How a candidate put me on the spot

Q: I’m not the usual potential employee type who sends a question in to you – in fact, I am an employer. Last week when interviewing candidates for a new graduate role, three of the six we interviewed asked us about what we were doing in terms of our corporate and social responsibility, particularly in combatting climate change. We are a light engineering firm and have implemented some climate programmes, but I was surprised that candidates would be so brazen as to ask us what we were doing. It felt like they were putting us on the spot. I would have thought their focus should have been on convincing me that they were the right person for the job? (DF, email).

A: Funny you should mention this, DF – I was at a conference last week where this exact scenario was raised. Yes, candidates are now keen to align themselves with companies who are in step with the key societal challenges, including climate change, though other challenges also feature on their radar.

For those of us of a certain age the thought of putting the employer on the spot is not one we would ever have entertained when we were starting out. We were reared on proving yourself to the employer in a sort of ‘yes sir, no sir, three bags full, sir’ type of way.

Societal issues

However, candidates of all ages are now very motivated – and fearful – about the societal issues I mentioned above. And they are not afraid to bring up those issues in an interview.

Given that many companies are experiencing significant recruitment and retention challenges, employers would be unwise to dismiss people just because of what might be construed as an impertinent request. And is it really impertinent? The world has changed. Many candidates no longer wish to work for companies that they see as doing ‘bad’ in the world – or not doing enough ‘good’ – and are much more likely to throw in their lot with those leading the way on a range of fronts.

You will hear much more of this in the years ahead.

Put it out there

It sounds like you were able to give a solid answer because you are carrying out some relevant initiatives. I would urge you to take this a step further and make those initiatives a corner stone of your recruitment. Put what you are doing out there in your advertisements.

If you float those things out there early in the recruitment process, you will give comfort to many of the candidates you are now seeking to recruit – and those candidates, if successful, will also develop further initiatives, thus perpetuating the cycle within your organisation. This is much more than mere lip-service: it is about embedding climate change awareness and impact in the heart of your organisation. Only good things can come from putting your best foot forward in this way.

It’s a new world. What you describe is not a detrimental development, but one that will help society tackle the very real issues it now faces. We should be grateful to those candidates of all ages who have the courage and vision to raise these questions in interviews – they are doing the world, and your company, a great favour.


Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.


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