Alison is responsible for working with clients to identify, design and deliver bespoke management development programmes, tailored to meet both their business and commercial requirements. She delivers EEF’s open training programme covering all areas from recruitment through to ending the Employment Relationship. Alison works with companies of all sizes from SME’s to larger blue chip organisations. Her experience includes managing and representation at employment tribunals, assisting companies with union matters and general provision of HR and legal advice and guidance. Prior to joining EEF Alison had HR and training roles within the automotive, engineering and construction industries.
Recruitment can be expensive. From writing person specifications and job descriptions through to interview techniques and compliance with both the Equality Act and the Data Protection Act, there is a lot to understand and get right and this takes time – time which if we get it wrong is costly and wasted. Knowing where to start and what to focus on will make the process a lot simpler.
Are you sure?
The first step should be to ask yourself whether you need to add to your team in first place. Perhaps this is an opportunity to re-profile the job descriptions of the people that you have already and increase the overall efficiency of the team? Dr Steve Chicken’s article on taking Lean to the next level of effectiveness in organisations looked at how the skills, knowledge and experience of the existing team are often overlooked and how wasteful that can be. Perhaps you have just such an opportunity to change things for the better?
Create great job descriptions
A good job description is essential – firstly because you’re writing a semi-legal document but also because it sets everyone’s expectations for the role and the requirements. You can use it to monitor performance and your staff can use it to ensure they’re doing a good job. Take care when you’re wording a job description and be realistic – if this is a role that takes half a day to learn, it’s unlikely that you’ll need someone educated to degree level with 5 years’ experience. The Equality Act requires that you don’t discriminate against potential candidates and we don’t want to put good candidates off from applying.
Interviews should be arranged on the back of shortlisting candidates. Shortlists should, ideally be made up from a scoring system and the people who draw up the shortlist should be the ones who carry out the interviews. The questions that they ask should be pre-agreed and reflect the job description and other documentation. This may all seem very formal and formulaic, but by being structured, consistent and well defined, you can simply compare one candidate with another.
Remember though, you can’t ask questions about health (unless it’s intrinsic to the role) but you can make an offer that is conditional on a medical report. When it comes to questions about criminal records, then you can ask, but it’s hard to verify the answers provided and a spent conviction only has to be disclosed for a role in an excepted occupation. You can carry out a DBS check, but that is only available for certain fields of work, including financial services, teaching and care of vulnerable adults. Otherwise the only way to obtain this information is to ask the employee to apply personally.
It’s not uncommon to find employers using the web to carry out research and checks on candidates but this can present practical, ethical and legal complications. If you learn through research of a candidate’s social media usage, for example, that they are pregnant and you don’t employ them, they could think that is the reason why. They could bring a claim of discrimination that you are in breach of the Equality Act. If you process such sensitive data you may also be in breach of the Data Protection Act? Not only may you be exposing yourself to a claim but just as importantly, you’re undermining your own recruitment process in carrying out this type of research as the results are going to be prejudicial in some way.
When recruitment goes wrong
Employers generally find themselves with problems around their recruitment process when they don’t understand the implications and limits of the Equality Act or the Data Protection Act. Just asking seemingly friendly questions about a candidate’s personal or home life as an ice-breaker could be sufficient to fall foul of the legislation here. Often, the lack of a comprehensive and robust selection process can cause problems, so take time to define each step, roles and responsibilities and make sure that you stick to them.
EEF have a number of training courses for Managers who want to avoid the pitfalls of recruiting. Whether it’s through our dedicated Right Person, Right Job – Recruitment and Selection Interviewing course or through in-house training. EEF’s training will cover how to follow a robust recruitment process from producing the job advertisement through to making the decision. It will cover all of the areas outlined in this article including the Equality Act and Data Protection Act. This will ensure that this expensive process results in the right person being selected for the role. We can also assist you in checking your policies and procedures.