This week’s letters:

Ads stir up mixed emotions among readers

● I am writing regarding the advertisement feature, ‘We know where
your candidates live’, by the Royal Mail (Personnel Today, 30 March).

How many of us would be happy to be assessed or recruited by using our
postcode? Not many, I think. It is infuriating and offensive, whether or not it
is a drive for ‘software usage’.

The DTI is preaching sermons of equal opportunity and diversity. The Equal
Opportunity Commission was restructured to deal with issues about equality in

It is shocking and worrying to read the claim that organisations, from large
national retailers to local authorities and small enterprises, are using the
PAF-based application to employ staff. If this is true, then why are we talking
about equality and equal access if a postcode would be used as criteria to
recruit or assess suitability for a job?

The ad also stated that a postcode helps in the profiling of candidates –
where they live, housing, lifestyle, income, etc. This is absolute rubbish. It
is discriminatory, obnoxious and contradictory to good people management and
good recruitment processes.

I was not surprised when page 2 of Personnel Today (News, 30 March) carried
the story: ‘Royal Mail 48-hour opt-out angers union’.

The Royal Mail advert should be withdrawn. Royal Mail should have respect
for people and think about positive ways to sell its product.

Abel Aboh
HR graduate (EMEA)

● Did anyone else notice the Royal Mail ad published in the 30 March
issue of Personnel Today: ‘We know where your candidates live’?

The main thrust of the advertisement is to alert HR practitioners to the
potential application of postcodes as a recruitment and selection tool,
according to a Mr Sena.

First, I’m sure HR professionals will be delighted with Mr Sena’s advice on
using postcodes to target potential recruits.

He says: "Decisions can be made on the desirability of candidates
depending on how far they live from an employer. Companies looking to employ
relatively low-paid workers, for example, won’t want those employees to live
too far from work – it would be too expensive for those employees to travel on
a daily basis perhaps, and could lead to reliability issues, or rapid
churn". At this point, I had a little chuckle. Then I read on.

Apparently, the Post Office offers a profiling tool, which can be used to
map postcodes against demographic data bringing CVs and application forms to

"After all, postcodes are areas," Sena says. "And generally,
similar types of people live in similar areas. By matching postcodes against
tried and tested profiling systems, you suddenly get a very good idea who your
candidates are, what they do and what their likely mindset will be."

I’m concerned by the suggestion that the database and/or profiling tool may
contain demographic information pertaining to race, religion and ethnicity.

Many organisations put a great deal of time and effort into ensuring their
recruitment and selection processes are objective and fair, even to the point
of protecting the ethnic, marital and religious identity of candidates prior to
interview. Sena finishes by saying: "So you see. Postcodes can deliver the
right people for the right job, as well as letters."

I wonder if I would be convinced by this assurance if I lived in Southall or

Helen Kemp
Details supplied

● Is there a sense of irony that in an issue where the letters page
headline screams: ‘Exposing sexism is just one step on the road to equality’,
the Job of the Week featured on the front page directs everyone to one of the
most sexist ads ever to appear in Personnel Today (page 39, 20 April)?

And am I to assume that Ann Summers (and its ad agency) are solely targeting
red-blooded HR males (as I was under the impression that the majority of people
in HR are female)?

Mark Rice
Creative partner, And Advertising Ltd

 I wish to register a formal
complaint about the advertisement that appeared in Personnel Today (page 39, 20
April) for Ann Summers. The advertisement is blatantly sexist and demeans
women. In particular, I find the photograph and the headline most offensive. I
do not wish to see this type of image in a professional HR publication.

Teresa Wynn
Head of HR, Exeter College

● Are we allowed to say that the edition of 20 April must be the best
issue to date? Never have I seen an edition of Personnel Today so eagerly read,
passed around and re-read. It really is good to see my staff taking so much
interest to update their knowledge of HR issues.

All the guys in the office were huddled around discussing the article on
page 38. Keep up the good work. More editions like this please.

Details supplied

Editor’s reply: Personnel Today apologises if the Ann Summers
advertisement has offended readers. It was certainly not our intention to do so
in publishing.

The recruitment ad very much reflects the nature of the Ann Summers business
and its brand image. While we may not approve of its message, Personnel Today
did not have legitimate grounds on which to refuse the advertising. We take
great pride in the professional nature and standing of the magazine within the
HR community and will continue to work hard in listening to reader views and
responding to information needs in the most appropriate manner.

Tell us your views. Write in to [email protected]
without delay.

It may not be fair but Virgin broke no laws

This is in response to Ryan Thomas’ challenge regarding
Virgin Atlantic’s ‘unprofessional and soon to be illegal policy’ (Letters, 13

I’m sure that upon seeing his letter in print, Virgin (perhaps even the
not-so-young, bearded wonder himself) will leap forward and provide a full and entertaining
explanation of how its age restriction policy fits into its branding,
philosophy and culture.

As for myself, I am neither an apologist nor an advocate for Virgin or its
approach. I have always been more of a British Airways fan – motherly cabin
crew in support tights and all.

I realise that Mr Thomas is interpreting ‘supportable reason’ in the sense
of ethical reasons rather than commercial ones. However, the original query,
and my response, was in relation to the question of whether Virgin Atlantic
should have been awarded a trophy in the RADS (Recruitment Advertising Awards)
in light of its policy.

As the law stands, and until the minute it changes, the only reason Virgin
Atlantic needs to exercise its policy is that it suits it to do so. If an
organisation (and one who by repute seems to be a perfectly good employer in
all other respects) chooses to act within the law in a way that maximises its
commercial advantage and brand image, you may not like it, but I can’t see how
it could reasonably be seen as unsupportable and certainly not unprofessional.

Virgin is in the business of making money and delivering a service the way
its customers like and expect. Some may not approve, but that’s capitalism for

It would be unfair to single out Virgin Atlantic as though its situation or
behaviour was unique. There are many organisations that operate and make money
by exploiting a specific age segment. Not surprisingly, most consumer-facing
employers like their staff to reflect the profile of their customer base. It
helps sales. Often their brand and their people have a strong overlap – and
brands are rarely accommodating to a diverse and inclusive approach. For such
companies, apparent or even real discrimination is rarely a result of misogyny,
racism or ageism – just marketing doing what it’s paid to do.

I will be interested to see what effect the ageism legislation (content and
scope as yet unknown) emerging from the Equal Treatment Framework Directives
actually has on a number of employment sectors. I am not at all sure that this
is a problem that legislation will solve – though I live in hope that I can be
assured of a career well into my dotage working behind the counter in Ann

John Langford
Chairman, TCS

Graduate market not in such bad shape?

According to research by Brown and Hesketh (News, 6 April),
it appears that there simply aren’t enough knowledge-based jobs to go round for
the increasing number of graduates.

On the contrary, HECSU funded ongoing longitudinal research by Kate Purcell
and Peter Elias and found that seven years after graduation, 90 per cent of
graduates are in graduate-level jobs.

Some graduates surveyed appear to be reporting that they have developed
their own new and ‘niche’ jobs where arguably graduates were not employed in
the past.

This suggests that the graduate labour market in the UK might be more
amenable to change than reported by Brown and Hesketh.

Mike Hill
Chief executive, Graduate Prospects

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