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These FAQs set out the common questions and pitfalls faced by employers when dealing with  issues in recruitment. The additional documents referred to are designed to assist you further. Please note that some documents are available to all readers whilst others are locked and only accessible to HR Protect clients. To become a retainer client or to find out further information please click here.

Do I need to document the recruitment process?

Employers who properly document the recruitment process to establish a paper trail will be better placed to justify decisions taken, to show that a selection decision was based on objective evidence of an applicant’s ability to do the job (rather than on assumptions or prejudices) and to show that they took reasonably practicable steps to prevent unlawful discrimination or harassment.

Can you discriminate against someone during the recruitment process?

Protection from discrimination applies to job applicants in the same way as it does actual employees so, from a risk point of view it is essential that employers avoid any form of discrimination during the recruitment and appointment process, even if this is done advertently.

 For further information on discrimination see:

DIS1 How to Guide: Avoiding Discrimination

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DIS1 – How to guide – Avoiding Discrimination

What should be included in a recruitment job description?

Before advertising a vacancy, a written job description for the role should be compiled. The job description should cover:

  • the main purpose and objectives of the job;
  • the place of the job holder in the organisational structure;
  • the main tasks and responsibilities of the job holder; and
  • any associated tasks.

When compiling a job description, ensure that an appropriate job title is used that does not show any premeditated bias (e.g. “paper boy” or “waitress”) and that the job is accurately described.

You may also wish to prepare a person specification detailing the experience, know-how and qualifications, skills, abilities and behavioural attributes necessary to perform the duties in the job description. Criteria in the job description or specification must not be discriminatory and employers should be able to justify any necessary or desirable criteria against the job in question.

Do I need to advertise job vacancies externally?

It is generally considered best equal opportunities practice to advertise all vacancies externally as this will ensure that as wide a pool of candidates as possible is reached. This will not always be appropriate however, for example, in a redundancy situation, where an employer is obliged to consider what alternative employment is available within the organisation for employees who are at risk of redundancy.

For further information on redundancy see:

R1 – How to Guide – Redundancy.

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R1 – How to Guide – Redundancy

What should be considered for job applications?

You should consider the format in which applications should be submitted. Adopting a standardised process, whether through using an application form or requesting CVs is recommended so that applicants can compete on equal terms and to help the employer show that applicants have been assessed objectively.

Be prepared to react where reasonable adjustments need to be made for disabled candidates, e.g. providing information in large print, braille etc. so they are not disadvantaged in the recruitment process. For further information on reasonable adjustments see

DIS3 – Guidance – Disability Discrimination.

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DIS3 – Guidance – Disability Discrimination

Should a company include equal opportunities monitoring in the job application process?

There is no obligation to carry out monitoring but it can help to highlight inequality in the workplace, identify the causes and help to remove unfairness and disadvantage.

Equal opportunities forms should be separated from individual applications prior to the shortlisting process and should be anonymised. Applicants should be informed that the form does not constitute part of any assessment for the job applied for and that completing the form is optional.

For a copy of the form, please see:

REC10: Equal opportunities monitoring form

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REC10 – Equal opportunities monitoring form

What should an employer consider when selecting and interviewing job candidates?

There are a number of processes available to you when assessing and selecting the ideal candidate for the job advertised for example, shortlisting, selection tests, assessment centres and interviews. All selection processes undertaken must be fair, consistent and result in the appointment of the best person for the job.

You should ensure that, as far as possible, arrangements for holding tests or interviews, or using assessment centres, do not put any candidates at a disadvantage in connection with a protected characteristic. For example, where the dates or times coincide with religious festivals.

Employers are not required to make changes to recruitment processes in anticipation of applications from disabled people. However, if an employer knows, or could be reasonably expected to know that a particular disabled person is, or may be, applying for a role and is likely to be substantially disadvantaged by the premises or arrangements, then reasonable adjustments must be made. For example, if an applicant is a wheelchair user you should make sure that the premises where the interview is being held are accessible in order to remove any disadvantage that individual may suffer because of their disability.

