The recruitment process
A vacancy presents an opportunity to consider restructuring, or to reassess the requirements of the job. This assessment is valid whether it is to fill an existing job or a new one. Ask questions such as:
- has the function changed?
- have work patterns, new technology or new products altered the job?
- are there any changes anticipated which will require different, more flexible skills from the jobholder?
Answers to these questions should help to clarify the actual requirements of the job and how it fits into the rest of the organisation or department. Exit interviews, or consultation with the current job-holder and colleagues may well produce good ideas about useful changes.
Writing a good job description or job specification helps in the process of analysing the needs of the job.
Job description/job specification
This should detail the purpose, tasks and responsibilities of the job. A good job description should include:
- main purpose of the job - try to describe this in one sentence
- main tasks of the job - use active verbs, like 'writing', 'repairing', 'machining', 'calculating', instead of vaguer terms like 'dealing with', 'in charge of'
- scope of the job - expanding on the main tasks and the importance of the job. Job importance can be indicated by giving information such as the number of people to be supervised, the degree of precision required and the value of any materials and equipment used.
A good job description is useful for all jobs. It can help with induction and training. It provides the basis for drawing up a person specification - a profile of the skills and aptitudes considered essential and desirable in the job-holder. It enables prospective applicants to assess themselves for the job and provides a benchmark for judging achievements.
An example of a job description is given at .
Drawing up the person specification allows the organisation to profile the ideal person to fill the job. It is very important that the skills, aptitudes and knowledge included in the specification are related precisely to the needs of the job; if they are inflated beyond those necessary for effective job performance, the risk is that someone will be employed on the basis of false hopes and aspirations, and both the employer and employee will end up disappointed in each other.
Another good reason not to set unnecessary requirements is to avoid any possibility of discrimination against particular groups of potential applicants. The very process of writing a job and person specification should help the employer to develop and implement a policy of equal opportunity in the recruitment and selection of employees.
Factors to consider when drawing up the specification include:
- skills, knowledge, aptitudes directly related to the job
- the type of experience necessary
- the competencies necessary
- education and training but only so far as is necessary for satisfactory job performance, unless the person is being recruited on the basis of future potential (eg graduate trainees), when a higher level of education may be specified
- any criteria relating to personal qualities or circumstances which must be essential and directly related to the job, and must be applied equally to all groups irrespective of age, sex, race, age, nationality, religion or belief, disability, membership or non-membership of a trade union. To do otherwise is potentially discriminatory (9).
For instance, a clause requiring the successful candidate to move their place of work should be included only when absolutely necessary, as it is likely to discourage applicants with family care commitments.
The person specification helps the selection and subsequent interview to operate in a systematic way, as bias-free as possible. The use of competency-based approaches can help by focusing on the 'match' between candidate and role, but they are best used where they are an integral part of the continuing assessment and development of staff (10).
An example of a person specification pro-forma is at Appendix 1, 2 & 3.
After setting the job and the person specifications, consideration should be given to pay rates. Factors such as scales, grades and negotiated agreements, as well as market rates and skills shortages, may affect the wage or salary, and organisations should be aware of the requirements of equal pay (11) and discrimination legislation (12). Unless there is a formal system for increments or length of service, paying the new employee a different rate from that paid to the preceding postholder may contravene the relevant legislation. Employers must also comply with the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998. The Agricultural Wages Board sets the minimum rates for workers in agriculture.
The search for suitable candidates now begins. The process of marketing needs to be undertaken carefully so as to ensure the best response at the least cost. The object is to get a good selection of good quality candidates. Possible methods to consider are:
- internal recruitment - this method can have the advantage of building on existing staff's skills and training, and provides opportunities for development and promotion. It is a good way to retain valuable employees whose skills can be further enhanced. Other advantages include the opportunity for staff to extend their competencies and skills to the benefit of both the organisation and the individual, and the enhancement of individual motivation. Use of a consistent, clear, procedure, agreed jointly between employer and employees, has many advantages and avoids suspicion of favouritism
- JobCentres of the Department for Work and Pensions - will display employers' vacancies and refer potential recruits. They also administer some of the Government training programmes. The Disability Service Team staff at JobCentres can help address the specific requirements of attracting disabled people
- Learning and Skills Council - may well have trained workers available through their recruitment service, and can tailor training to an employer's requirements
- commercial recruitment agencies - often specialise in particular types of work, eg secretarial, office work, industrial, computing, and may already have potential applicants registered with them
- executive search organisations - usually working in the higher management/specialist fields, will seek out suitable candidates working in other companies by direct approach, or via specialist advertising
- national newspapers - advertising in the national press is expensive, but likely to produce a good response for particular, specialist vacancies. Remember too there are national ethnic group newspapers which will reach a wide audience
- specialist and professional journals - less expensive than the national press, these journals can guarantee to reach the precise group of potential applicants for specialist and professional vacancies
- internet - is beginning to emerge as a recruitment medium. It is mainly used for graduate-level and technical jobs because it tends to target a self-selected group who are computer literate and have access to the web at their place of study or work. Its use is likely to grow
- local newspapers, radio - for less specialised jobs, or to target groups in a particular local area, advertisements in the local media may produce a good response
- local schools, colleges and the Careers Service - maintaining contact with schools, colleges and careers advisers will ensure that the organisation's needs for school/college leavers with particular skills and abilities are known. It can be particularly useful to offer students the opportunity to spend some time at the company, on work experience, or 'shadowing'
- word of mouth - introduction via existing employees or through an employers' network. Whilst this may be economical, it is likely to lead to a much smaller pool of suitable applicants and does not normally satisfy equal opportunities requirements because any imbalance in the workforce may be perpetuated. The Equality and Human Rights Commission warns against such practices where the workforce is predominantly one sex or racial group.
