Dos and don’ts when selecting and interviewing job applicants

Selecting an employee is one of the most important tasks in the recruitment process so it’s essential that you get it right. Check out the following dos and don’ts before you start recruiting.

1. Write a job description

Make sure you have a job description setting out the main responsibilities and tasks of the job. This will lead to a ‘person specification’ and will enable a prospective job applicant to assess whether they are right for the job.

2. Write a ‘person specification’

This should state the ideal person for the job. It's very important that the skills, aptitudes and knowledge included in the specification are related to the requirements of the job. If not, you could fall foul of employment discrimination legislation.

3. Choose the best method of recruitment

‘Internal’ recruitment makes the most of your existing staff and their skills. Jobcentre Plus will display employer vacancies. You could also consider commercial recruitment agencies, newspapers, word of mouth and the internet.

4. Be prepared

Do make sure that you're well prepared for the interview. You should read the applicant’s application form carefully and prepare appropriate questions.

You must not ask personal questions about marital status, children, domestic obligations, marriage plans or family intentions. These could be potentially discriminatory. An example of a discriminatory question is ‘Do you intend to have children soon?’

Find out more about what you cannot say in our article Questions you can’t ask in a job interview and why.

5. Take into account disability

When conducting an interview you need to consider whether any reasonable adjustments need to be made for disabled candidates; for example, access to the building.

6. Write up your notes as soon as you can after the interview

The Data Protection Act 1998 allows a candidate to request to see interview notes where they form part of a ‘set’ of information about the candidate (e.g. the application form, references, etc.). 

Your reasons for rejecting a candidate may also be subject to scrutiny under employment discrimination legislation.

7. Get references

If you are taking up references, you should include a job description with the request for a reference.

8. Process the job applications fairly

Do process all applications in the same way.

9. Train your staff

Do ensure that all employees who come into contact with job applicants are properly trained about the legal obligations in respect of discrimination and how to avoid unlawful discrimination.

10. Don't divide up the candidates into unfair categories

Don’t keep separate lists of male and female or married and single candidates.

11. Avoid unwise jokes

Don’t make jokes in the interview that are sexist, racist or otherwise biased.

12. Do ask for certain skills

If certain qualifications, licences or training is essential for the job, then it’s reasonable to ask for proof from the employee.

13. Include a probationary period

It's not advisable to make a job offer ‘subject to satisfactory references being received’. If a referee wrongly indicates that the applicant isn't suitable for the job, then the potential employer could face legal action. 

It's important to have a policy about non-supply of a reference. A probationary period could be a good idea in the circumstances.

14. Send a letter with details of the job offer

The letter should set out the job title and offer, any conditions of the offer, salary, hours, benefits, holiday entitlement, pension, start date and any probationary period.

A template job description, employment application, interview summary and reference requests are all available to download in our Ready-Made Employment Forms and Letters bundle. Includes 180 ready-to-use employment templates in Word format.

Other information

External links

Published on: January 9, 2013

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