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Why recruitment is the first step in fixing the workplace sexual harassment crisis

- May 4, 2021 2 MIN READ

The road to eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace should begin with the recruiting process. Leaders and employers need to give equal weight to a new staff member’s role in the culture of their organisation, rather than focusing exclusively on skillset and resume, writes Maureen Kyne sexual harassment and workplace bullying expert.

Workplace policies and training are all well and good, but they’re clearly not fixing the problem, as demonstrated by the spate of sexual harassment stories in the media.

That means we need to catch the problem earlier and eliminate hiring toxic staff members in the first place.

How do we do this? By demonstrating that there’s a higher standard for being a sought-after employee and by extension a higher standard for being a member of the community.


Here are four ways you should change the way you hire employees for a better cultural fit

1. Conduct risk assessments on potential recruits

I believe workplaces should go as far as conducting a risk assessment of new recruits to gauge a better understanding of how new hires will behave and respond in their new work environment. Social media screening, interviews with referees, including past employers, as well as an in-depth interview with the candidate is more effective at uncovering defaults in a personality and provide a better picture of the potential new employee. Referees provide vital information about a candidates previous workplace behaviour.

2. Better education and training of recruitment staff

The whole recruitment team must have a clear and shared understanding of what sexual harassment is, without any confusion. Clear rules will eliminate a lack of understanding as to what sexual harassment is. Everyone in the workplace needs to understand the types of behaviours that are unacceptable, and that begins at recruitment.

3. More investigative recruitment techniques

Workplaces need to conduct more practical assessments of how a new recruit performs in a work environment, thus uncovering more of their personality, values and standards for personal behaviour. That is more likely to determine if someone is a cultural fit than a resume or references ever could.

4. Culture check

Organisational culture is central to sexual harassment. Just as any business would regularly review their operational and financial success, so should they regularly review their success in creating a productive, ethical culture – enabling the recruitment team to fit within it.


Aside from the obvious other drawbacks, employing staff members with questionable behaviour can be very costly.

Sexual harassment is often about power and entitlement, and workplaces need to get better at identifying personality traits that may contribute to sexual harassment.

Identifying high-risk staff will go some way towards weeding out bad hires.

Sexual harassment is a social problem that has become a work problem and changing the culture of sexual harassment must start long before a person enters the workforce.

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