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Fair recruitment: Understand who you need

A vacancy at work presents an opportunity for employers to reassess the requirements of a job and to improve its fit with the rest of the organisation. Knowing precisely what's needed will make it easier to get the ideal person for the job. Inflating the requirements doesn't correspond with getting a better person; in fact, it's likely to lead to disappointment when the reality of the job fails to meet the hopes and aspirations of the new employee.

Unnecessary specifications also come with an increased risk of being discriminatory against particular groups of potential applicants. Take, for example, the requirement that an applicant must have seven years' experience. Only older applicants would be able to demonstrate this, putting younger candidates at a severe disadvantage. Women who have taken time out for childcare may also be discouraged or excluded. Unless an employer could justify that the requirement was 'a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim', there's a real possibility of a claim being made here for indirect age or sex discrimination.

Employers should also ask themselves if it makes good business sense to limit the applicant pool with stringent requirements. In this instance, they could lose out on someone who has performed the job very ably for a couple of years in favour of someone who has done the job badly for a year at seven different places.

Acas supplies detailed advice and guidance on Recruitment and has published an advisory booklet with all the information employers need to get new employees on board quickly and effectively. The training course in Recruitment examines the practical and theoretic components of effective, lawful and fair practice.

Acas can also review recruitment policies at your organisation and help you avoid the pitfalls of getting it wrong. Go to Recruitment and Retention: how Acas can help or visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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