Employers should also consider whether any tests could be indirectly discriminatory.

Using a panel of managers to consider applications is usually considered best practice.

What data protection issues arise during the recruitment process?

All documents collected in the recruitment process which include the personal data of applicants must be processed in accordance with data protection legislation, in the same way as is necessary for the personal data of current employees within the business.

Job applicants should be made aware of how the employer will process the information they supply, for example via a statement in the job advert and how long it will be held for. For a template privacy notice, please see:

REC11: GDPR candidate privacy notice.

For further details on handling data during the recruitment process, please see:

REC6: Guidance: retention and erasure of employment records.

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REC6 – Guidance – retention and erasure of employment records

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REC11 – GDPR candidate privacy notice

Can an employer use pre-employment health questionnaires in recruitment?

Employers are not permitted to ask about the health of a job applicant before offering a job to them, except in a limited number of situations. When a job offer has been made, it can be made conditional on satisfactory health checks, but employers must not discriminate against job applicants having received the results of such checks. Health checks would usually only be appropriate where relevant to the job or where reasonable adjustments need to be considered for disabled applicants.

For more information on pre-employment health questionnaires, please see:

REC3: Guidance: pre-employment health questionnaires.

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REC3 – Guidance – pre-employment health questionnaires

What should be included in a job offer?

After identifying the applicant who is to be offered a job, a written job offer should be sent to the person, see:

  • REC7: example offer letter – permanent post
  • REC8: example offer letter – fixed term post

You should ensure that offer letter is consistent with the contract of employment subsequently provided. You may want to consider making the job offer conditional on matters such as references, proof of right to work or qualifications etc.

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REC7 – Example offer letter – permanent post

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REC8 – Example offer letter – fixed term post

When should references be obtained in the recruitment process?

References should not be obtained until after a selection decision has been reached. This is to ensure that the selection decision is based strictly on objective criteria and is not influenced by other factors, such as potentially subjective judgments about a candidate by referees. It is also good practice to send a referee copies of the job description and person specification, requesting evidence of the applicant’s ability to meet the specific requirements of the job.

The information requested in a reference can vary. It is common to ask for information such as the applicant’s dates of employment, current role and past roles, salary and disciplinary record. However, employers may be unwilling to give all of this information and some will have a policy of only confirming factual information such as dates of employment and role.

For full guidance on receiving references, see:

REC4: Guidance: providing and receiving employment references.

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REC4 – Guidance – providing and receiving employment references

Is an employer required to provide a reference?

Generally (aside from some very specific exceptions) there is no legal obligation on employers to provide a reference for a current or former employee. However, a consistent approach (whether or not to give references and what to include in them) is recommended, particularly to avoid allegations of discrimination.

If a reference is provided, the employer owes a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that it is true, accurate and fair and does not give a misleading impression. Failure to do so could give rise to claims against the employer.

Are all employers required to perform right to work checks?

All employers have a duty to prevent illegal working by carrying out prescribed document checks on candidates before employing them to ensure they have the right to work in the UK.

You are expected to keep a record that they have been carried out and repeat them in respect of any individuals who have time-limited permission to work in the UK, prior to the expiration of that permission.

It is a criminal offence if an employer employs an illegal worker and knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, that the person has no right to do the work in question in the UK.  It is a civil offence if you employ someone who does not have the right to carry out the work in question, which can be punished by a penalty of up to £20,000 for each individual who does not have the right to work.

An employer will be excused from paying a civil penalty if they are able to show that they complied with the prescribed right to work checks and retained records to prove that those checks were completed correctly. For further information, see:

REC5: Guidance: right to work checks.

In order to avoid claims for discrimination, employers should carry out the same checks on all prospective employees and not just those who appear to be non-British.

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REC5 – Guidance – right to work checks

Additional Information

For further information and useful documents on recruitment see:

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REC1 – How to Guide – recruitment

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REC12 – Employment records: retention and erasure guidelines

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