Dear Auntie

My company has landed a large contract and I am now looking to recruit 50 new employees over the next few months.  I have never managed a large scale recruitment process before so I would like some best practice tips. Any help appreciated!

Mrs Hyrer

Dear Mrs Hyrer

Congratulations on landing the new contract! Candidates are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about their rights during the recruitment process and getting things wrong could lead to a complaint to the employment tribunal – the last thing you would want to be dealing with right now.

Below are a number of dos and don’ts for the various stages in the recruitment process.  If a number of persons will be involved in the recruitment process you could use these tips as a basis for your recruitment policy which will hopefully encourage consistency in your company’s approach and ensure that you are all singing from the same hymn sheet. 

The biggest risk during this process is a complaint of discrimination. Employers are under a duty not to discriminate on the basis of a job applicant’s age, sex, race or nationality, disability, religion or belief or sexual orientation.  If a candidate is unsuccessful in their application and brings a successful complaint of discrimination against your company, they could be awarded compensation which is not capped. Consequently, you should approach the recruitment process with as much care as you would any other HR matter and adopt a fair and consistently applied recruitment policy.

ADVERTISING THE JOBS

 DO NOT present your advertisement in a manner that might be later used as evidence of a discriminatory culture.  As well as obviously not using such wording as "looking for young bright candidates" which could be used as evidence of age discrimination, you should also take care that you do not inadvertently present certain people in stereotypical ways i.e. showing pictures of only men doing maintenance work or women undertaking secretarial work.  Also, have the advertisement placed in a range of sources, rather than those more likely to be read by a specific part of society (e.g. secretarial vacancies only advertised in women’s magazines).  This could all be used as evidence of a discriminatory culture by either a candidate or an existing employee.

• DO NOT impose an age criteria (unless you are seeking candidates who are older than your normal retirement age (or 65 if there is none) as there is an exemption from the general principle not to discriminate in this case). 

• DO NOT impose potentially discriminatory criteria. For example, the need for candidates to be able to "work long hours" or the ability to "travel" should only be stated if you can objectively justify the requirement.  Unless it is objectively justifiable that this is required by the needs of the business it could amount to indirect discrimination against women (since, statistically, more women than men have childcare responsibilities and so more women than men might find it difficult to take a job which requires long hours or the flexibility to travel). 

THE APPLICATION STAGE

• DO use a standard application form for all candidates.  This is so that everyone is on an equal footing and enables you to disregard irrelevant information which might indicate a candidate’s protected characteristic. 

• DO watch out for serial applicants. Some candidates make multiple applications for roles and change certain details (such as their name or dates of education/exams) to fish for potential race, nationality and age discrimination claims.

• DO NOT request a candidate’s date of birth or ethnicity in the main part of your form as it could give rise to allegations of discrimination if the candidate is not chosen.  If you wish to monitor applicants for equal opportunity purposes this should be done in a separate anonymised part of the application form which is not shown to anyone involved in the short-listing process.  A further advantage of anonymising any information pertaining to a candidate’s ethnic origin, physical or mental healh, religion or sexual orientation is that it would otherwise be "sensitive personal data" under the Data Protection Act 1998 and thus requiring specific consent from the candidate before it can be processed.

SHORTLISTING

• DO create a written job description of all of the roles that will be available.  As well as its practical use, it demonstrates that you have objectively assessed the role and skills, experience and requirements that are needed and then applied them to the relevant skills, experience and qualifications of the candidates. 

• DO weight criterion and use minimum scores for progress to the next stage of the recruitment process.  This is particularly important if there are a large number of potentially suitable applicants and several people will be carrying out the shortlisting process.  This might help to avoid any overly subjective views about particular candidates and reliance upon intangibles like "wrong fit" which can be very unhelpful if there is an allegation of discrimination. 

INTERVIEWING CANDIDATES

• DO consider using an interview panel rather than one person sitting alone.  This can help to provide consistency and some objectivity.  A panel is particularly important if there is a risk of a conflict of interest at the interview because a decision-maker knows the candidate. 

• DO put the same questions to all of the candidates and in the same order.  All questions should of course only relate to the job and the candidates’ suitability for the job.

• DO consider the duty to make reasonable adjustments in the context of disabled candidates.  For example, ensuring that there is wheelchair access for a physically disabled candidate or by giving a candidate with learning difficulties additional time to respond to questions. 

• DO keep full written records at all stages of the recruitment process for all candidates recording the reasons for decisions made so that it can be relied upon in the event of any allegation of discrimination.

• DO NOT ask questions about the candidates’ private lives or personal circumstances even if it is in the context of informal chatter for example whether the candidate has children, childcare arrangements or any plan to have children. 

FEEDBACK

• DO consider responding to requests for feedback.  Any refusal to give feedback can give rise to an implication that a candidate’s application was refused for a discriminatory reason.  In addition, applicants might make a subject access request under the Data Protection Act to try and obtain information about their rejection if it is not volunteered.  When asked, focus feedback on the candidate's failure to meet the specific role requirements, with negative aspects dealt with sensitively.

PRE-EMPLOYMENT CHECKS

• DO make offers conditional upon reference etc. checks. Follow up on references and make sure any offer of employment is made conditional upon receipt of suitable references and proof of the candidate’s entitlement to work in the UK.  The latter should be required of all prospective employees and not based on the race or ethnicity of the prospective employee. Consider whether it is necessary to make the offer of employment conditional upon any other confirmations such as a CRB check, a medical examination/questionnaire.  In order to be able to rely upon a medical questionnaire the questions must be clear and ideally provide examples and explanatory notes if necessary. 

• DO NOT only require medical examinations/questionnaires of employees based on discriminatory factors such as age.  This should be either a general policy applied to all prospective employees or applied to a specific role if physical fitness is a particular requirement.

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