It is essential for businesses to plan their workforce in order to avoid overstaffing and the cost of redundancies or the converse where too few staff are available to meet demand which could lead to lost sales income.
Such a plan should strive to ensure a diverse and capable workforce at all levels. Naturally, selecting the right applicant for the job is critical. An unsuitable candidate might mean significant cost and management time in training and performance management as well as the potential for losing business in the meantime.
Candidate selection can be a difficult process, it requires an early identification of the actual role you want to fill, an analysis of the skills, qualifications and experience the role demands, creating a job description, choosing where and when to advertise, organising an effective interview process whilst keeping notes and records of each stage which must be kept and maintained in accordance with Data Protection legislation.
All processes adopted by the business should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they do not become out of date, in particular with reference to discrimination.
ACAS has produced guides on recruitment and inductions which can be found here
Businesses might consider operating or implementing various policies and procedures to assist them with recruitment and selection for example a Recruitment Policy, HR Planning, Equal Opportunities and Diversity policies and a Recruitment Policy. A more detailed discussion of those policies and others are found here.
Job Descriptions and Specification
Careful thought must be given to the role which is intended to be filled, whether it is an existing vacancy or a position being created. Such consideration might include:-
- the duties associated with the role;
- the responsibilities of the position;
- to whom the position will report; and
- for whom the position will be responsible
A broadly drafted job description should be produced to be appended to the employee’s contract which will set the foundation for what is expected of the role. Naturally, the job description should be regularly reviewed and updated to include any new duties and responsibilities, as appropriate.
A person specification is drafted with the job description in mind, it might include:-
- relevant qualifications or achievements
- the type of experience needed (avoid references to length of experience in order to avoid inferences of age discrimination)
- special skills
- other desired factors for example the need to have a driving licence, own a car or able to work unsociable hours.
The business must be careful to avoid any requirements set out in the person specification which might be either directly or indirectly discriminatory. Even a quality described as “desirable” rather than “essential” can be considered discriminatory if it was clear that it was a deciding factor in the selection process [Falkirk Council -v- Whyte  IRLR 560 EAT the Judgment of which can be found here]. It is important to remember that a genuine occupational requirement can enable an employer to impose requirements that might otherwise be discriminatory. What amounts to a genuine occupational requirement is rather narrow and the position adopted by the business should be reviewed regularly to make sure that the apparent genuine occupational requirement continues to apply.
Methods of Recruitment
Advertising a post is also an area where discrimination can be an issue. Not advertising or only advertising in certain publications with a limited readership can lead to claims of discrimination. It is therefore advisable to utilise a range of ways to advertise a post to ensure that no one group is disadvantaged, relying on word of mouth or personal recommendation is therefore to be avoided. It should also be remembered that agency workers are entitled to be notified of new jobs becoming available from the start of their engagement.
Methods of recruitment might include:-
- Internal recruitment (should contain the same information as any externally placed advertisement)
- advertising in national and local newspapers and radio
- advertising in trade and specialist journals
- engaging employment/recruitment agencies
- advertising on the internet (social media and websites)
- advertising in job centres
- advertising via relationships with local schools, colleges and careers services
Any advert must of course represent the organisation and be consistent with its preferred image. However, it must not be in any way discriminatory. It should also be remembered that any description of benefits and salary should mirror any subsequent contract or offer of employment. If it doesn’t, and a dispute arises as to what the parties intended, then the job advertisement can be used in evidence as indicating what was agreed.
The advert might ask the applicant to either send in their Curriculum Vitae (CV) or to complete an application form. Both options have their own pros and cons. Either way, the business must make sure that it does not discriminate against applicants and reasonable adjustments may be necessary for disabled candidates. By way of example consideration may need to be given to whether an application can be made in different ways, should an application form be inaccessible to a disabled applicant. (The Equality and Human Rights Commission has a wealth of material on their website in relation to discrimination for both employers and employees)
Once application forms and/or CVs are gathered, the employer must ensure that they do not jump to conclusions based on stereotypes or which are discriminatory in shortlisting for interview.
If, following the appointment of an applicant, it is found that an applicant has been deliberately untruthful in terms of the content of their application then it may be possible for the employer to dismiss fairly where the need for honesty and integrity is necessary for the role and, in certain circumstances, the employer may even be able to claim damages from a deceitful employee where further recruitment costs are incurred as a result of any fraudulent misrepresentation.
It is considered that at least two people are necessary to avoid unconscious bias in the selection process unless the organisation is very small and this is not practically possible. It is perhaps more important that those involved in the review of applications is appropriately trained to avoid discrimination and select candidates for interview based on objective selection criteria extrapolated primarily from the job description and person specification. Such criteria will likely include specific qualifications and the relevance of the applicant’s work experience. All applications should be treated in the same way.
It is possible to interview applicants (panel interviews and/or interview more than once) as well as ask them to undertake practical tests, psychometric testing and attend assessment centres. It is advisable that any tests are undertaken together with interviewing and should not be used on their own. Care should, as ever, be taken to avoid discrimination if testing is used and reasonable adjustments may be necessary for disabled candidates.
Interviewing potential employees is a skill; the interviewer should begin by introducing themselves, give some background to the business and discuss the role to be filled. Open questions focussed on the role and the person specification should be used to obtain the most information possible and also to put the applicant at ease. Potentially discriminatory questions should be avoided and no promises should be made. The interviewer should listen carefully to answers given, try not to interrupt and take appropriate notes. Applicants should be told when they can expect to hear of the outcome of the interview.
Interviewers should record their assessment of each applicant against pre-agreed selection criteria. Where there is more than one interviewer, their assessments should be discussed and compared. It might be preferable to also pre-agree a scoring matrix to assist the decision makers with reaching their final selection or shortlist for further interview, if appropriate, in which case the process of assessment and comparison should be repeated. The decision should be made as soon as possible after the (final) interview. Notes of the scores and reasons for decisions should be kept and maintained in accordance with Data Protection legislation (if the organisation is a public body it is possible to make a Freedom of Information Act request to establish certain information relevant to recruitment and selection).
It is often worth following up references and even asking for copies of professional qualifications and certificates before making a final determination.
All applicants should be informed of the decision. Rejection letters should be short and avoid giving reasons for the decision, there is no obligation to provide a reason and justification can lead to unintended discrepancies or, worse, inferences as to discrimination. The successful applicant can then be appointed; the next step is to provide an offer letter and/ or employment contract.