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Making Sense Of Recruitment: A Step by Step Guide

These tips are provided by the Employment Law experts at Martin Searle Solicitors. Martin Searle Solicitors provides Employment Law advice and support to employers and employees on all aspects of Employment Law.

To find the people with the skills, expertise and qualifications to make a positive contribution to your company’s future, effective recruitment is key. A fair and consistent recruitment process is most likely to get the best person for the job and will lead to lower levels of staff turnover, absenteeism, disciplinary issues and tribunal claims.

Diversity and equality of opportunity should be a central part of your recruitment and selection process. Not having a diverse workforce means missing out on a pool of talent that could give your business the edge and attract more wide ranging customers or clients.

Getting the job description right

Consider the requirements of the role. If it is an existing position, look at whether revisions are needed to account for any changes. The job description should highlight the key duties and responsibilities of the person holding the post and describe the job itself. People outside of the business need to get enough information to know whether it is a job for them so avoid jargon and abbreviations.

Specifying the person you want

The person specification describes the ideal candidate’s abilities, skills and knowledge and should provide the foundations on which you prepare your advert, short listing criteria and interview questions. Most importantly it should enable you to select the best person for the job, not the person you like the most.

Before you start, decide what is essential and what is merely desirable. Also distinguish what skills should already be acquired and which can be learnt on the job. Avoid criteria not relevant to the position and which could indirectly be discriminatory. For instance, do not ask for exam-based qualifications unless absolutely necessary and be aware that you need to consider qualifications gained outside the UK and those from non-mainstream educational institutions. Otherwise you may fall foul of the Equality Act.

It also helps to be specific, for example, rather than stating ‘clerical ability’, put ‘ability to accurately sort files and find invoices’. In addition, make the person specification measurable. Build in provisions that can be tested through interview questions. Also look for life experience as well as work experience – non-work experience can be valuable in highlighting personal qualities such as initiative and confidence.

Advertising the position

Having prepared the job description and person specification you now have the basis for an advertisement that will attract the right sort of applicant. A number of pieces of legislation ensure applicants and employees are treated fairly and equally throughout their working lives – and the recruitment stage is no exception.

As a recruiter – let alone an employer – your legal responsibilities can be quite daunting. For starters, you have responsibilities not to discriminate under the Equality Act. You also need to comply with the Working Time Regulations and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

In short, you need to make it clear that an applicant will not be excluded on grounds of sex, gender reassignment, race, marital status, disability, age, religion, belief or sexual orientation. To comply use neutral language such as ‘sales assistant’ not ‘sales girl’ and avoid gender specific titles such as ‘craftsman’ and ‘waitress’. It is good practice not to use terms such as “junior” as this suggests that you are looking for a younger candidate.

Using images

It is good practice for illustrated adverts to represent both sexes fairly and to include a multi-cultural mix. For example, it could be discriminatory to advertise a job that illustrates a woman in a profession traditionally undertaken by women. To counteract the effect either depict a man in equal prominence or add a bold disclaimer that the job is open to men and women. If a discriminatory advert is published the advertiser (employer), their agents (recruitment agencies) and the publisher are liable.

Don’t forget

It sounds obvious, but it is easy to overlook the basics. So remember to include in your advert:

  • Name of organisation
  • Job title
  • Salary and rewards package
  • Location
  • Length and type of contract
  • Hours of work
  • Essential requirements
  • Closing date
  • Application procedure

Using application forms effectively

Application forms are often used so that applicants answer questions in the same format to ensure equal opportunities. However, they need to be treated with caution. If an applicant feels they have been discriminated against on the basis of information they have provided on an application form (for example their marital status), they could take you to a tribunal. Only seek personal data relevant to the role.

Questions cannot be asked about disability until you have made an offer of employment.

However, you will need to ask whether candidates need “reasonable adjustments” in order to attend an interview. Reasonable adjustments may be required to ensure all applicants can access the interview room and complete the interview process on an equal basis.

Only request information about an applicant’s criminal convictions if it can be justified in terms of the role. Make it clear that spent convictions do not have to be declared (unless covered by the exception under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974).

Only certain roles may be eligible for official checks through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), such as certain professions and those who provide services to vulnerable adults and children.

Include reference to the rights of access under the Data Protection Act 1998. Always state to whom the information is being provided, how it will be used and whether referees will be contacted before or after the interview. Also inform applicants that incomplete and/or misleading statements can lead to dismissal.

Application forms or CV’s?

Be aware that the more senior applicant may be put off by an application form. However, the form does give the recruiter much more control over the information to be provided.

Effective shortlisting

Make sure at least two people from the interview panel prepare the shortlist. Use the person specification systematically to assess each application and complete the shortlisting in one sitting with those involved looking at each application independently. Do not let anything cloud your judgment. Only a person’s ability to do the job counts. Make a record of why an applicant reached or failed to make the shortlist and keep records for 12 months.

Insightful interviewing

The date and time for interviewing should be arranged at the beginning of the recruitment process, but be flexible. Allow adequate time to assess each candidate against the criteria and tell candidates in advance if they will be required to take any tests.

Avoid questions, conduct and procedures from which discrimination can be inferred. Examples would include ‘will your family commitments prevent you from working overtime?’ ‘What child care arrangements have you got?’ Only ask questions that are relevant and necessary to the job and avoid making snap judgments on the basis of intuition and subjective personality assessments.

So, for a final checklist:

  • Treat all candidates the same unless they have requested "reasonable adjustments".
  • Focus on each person’s skills based on your ‘person specification’ and avoid reading into body language
  • Make candidates aware they have the right to request access to their interview notes
  • Ensure disabled candidates are not disadvantaged by the interview or application process. Only ask about the disability to find out if any further "reasonable adjustments" would be required.
  • Have the same list of questions for all to ensure uniformity


  • When all interviews have taken place go through the interview notes and decide which candidates meet the essential criteria.
  • Discuss the desirable criteria and decide which is more important and grade all the candidates accordingly
  • Appoint the best person for the job not the one who the interviewing panel have the most in common with.
  • If a candidate is disabled, ensure there is enough information obtained from them to determine what adjustments will be required so that if they are the strongest candidate you can look at whether these are "reasonable" for your business.
  • If reasonable adjustments including equipment are required set these up with the assistance of Access to Work before the start date.

About the author

Rebecca Groves

Hi, I'm Wired Sussex's Skills and Talent Strategy Lead. I oversee our skills and talent strategy for the regional digital sector. This includes the delivery of activity which addresses this strategy, such as our annual Talent festival, and working with members to help them benefit from our initiatives.

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