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Recruitment: Presentations

This page deals with presentations where they are part of the recruitment process. For presentations as part of a job, see Examples of reasonable adjustments: Presentations (in job).

"EqA" or "Equality Act" means the Equality Act 2010 (link to legislation.gov.uk)

The "Employment Code"
means the 2011 Equality Act Code of Practice on employment (pdf, link to EHRC website), which came into force on 6th April, 2011. (More on EqA Codes of Practice)

Summary

This page in summary:

Summary of legal background

The most important types of Equality Act claim as regards presentations in the recruitment process are the reasonable adjustment duty and 'discrimination arising from disability'.

In summary, this means that an assessed presentation which disadvantages a disabled person potentially gives rise to two key legal issues (though tribunals may see the issues as not very different from each other):

"Modifying procedures for testing or assessment" is expressly mentioned in the Employment Code para 6.33 as an example of a possible reasonable adjustment.

For more, see: Assessment of oral skills: Legal background.

Are presentation skills really important for the job?

Is it presentation skills being assessed, or rather the relevant subject?

Where an employer requires a presentation as part of the recruitment process, the aim is likely to be at least partly to assess knowledge and skills on what is being talked about, rather than presentation skills.

Example: An employer requires job candidates for an HR post to give a presentation on how best to achieve equal opportunities in the workplace. The aim is likely to be, at least to a large extent, to test the applicant's expertise and ideas on implementing equal opportunities, rather than to assess their presentation skills.

Is it legitimate to test presentation skills?

If the employer is (at least in part) assessing the candidates' presentation skills (rather than the subject matter), is it legitimate for the employer to do so?

It is unlikely to be legitimate to test presentation skills unless they are actually required in the job. It may also not be legitimate if presentations might sometimes be done but these skills are not really important, or if reasonable adjustments could mean that presentations need not be made. See further below: How important are presentation skills? And could reasonable adjustments be made?

From a legal perspective, as outlined about in Summary of legal background, an employer who bases their assessment of a job applicant partly on presentation skills may be acting unlawfully:

What adjustments (if any) should be made to a presentation during recruitment will often depend on whether it is legitimate to assess presentation skills. Depending on whether assessing them is legitimate or not, see below:

Is importance of presentation skills exagerated?

Employers sometimes 'overplay' the degree to which skills are required to perform the duties of the job. One person who stammers writes:

"The arrangements for interview included giving a presentation. This was said to be an essential requirement of the job. However, since being in post, for more than two years now, there has been no work situation which has required, as an essential, formal presentations."

How important are presentation skills? And could reasonable adjustments be made?

Even if presentations may be required to some extent, there is the question how major a part of the job they are. If the person has a problem with presentations, there may well be scope to do things in a different way (reasonable adjustments) - see Examples of reasonable adjustments: Presentations (in job). For example:

"Typically meetings are pre-arranged events, with agendas and responsible officers for items. For these situations I typically prepare written notes on my items which are emailed to attendees prior to the date. For example, last week I pre-prepared a 'discussion paper' on a topic, with background information and specific decisions to be made. This enabled a large amount of information to be made available in writing, including specific questions to address, which otherwise may have proven very difficult to deliver orally - simply by making a minor adjustment to arrangements." (February 2009)

If presentations are required that the individual could not do even with adjustments, then (especially if they are a minor part of the job) the question would arise whether it is a reasonable adjustment to adjust duties so that someone else does the presentations. See Examples of reasonable adjustments: Allocating some duties to another person.

Or, for example, there could be an issue whether testing presentation skills is legitimate if presentations might be given sometimes, but not in a context that any great presentation skills are required. One issue here could be whether, under the objective justification test, the lack of importance of presentation skills is such that the discriminatory effect of turning the person down on this ground outweighs the employer's aim.

Testing other skills (if presentation skills not important)

This heading deals with the situation where an ability to give presentations is not really required for the post, or where assessing presentation skills is otherwise not justified: see above Are presentation skills really important for the job?

If having to give the presentation will put the person who stammers at a disadvantage, then it is likely to be reasonable to waive or modify the presentation. There will be alternative ways in which it is possible for the person to demonstrate the relevant skills or knowledge.

If the person does choose to give a presentation, it is the subject matter rather than the presentation skills that should be assessed.

The employer should seriously consider not marking any job candidate on their presentation skills. If giving other candidates marks for presentation skills disadvantages the person who stammers (which seems possible, even if his marks are made up pro rata from other areas assessed), the employer may need to show that the marking system meets the 'objective justification' test, and that it was not reasonable to adjust the system.

Example: A person who stammers, and who wishes this, is allowed to submit a written paper (or perhaps a Powerpoint presentation) of equivalent length to presentations given by other job candidates. Since presentation skills are not required for the job, these are not taken into account in the marking of any candidate.

Example: A job candidate who stammers gives a presentation. Extra time is allowed so that she can include the same amount of content as others (eg. there might be a guideline of a maximum number of words, rather than a time limit). Since presentation skills are not required for the job, these are not taken into account in the marking of any candidate.
Other adjustments to the oral presentation may also be appropriate. For examples, see Presentations (in the job)

The considerations for tests in general apply: Examples of reasonable adjusments: Tests.

If legitimate to test presentation skills

This heading deals with the situation where an ability to give presentations is required for the post, and assessing presentation skills is justified: see above Are presentation skills really important for the job?

The employer should be looking at how the person will perform in the job situation rather than necessarily in a recruitment situation, and taking account of any adjustments that it will be reasonable to make in the job (below Reasonable adjustments).

The considerations discussed under Assessment of oral skills will apply. For example:

It is likely to be the person's communication skills rather than their fluency which is important. A person who stammers may have excellent communication skills.

If legitimate to test presentation skills: Reasonable adjustments

What reasonable adjustments will be appropriate when the person makes presentations in the job? These should be reflected in any assessment:

Links on assessed presentations (in context of education):

Examples on text-to-speech

The case and Case Study below relate to text-to-speech (TTS) software. However, probably most candidates who stammer will prefer to speak (perhaps with reasonable adjustments), rather than use TTS.

Use of text-to-speech (TTS) software, and the fact that a presentation exercise was 'short-notice' (only 30 minutes preparation time was allowed), were discussed by an employment tribunal in Y v Bradford Council. The tribunal considered that as presentation skills were necessary for the job, the Council could reasonably have required the claimant to do an oral presentation exercise. However, if the claimant had been given advance notice of the question, he could have prepared his presentation with TTS software. Whether it would have been reasonable to drop the 'short-notice' element of the exercise would depend in part on whether presentations on short notice were in fact part of the job duties.
For some practical considerations around using TTS, see Examples of reasonable adjustments: Use of technology.

Case Study: One person who stammers writes:

"The arrangements for interview included giving a presentation. This was said to be an essential requirement of the job. However, since being in post, for more than two years now, there has been no work situation which has required, as an essential, formal presentations."

The post was newly created. Whilst saying that presentations were essential for it, the employer accepted the applicant's argument that in the workplace the text could be read aloud using text-to-speech (TTS) technology. For the presentation in the recruitment process, the employer therefore allowed him to just prepare a PowerPoint presentation, without having to deliver it orally - since in the workplace delivery could be through TTS. The applicant got the job.

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Last updated 7th May 2012