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Getting the recruitment process right

Media Release

25 November, 2009
Getting the recruitment process right

As employers start to plan for next year, the Like Minds, Like Mine programme is offering some practical advice on best practice during the recruitment process.

The business pages report that recruitment has been looking strong over the last few months and in order to ensure that employers get the best person for the job, Like Minds is offering some practical advice.

With one in five New Zealanders experiencing a mental illness every year, many job candidates, as well as people both in the current workforce, will have had a diagnosis of a common mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety. It is important to emphasise that the vast majority of people who have experienced a mental health problem continue to work successfully.

“When it comes to workplace support, getting it ‘right’ for people with a mental health issue means you are getting it right for all staff,” says Judi Clements, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation.

Like Minds has produced an online toolkit with tips on recruitment for both candidates with experience of mental illness and employers. Visit

Like Minds, Like Mine has also launched an online video interview with Glenys Barker, health and safety manager for Vero Insurance New Zealand Group. Barker demonstrates how the company makes reasonable accommodations for employees who have experienced mental illness without compromising high work standards.

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“I believe that someone who has been through a life situation, which they have had to handle and come out the other side, can bring a lot to the workplace environment,” says Glenys Barker

“We’re very open to communicating with people and organising something that fits within their current situation…lowering of standards is certainly something that would not be an outcome of flexible working arrangements,” she says.

Chief Executive of the EEO Trust Philippa Reed agrees. “Many of the winners in the EEO Trust Work & Life Awards, especially this year, convincingly show that people with disabilities, including mental illness, have a great deal to contribute at work. Employers who overlook them or are not prepared to make minor accommodations to enable them to work are missing out on a huge pool of talent and energy.”

Recruitment is just one of the employment topics that the Like Minds programme will cover in the coming weeks.

Tips on the recruitment process

It is important to emphasise that the vast majority of people who have experienced a mental health problem continue to work successfully.

UK research* indicates that once given an employment opportunity, people with ongoing mental health issues have lower sick leave than average and demonstrate strong loyalty towards their employer.

If your organisation uses occupational health professionals, it is important to ensure that they are well briefed about mental health issues and have a positive and enabling attitude to employees experiencing mental health problems. If you don’t have occupational health professionals, the issue of mental illness may arise during the interview process.

What to ask?
If a personal has an employment history with periods of absence you are entitled as a manager to enquire about these. However you must not use this information to discriminate.

What not to ask?
If the issue of mental health problems does arise, it may be suitable at the interview or at a second stage in the process to ask the person if they would require any kind of adjustment or support on the part of the employer in order to do the job as specified.
Managers should avoid asking for information about treatment, history of the illness or any information that is not relevant to the work situation.
Managers should also not assume that a person with a mental health problem will be more vulnerable to workplace stress than other employees. However, as with any other candidate, it is good practice to ensure that the candidate understands both the particular demands of the job and the working culture of the organisation – e.g. shift patterns, cyclical nature of the business, deadline pressures.

Guidelines for employers:
Include a positive equal opportunities statement in job advertisements
Ensure that the recruitment process is fair – if a person with experience of a mental health problem fulfils all the selection criteria, his or her mental health issue should not be a barrier.
Ensure that you can give fair and truthful justification to a person with experience of a mental health issue who is turned down.

Getting the right job

“I’m afraid that if I’m honest about my problems I won’t get the job.”

As stigma is still widespread, this is a dilemma that many people still face.
You may find it useful to consider some of the following:

Consider the following:
• Do you have a sense of the culture of the organisation/ the particular department where you would work? Do they seem open and supportive?
• Do you think your experience of stress/mental health problems has any implications for doing the job?
• Will it be helpful if the manager is prepared for any support you may need? For example, will disclosure allow you to implement any coping strategies you have developed, such as cutting down hours if you see the first signs of stress?
• If you do disclose, will that put more or less pressure on you? Will it be more stressful to cover up taking medication, for example?
• Are you on any medication that causes side effects that could impact on your ability to do the job or be noticeable to colleagues?

If you do experience stress or mental health problems and do not tell your manager, the manager cannot be expected to take any action to relieve the problem.
Non-disclosure could weaken your case if there is any legal challenge at a later stage.

Think about the positive:
• For many people, the experience of mental health problems is a learning process that enhances their skills and knowledge. People frequently quote qualities such as empathy, support for others, perseverance through the care process, insight and better ability to manage staff who are experiencing distress.

What can I do to prepare for awkward questions at interview?

• Think in advance about your boundaries – what are you prepared to talk about and what’s off limits?
• What aspects of your experience of mental illness or related care are relevant to the job?
• Think about what you will say if the questions go beyond your boundaries. Can you prepare a polite but firm answer?
• What support or adjustments might help you to do the job?
• Do you wish to discuss any coping strategies with the employer?

Source: Line Managers’ Resource, The Mental Health Foundation UK

About Like Minds, Like Mine

Like Minds, Like Mine is a public education programme aimed at reducing the stigma and discrimination faced by people with experience of mental illness. The programme is funded by the Ministry of Health and guided by the Like Minds National Plan.

Around the world, stigma and discrimination is one of the major barriers to a person's recovery. But changing attitudes and behaviour in society is complex, so the Like Minds programme works on a variety of levels to try to achieve this.

The majority of its work is undertaken by several national contractors, including the Mental Health Foundation and a team of 26 Like Minds providers.


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