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Employer’s Guide to Effective Recruitment Practices

We usually think that the worst thing that can happen when it comes to poor recruitment practice is ending up with an unsuitable employee. However, many employers may be surprised to know that they are exposed to risks of tribunal claims at recruitment stage.

That’s right, someone can submit a costly claim against your business without even signing an employment contract with you!

From discriminatory wording on job adverts to unfair application screening- employers must understand the perils of getting recruitment right. In this article we look at some of the main pitfalls and provide some tips on ensuring you get this crucial stage of the employment relationship right.

Understanding the aims of recruitment

It seems an obvious point because of course the aim of a recruitment exercise is to fill a vacant position but the recruitment process is best viewed as a two-way process i.e., a tool for the employer to select the best candidate for the job and for the job applicant to decide if this is the job for them.

The stages of recruitment:

  1. Job description and person specification

Isn’t the job advert the first stage? No.

In order to effectively recruit into a role, it is vital that the company is clear on what they need from the role they are recruiting into and what skills and experience are required from the person appointed to do it.

  • Job description

This is simply a description of the role you are recruiting into. It should include the duties and areas of responsibility.

  • Person specification

This document sets out any essential or desirable requirements the post-holder must have to do the job. This should include any qualifications, relevant experience and key skills.

  1. The job advert

Job adverts can be costly, often you have to convey a lot of information in as brief a format as you can.

Attract the best candidates by outlining key information such as the job title, any qualifications required, the job location, hours and some information as to what the role involves.

The applicants should be told the deadline for the vacancy and where to submit their application.

  1. Screening the applications

Ensure that applications are handled confidentially. They contain personal information and should be appropriately stored.

It is good practice to respond and acknowledge applications as soon as possible.

Your initial shortlisting can commence at this stage. So applications which do not meet the essential requirements of the job, and/or the person specification, can be turned down at this stage.

  1. Making your selection

This is usually done via interviews and assessments.

When you have selected the candidates who will be going through to this stage of the recruitment process, they should be informed in writing of when the interview or assessment is to take place and what the assessment will involve. This ensures fairness and transparency and allows candidates to request any adjustments where needed.

It is important to notify those who are not successful at this stage in writing. You can offer feedback if you wish or if you prefer you can stipulate who they should contact if they require any specific feedback on their application.

  1. Making an offer

Depending on the type of role or the sector in which you operate, you will either be making a conditional or non-conditional job offer.

A conditional offer is usually one that is usually subject to receipt of satisfactory references and/or pre-employment check such as clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Please see our previous article on employment references (read more).

These job offers usually offer a ‘to be confirmed’ start date.

A non-conditional offer is one where the candidate is offered a start date and any pre-employment checks necessary (such as the right to work in the UK) have already been completed.

Avoiding discrimination

Poor recruitment practices can leave you very exposed to discrimination claims. Here’s some top tips to ensure this doesn’t happen to your business:

  • Discriminatory job advert wording

‘Energetic’, ‘vibrant’, ‘able’, ‘modern’ – these terms could apply to people across all ages of course but they can imply you are seeking applications from young people and could indirectly discriminate against older candidates.

Likewise, ‘must have 5 years’ experience’- if the job needs it that’s fine, if not then you could be unfairly discouraging younger applicants.

Avoid job titles like, ‘handyman’, ‘waitress’ – keep it gender neutral. *

  • Restrictive job advertising

Its costly to place job adverts but do consider carefully where you are placing your adverts.

You want to attract the best candidates and by only posting in your local job centre for example, you may not be reaching as wide a demographic as you can.

Also be mindful that publications geared towards certain sectors of the community such as a parish magazine or publications directed towards a youthful audience for example, may exclude applications from some groups and could lead you exposed to a claim.

  • Unlawful interview questions

You are appointing on merit and should not be influenced by any other factors.

For example, there is no need to ask a candidate their age or ask questions about their health** and childcare arrangements.

Health questionnaires can only be issued after an offer of employment has been made – they cannot be used as part of the recruitment process or to screen applications.

* In some circumstances it is acceptable to target recruitment at certain groups and request that candidates have a particular protected characteristic. For example, an organisation providing support to female victims of domestic violence may seek applications from women only. This is known as an ‘occupational requirement’.

** There may be some circumstances where essential medical information may be sought but this really must be essential and advice should be sought if you intend to ask about health at any stage prior to a job offer being made.

And finally, here are our top tips to consider before embarking on a recruitment exercise:  

  • Application forms vs CVs

CVs are fine but if you have ever had to wade through a pile of CVs versus a pile of application forms, you will know that application forms take much less time to screen. This is because all of the information you need is there and in a specific order and format.

By all means accept CVs but you may want to ask candidates to also fill out an application form.

Application forms are available from Avensure.

  • Job description & person specifications

Send these to each candidate or have them available online for applicants to view and download.

That way you are able to keep your advert to only the key information and are able to ensure that all candidates are aware of what you are looking for.

It also enables the candidate to screen you and decide if the job is right for them. There is nothing more frustrating than getting to the job offer stage only for your candidate to say ‘Oh I can’t work those hours’.

  • Keep your interview questions consistent

Have the job description and person specification as your guide and draft key questions to ask all candidates. You will of course need to ask questions that are specific to the candidate’s skills and experience but your core questions should be the same for everyone.

Remember the interview is for you to be satisfied that the candidate being able to ‘do the job on paper’ relates to actually being able to perform the role.

  • Equality & diversity training for those carrying out recruitment

It’s no use having equal opportunities policies and stating that you are committed to equality and diversity if the person interviewing doesn’t understand what that means.

Small businesses don’t have the benefit of HR Departments, but we can help you.

We can look over the eroding for a job advert, we can look over proposed interview questions – if in doubt ask.

  • Record keeping

Keep records of the recruitment process. Applications, letters turning down applicants should be kept. Those screening applications and carrying out interviews should take and keep the notes from those recruitment stages.

I know it’s time consuming but if you face legal challenge, these records could be the difference between you losing a claim and not.

Don’t forget your right to work checks! Employers will face heavy fines and face prosecution for employing someone who does not have the right to work in the UK.

For more information, please check here.

Next week– Can you withdraw a job offer?