Equal opportunities legislation: What you need to know

From the profile to screening applicants, we look at the first stages

Throughout the recruitment process, you should also be fully aware of equal opportunities legislation. This means understanding how discrimination can occur – even unintentionally – during the recruitment process.

Some job ads may discourage particular groups from even applying for the vacancy. For example, an ad calling for ‘vibrant’ or ‘thrusting’ personnel is implicitly ageist as it will deter older candidates who will associate these words with youthfulness. Also, untrained interviewers can form very subjective opinions on the basis of entirely irrelevant criteria – such as background or appearance.

Unlawful discrimination: you are not allowed to express a preference in terms of the race or colour of the candidate, this is discrimination

Genuine occupational qualification: you are only allowed to state a preference for a man or woman if you can produce a genuine occupational qualification (GOQ) saying why it must be a man or woman. For example, if you need a man for cleaning male toilets

Age: is not a discriminating factor, but if it’s an issue, you need to find other ways to say so. For example, it’s a position ideal as a second job rather than for a first timer or you’re looking for a more mature person

Ideally, a company should monitor the applications received to make sure that they attract applicants from a cross section of society, with sufficient numbers from diverse groups and sections. Also, the entire selection process should be monitored to ensure that selection occurs on the basis of criteria related to the job requirements – and nothing else.

But enough of the guidelines. How does a company actually find good staff?

The profile

First, the job profile. You need to be precise about what you want in order to get it. So you’ll need to define the position vacant and the person required very accurately, or you’ll just attract the wrong people for the job. It also helps you to have a clear idea of the kind of person you need and the actual work involved in the role.

When listing skill requirements, only mention those actually related to the position vacant. Similarly, when stating prior experience requirements, think about how much is strictly necessary for the candidate to do the job well. You may ideally want your new employee to be an office whizz and highly trained in all things, but consider the competencies they actually need for the position offered.

The ad

Once you have a profile, you can draw up a recruitment ad. This should be clear and brief. You should list the job requirements, the criteria for applicants, the salary package, and the contract length. Also remember to describe your organisation and give the job location. State the application procedure too. Do people apply in writing, phone, or fill in an application form?

Where you advertise will depend on the type of position offered. Surveys show that specialist and trade publications work best for managerial and professional posts. Meanwhile, advertisements for skilled workers give best results when placed in the local press. The internet as recruitment tool is becoming more and more popular – one third of employees use it for this purpose.

We look at the four most popular routes to take.

  • Local newspaper
  • Job Centre
  • Online recruitment
  • Recruitment agency

The response

All applications to job ads should be replied. Remember all applicants are or know clients. The sooner the response, the better, as this shows your company is efficient and interacts well with the public. Remember too that all applications – even unsolicited ones – are confidential.

Response to the ad may be overwhelming. Don’t at this stage be tempted to introduce random screening methods to save time. For instance, if you decided to eliminate candidates on the basis of geographic proximity to your office, you could easily ditch the application from your ideal employee.

The criteria

Instead, use a checklist of essential criteria, drawing from the person and position criteria you compiled earlier. Screen all applications using criteria relevant to the job specification – and nothing else. It’s surprisingly easy to let personal prejudice slip in – so it’s best to be aware of this possibility at all times.

Stay objective. You could try using a point system to screen applications – awarding points on a scale for every core skill requirement spotted. This lends a broad and more objective method to the process.


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