Recruiting practice staff effectively

Getting recruitment wrong can be expensive. Fiona Dalziel has some advice to help practices ensure they have everything in place to recruit successfully.

Prepare a job description and person specification for the post (Image: iStock)
Prepare a job description and person specification for the post (Image: iStock)

Getting it right with recruitment is an expensive business. Getting it wrong can be even more costly, so what basics should a practice make sure are in place?

A recruitment policy

Establish a recruitment policy including the following elements:

Vacancies should be assessed to see whether.

  • A straight replacement is needed or not – can tasks be redistributed?
  • A different post in the team might be capable and more cost effective. Every post should have an up-to-date job description and person specification before you commence recruitment.

Team members’ involvement in the process should be defined:

  • Who decides whether there is a vacancy or not?
  • Who takes part in the selection process?
  • Who undertakes interviews?
  • Who will follow up references?
  • Who will undertake pre-employment processes?

All recruitment processes must comply with the practice’s Equality and Diversity Policy, in which all involved have had training, as well as the Data Protection Act

Remuneration for every post should be based on an established practice pay scale.

The importance of preparation

The Equality Act 2010 protects job applicants as well as employees from discrimination on the grounds of nine 'protected characteristics':

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender re-assignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Acas has produced further information on this. You risk having a discriminatory recruitment process if you do not prepare a job description and person specification for each post in a systematic and objective manner.

A job description does just that – it defines the job that needs done. It will detail:

  • The accountability structure
  • Purpose of the post
  • Areas of responsibility
  • Key tasks and outcomes

A person specification lists:

  • Qualifications
  • Skills
  • Experience
  • Competencies
  • Personal attributes

These are elements which an individual would need in order to fulfil the job description.  Only list physical ability if this is a justifiable requirement for the job.

Person specifications are best drawn up by more than one person. In the case of recruitment to a key post such as salaried GP, practice manager or practice nurse, consider widening the pool of people with input.

Going through this process will help ensure you are not accidentally undertaking recruitment which is discriminatory in any way.


Your advertising budget and strategy will vary dependent on the post. Expenditure is likely to be proportionate to the importance of the post, as is the geographic spread of your advert. 

Opportunities for ensuring that your advert reaches the right audience are better now that the internet and business social networks are also available.

Remember to advertise internally. When interviewing internal candidates, bear in mind that the Equality Act 2010 applies to promotion and you need to demonstrate that you had a fair selection process. 

A structured approach will ensure you can give good feedback if your internal candidate is unsuccessful.

A smaller, cheaper, advert with little information will attract lots of applicants, many of whom may be inappropriate. A larger advert is an opportunity more clearly to define what you are looking for. 

Consider putting the interview date into the advert along with something which indicates how much you will pay. Information in the advert should come from your job description and person specification to ensure consistency.

Assessing applicants

Use the person specification to draw up a candidate assessment form. A scoring system will help assess the suitability of applicants for interview. Remind all assessors that, under the Data Protection Act, an applicant could ask to see the assessment paperwork you used.

In preparing for interviews, the number of people involved will vary according to the impact of the post in the practice. However, it is probably sensible to have at least two people interviewing for each post to ensure objectivity and balance.

Prepare an interview structure. Again, this will be based on the job description and the person specification.

Looking at application forms and CVs will not answer all the questions you have about personality, values and attitudes and so interview questions will concentrate on these key elements.

Avoiding discrimination

Ensure you ask candidates if they need any reasonable adjustments to be made to the selection/interview process to allow them to apply and then make the adjustment. 

However, you must not take this information into account when deciding who is the successful candidate. Do not use pre-employment health questions on a form or during the interview unless the job has an ‘essential function’, such as heavy lifting, which you need to check whether the candidate is able to undertake.

Once either a conditional or unconditional job offer has been made, you can ask appropriate questions about the candidate’s health in order to identify whether any adjustments need to be made. Occupational health advice may be useful at this stage if this appears to be the case.

Remember that you can discriminate by association. If the applicant does not have a protected characteristic but someone in their family does, then treat the applicant as if he or she has the protected characteristic, for example, if an applicant cares for a child with a disability.

The burden of proof under a claim of discrimination is on the employer to show that they did not discriminate.

References and immigration

Ask candidates for references and take the time to follow them up. Further information on this is available on the Acas website.

It is also essential to check immigration documentation, as employing someone without proper papers is a criminal offence.

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