Once the recruitment channel or channels are decided, the next step is to consider:
- the design and content of any advertisement used
- how applicants are to respond - by application form, fax, telephone, in person at the organisation or agency, by letter, by email on the internet, by tape or braille
- who is to be responsible for sifting the applications? What is the selection process going to be?
- if interviews are to be held, when will they be and will everyone who needs to be involved be available?
- are selection tests to be used? Is there the expertise to administer them and ensure they are non-discriminatory and appropriate?
- are references/medicals to be requested?
- are arrangements in hand to give prompt acknowledgement of applications received?
Any advertisement needs to be designed and presented effectively to ensure the right candidates are attracted. Look through national, local or professional papers and see what advertisements catch the eye. The newspaper office will often advise on suitable formats. Advertisements must be tailored to the level of the target audience, and should always be clear and easily understood. They must be non-discriminatory, and should avoid any gender or culturally specific language. To support this, the organisation should include in the advert its statement of commitment to equal opportunities, which will underline the organisation as one that will welcome applications from all sections of the community.
Consider the following factors in the advertisement:
- if the organisation is well known, does it have a logo that could feature prominently in the advertisement? Make the advertisement consistent with the company image
- should the job title be the most prominent feature?
- keep the text short and simple while giving the main aspects of the job, pay, career prospects, location, contract length
- can specific details - such as pay, qualifications and experience required - be given in a way which will reduce the number of unsuitable applications?
- is it possible to avoid generalisations such as 'attractive salary', or 'appropriate qualifications' which may discourage valid applications?
- can you provide job details on tape or in braille and accept applications in a similar format?
- is the form of reply and the closing date for applications clear? Is there a contact name and phone number for further information and enquiries?
All advertisements should carry the same information, whether for internal or external use.
Application forms can help the recruitment process by providing necessary and relevant information about the applicant and their skills (13). The design of the form needs to be realistic and straightforward, appropriate to the level of the job. Using application forms has the following advantages:
- comparing like with like is easier. CVs can be time-consuming and may not provide the information required
- they provide the basis for an initial sift, and then for the interview
- the standard of completion can be a guide to the candidate's suitability, if writing and presentation skills are essential to the job; however, be aware of the possibility of disability discrimination
- they provide a record of qualifications, abilities and experience as stated by the applicant.
Care also needs to be taken over some less positive aspects of application forms:
- there is a temptation to use application forms to try to extract too much information, eg motives, values and personality characteristics. The form should concentrate on the experience, knowledge and competencies needed for the job (14)
- some people may dislike filling in forms and so be put off applying for the job. Some very experienced people may find the form inadequate, whilst those with little in the way of qualifications or experience may be intimidated by large empty spaces on the form
- application forms add another stage, and therefore more time, to the recruitment process. Some candidates may be lost if they can obtain work elsewhere more quickly
- application forms may inadvertently be discriminatory. For instance, to require a form to be filled out 'in your own handwriting', where written English is not relevant to the job, may discriminate against those for whom English is not their first language, or who may not have well-developed literacy skills.
Any information such as title (marital status), ethnic origin or date of birth requested for monitoring purposes (eg for compliance with the legal requirements and codes of practice on race, sex, disability and age discrimination) should be clearly shown to be for this purpose only, and should be on a separate sheet or tear-off section. Such information need only be provided on a voluntary basis. Medical information should also be obtained separately and kept separate from the application form.
Additionally, the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 and subsequent Codes of Practice on recruitment and selection, employment records, monitoring at work and information on workers' health need to be noted - if any recruitment records are to be held on computer or in a manual system, the applicant should be advised of this and for what purposes and duration the information is to be held (15).
All applications should be promptly acknowledged.
Asylum and Immigration Act 1996
The Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 makes it a criminal offence for an employer to employ those who do not have permission to live or to work in the United Kingdom. This applies only in relation to employees who started work for the employer on or after 27 January 1997. For further information visit the Home Office website at http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/.
Police Act 1997
The Police Act provides a statutory basis for certain criminal record checks which may be used by employers. These checks can be made via the Criminal Records Bureau which came into being in 2001. Three types of certificate are available. They are intended to provide information on applicants for jobs which are exceptions to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (for instance, those occupations including work with children or vulnerable adults, work in medicine, the courts and other sensitive areas). In most cases employers in these areas are required to register with the Criminal Records Agency and to follow a code of practice.