Written by RMI’s MD, Ken Kemp
Interesting dilemma for a recruitment agency that specialises in finding candidates who have to be ‘attractive.’ How to do it without the accusation of being discriminatory?

See this article http://bit.ly/kkdiscrim on agency Marketing Models who source candidates where part of the requirements for their role includes looking particularly presentable. However, in this increasingly PC world are they perhaps going a little too far in terms of some of their advertising?

Some snippets include:
“long brown hair with a b-cup”
“Sexy London Driver”
“classy and immaculate presentation”

And this cracker for a law candidate to work with “an Indian business tycoon”:
“the next Amal Clooney”

Founder of Matching Models, Nathalie Jensen naturally defends her company, saying that “A lot of our clients want employees to look a certain way as well as having the right qualifications and experience”

On the other hand, Sam Smethers, CEO of women’s equality group the Fawcett Society, questions their ethics “…….. targeting ‘beautiful and attractive’ just stereotypes women….”

Now, it’s not difficult to pick holes in some of the phraseology used here. However, where do you draw the line?

During the Paralympics, did you watch the TV show ‘The Last Leg?’ which is described by presenter Adam Hills as: “Three guys with four legs talking about the week.” Some of it was funny – very funny; some was insightful or inspirational; occasionally there were features that I found a bit cringeworthy. But it was good television.

However, as this was presented by (sports)people with varying levels of disability they could make fun of disabled athletes in a way that if I were to do it, I may be accused of being discriminatory. Same words, different person – as I say, where do you draw the line?

At the British Film Industry Awards London Film Festival this week, actor David Oleyowo made an impassioned speech on the back of a research study by the BFI showing that 60% of British films from the last 10 years featured no named black characters. In fact, out of 1,172 UK films, just 15 black actors, 5 of them women, had played more than one leading role in the past decade.

This would seem to be a clear case of discrimination. However, there were no doubt a number of storylines where the screenwriters and casters could perfectly justify their selection of the ethnicity of lead characters and the actors to play them. Clearly, it wouldn’t be right to pass a ‘one size fits all’ judgement on an industry which, by its very nature, should thrive on diversity. Inevitably, there are many ‘shades of grey.’

Coming back to the original story that prompted this article, it would certainly appear that Matching Models stepped over the line (wherever it should be drawn…) in some of their advertising, but I doubt that their clients are complaining if the candidate fits the bill.

The whole area of discrimination is quite a minefield from a recruiter’s perspective with many more subtle nuances than highlighted here. So, what do you think? I’d love to hear from you.

This blog was written by Ken Kemp – contact him at ken@recruitmentmatters.com and follow him on Twitter @ken456031 .

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