (i.e., pre-interview, interview, decision making).
We also discussed how situational factors (e.g., interview format, organizational culture) and interviewer factors (e.g., experience, training received) can increase or decrease such biases, and the final impact such stigmas can have on interview outcomes (see article here).
My colleague Namita Bhatnagar (University of Manitoba, MB) and I conducted several studies looking at the impact of applicants' smoking status on selection outcomes. In a series of scenario-based experiments, we showed that decision makers' initial impressions were significantly worse when job applicants were depicted as smokers versus non-smokers in a store-based context.
We also showed that smokers were perceived as more likely to engage in counterproductive work behaviors (for instance be late or lazy at work, steal from their employer, etc.). However, the effects were mostly present when the assessors had more negative attitudes towards smoking. Interestingly, we found that the negative reactions towards smokers were present both when the job involved direct contact with clients (i.e., customer service job) and when it did not (i.e., inventory management job). (see article here).
We have replicated those results with a job interview simulation, and showed that the negative reactions towards traditional cigarette smokers also extend to vaping or e-cigarette. In addition, we used eye tracking technology and found that raters with worse attitudes toward smoking (but not vaping), glanced at smoking stigma cues more frequently (e.g., they looked at a pack of cigarettes the applicant had on the interview table). And the more they looked at this, the more negative their first impressions of the applicant were. (see article here)
We are currently working on examining how being a cigarette smoker or a recreational cannabis user can negatively impact hiring recommendations, especially when such habits are discovered by hiring managers as part of a cyber-vetting phase (i.e., checking the applicant social media profiles).