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Becky Norman

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John Lewis publishes job interview questions online: Should your organisation do the same?

To support diversity and inclusion in the recruitment process, John Lewis has announced it will post interview questions online to help candidates prepare their responses. Should other organisations follow suit? We ask three experts…
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John Lewis Partnership, which includes Waitrose, has recently made interview questions available to candidates, to help them have the best chance of getting hired.

Its careers site now offers FAQs on the recruitment process, details on what the retail giant looks for in potential employees, and questions that could come up at the interview stage. It even provides example tests for candidates to practice.

This move is designed to help individuals show up as their best selves in the interview room, especially benefitting those who are capable of the job but get nervous and underperform in a formal interview setting. It is also expected to help the retail giant recruit from a more diverse candidate pool and better support neurodivergent applicants during the hiring process. 

It’s a bold move from John Lewis, which could lead other organisations to consider overhauling their recruitment process too. Should they follow suit and create a less anxiety-inducing hiring journey for candidates? Or are there negative implications to this new trend? HRZone asks three experts to share their views…

Better support for neurodivergent candidates

Deborah Hartung, thought Leader in HR & Culture, commends the approach from John Lewis: “This move towards transparency is a welcome change. The interview process should be a collaborative exploration of fit, not a surprise test.”

Providing questions in advance enables neurodivergent candidates to thoughtfully prepare.

Hartung says it will be particularly advantageous for neurodivergent individuals: “By preparing candidates with a clear outline of expectations, we level the playing field and reduce unnecessary anxiety. This is especially beneficial for neurodivergent individuals, who may experience heightened stress in unfamiliar social situations or struggle to process information quickly on the spot.”

“Providing questions in advance enables neurodivergent candidates to thoughtfully prepare and showcase their true potential. Let’s encourage more companies to embrace this inclusive practice,” says Hartung.

Could this ‘inclusive’ recruitment approach backfire for John Lewis?

Ella Overshott, Director of Pecan Partnership, agrees that this process should enhance inclusivity, but highlights the risk of it backfiring: “It’s always commendable when employers try new, more equitable ways of recruiting. However, sharing questions in advance risks widening the gap even further between the privileged, socially confident candidates who can craft a polished answer and those who are a great values match for the organisation but may not ‘present’ well in interview.” 

Overshott has a solution to this: “Connecting with candidates outside a formal interview situation gives the opportunity to explore who they are, their experience and their potential in a more authentic way. This is especially important when recruiting people from outside the corporate world, or who have had time away.”

We must not overlook the interviewer in the recruitment process

Quentin Millington, Founder of Marble Brook, suggests that this new recruitment process also requires consideration of the interviewer’s skill in selecting the right candidate for the job. “Interviewers require the empathy, intelligence, time and skills to energise the conversation. They must encourage interviewees to make the most of prepared answers. They have to discover authentic experiences behind stories edited by friends or AI. They must listen and ask meaningful follow-up questions.”

Published questions may aggravate the damage of lazy and misguided interviewing.

“It is important not to be seduced by a tick-box inclusion agenda,” Millington warns. “Look beyond any labels and we are each unique. To find good people, firms must enable interviewers to see and respond to all candidates as the individuals they are. There are no short-cuts: strong recruitment calls for personal effort and investments in culture.”

“John Lewis’s strategy may be a chance to move beyond perfunctory conversations and find the best people. The idea works when interviewers probe critical thinking and lead on a richer dialogue. Otherwise, published questions may aggravate the damage of lazy and misguided interviewing,” Millington concludes.

Interested in this topic? Read Assess candidates on potential impact, not personality

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Becky Norman

Managing Editor

Read more from Becky Norman
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