You Can't Ask That!!

Published on Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Last updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2020

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Staff recruitment is one of the many responsibilities that falls on the shoulders of the early childhood service managers, and unless you are fortunate enough to benefit from a centralised HR support function, it’s likely you’ll do a lot of sorting through resumes and interviews.

In the early childhood sector recruiting and retaining the right people is absolutely key and no matter how fantastic a premises is, or how dazzling the services on offer, if you hire the wrong people it will be hard to make the magic happen.

For this reason it is very important to take the time to recruit the best people for your service, the people who are a great fit and who have the rare combination of skills that ensure the safety, happiness and successful development of all the children in your service.

These ‘unicorns’ also need to be able to talk to parents, work in a team and have the energy and enthusiasm to answer a million questions from a gang of youngsters eager to learn everything there is to know about everything.

This makes recruitment hard…and with turnover rates in the early childhood sector high…likely to be something centre managers need to do regularly. With this in mind it is important to know how to confidently run an interview and how to identify the best candidate from your shortlist.

Running an effective interview means putting together a list of questions that will help you ascertain the suitability of a candidate for your job as well as whether they are likely to be a good fit for the team.

These questions focus on strengths, weaknesses, experience, qualifications, goals and aspirations. Depending on the level of the applicant and the role, questions will also seek to learn a candidate’s experiences with educational programming, their knowledge of relevant legislation and standards and could pose a couple of scenarios for consideration.

It’s helpful to have a consistent set of questions, which you ask each candidate to ensure you can compare answers. It’s also very important to have a clear understanding of what questions you aren’t permitted to ask candidates during an interview, as it is illegal to discriminate against candidates based on any criteria which do not impact a person’s ability to do the job.  

Seek have identified four questions which employers should not ask candidates as well as ways of learning the relevant information without landing in a legal quagmire:

1. How old are you?

In early childhood settings a candidate’s age would only be relevant if it impacted their capacity to perform a function of their job, such as drive a vehicle to collect children. In this instance, instead of explicitly asking a candidate’s age you could make any offer of employment contingent on them providing proof of a driver’s license or other necessary documentation.

2. How do you balance your personal and professional responsibilities?

A person’s personal situation, including their parenting and caring responsibilities or marital status can not be used to assess their suitability for a role and for women this includes pregnancy. Seek suggests that employers concerned about a candidate’s capacity should consider asking: “Are you able to commit to working the following hours…?”

3. Are you currently working?

It is illegal to discriminate against a candidate because they are employed, unemployed, or on a benefit. However, the question could be legitimate to determine when the employee would be able to start in the role (for instance the candidate might need to give notice to an existing employer). The best way to find out a candidate’s situation in this regard is to ask: “When are you able to start?”

4. Have you had any past injuries/illnesses?

It is illegal to question a person about their disability status, but in early childhood settings where a person would be expected to lift babies and toddlers and perform a large number of physically taxing duties you could ask a direct question addressing this. For example: “Do you have any medical conditions that would mean you are unable to lift heavy items?” or “Is there any reason you might not be able to complete the duties required for this role?”

To learn loads more about interviewing and to advertise your role and find the best early childhood candidates visit


Can You Ask That? By Lindy Alexander Seek Employer  

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