Getting the right person for your vacancy can be challenging and the temptation is often to take the first person that applies for the post you are advertising.  But that can be a big mistake – it is better to have no one than to have the wrong person!

Before you even start to recruit it is important to be clear about the skills you need; without having a clear idea of what you need, how can you interview and be sure of appointing the right person?

Make a list of the skills and attributes that are important to your organisation.  You will need that list when you interview any job applicants.  Sticking to that list will prevent you from recruiting someone you really liked but who has none of the skills you need.

Consider introducing a test of some description when you interview.  If typing skills are important to the job, set a typing test.  If knowing the difference between a lettuce and a daffodil is important, set a test.  Need the individual to be able to make a mortice and tenon joint?  Set a test.

Advertise your vacancy and give a clear closing date for applicants.  Don’t even consider applicants before the closing date – the best person may contact you at the last minute.

You do not have to spend a lot of money on advertising.  Notice boards can yield good applicants.  Try your local job centre; lots of good and motivated people have recently been made redundant and may have had to register at a job centre to claim unemployment benefit.

Take care not to discriminate when you advertise and interview, discrimination is unlawful on the grounds of age, gender, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

Take particular care not to be gender specific, there are very few jobs that require the job holder to be male or female.  “Lad wanted” is discriminatory on the grounds of both gender and age; most people over 30 wouldn’t consider themself to be a lad but be perfectly capable of doing a good job.  Not all plumbers are male and not all care assistants are female, don’t stereotype!

If experience is needed it is better not to decide how many years of experience is appropriate, not only is that age discrimination but it may also preclude good applicants.  Some people do the same job for 10 years but their experience is limited – someone else may only have done the job for 2 years but have much wider and better experience.

Because someone has a disability doesn’t mean they are not capable of doing a good job for you.  Of course, you do not have a recruit a wheelchair usere if climbing a ladder is an important skills for the job.

The law requires you to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to create a level playing field for an employee with a disability and that employee is likely to tell you what adjustments they need.  Adjustments are rarely expensive, and funding is available through Access to Work (which can be found through Job Centres) if cost is involved.  And just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean they will be off work frequently – why should someone with a hearing disability be off sick more often than someone with good hearing?

Always always always get references from the applicant’s previous employer.  Don’t accept references from friends and family.  Contact the applicant’s previous employer yourself and ask for a written reference.  If you get a telephone reference, any notes you make represent data so are disclosable to the individual should they ask.  Don’t be afraid to change your mind about an applicant once you get the reference.

Make your job offer in writing and make it conditional on receipt of good references.  That written job offer constitutes a contract so take care with the wording.  The Statement of Terms and Conditions, often erroneously referred to as the contract, comes later on the first day of employment and will be the subject of a later article.

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