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Staff recruitment: preparing the selection process

Fiona Dalziel provides advice on advertising a job vacancy and selecting candidates for interview.

Use your person specification to structure interviews (image: iStock)
Use your person specification to structure interviews (image: iStock)

If you have spent time defining a job description and writing a personal specification for a general practice post, you will have created an excellent basis on which to proceed with the process of selecting the right candidate.

The job description describes the purpose of a post, its main responsibilities and tasks and what will be expected of the post-holder.

The personal specification describes the skills, abilities, experience, qualifications and attributes which the successful candidate will need to possess in order to do the job.

Preparing a job advert

Lengthy text tends to be a luxury when advertising a job vacancy, so choose every word with care. Your advert should summarise precisely what the post involves in order to attract appropriate candidates. Points to bear in mind include:

  • Use a job title and terminology that describe the purpose of the post and could not be deemed discriminatory. Do not use words that imply a preferred gender, age, race or sexuality. Terms such as 'doctor' or 'manager' are neutral, but if you are using an illustration of any kind and, for example, advertising for a practice nurse (a role traditionally associated with women), ensure the illustration is also neutral or include an equal opportunities statement (see below).If using a job title such as 'senior receptionist', it is likely that this will be acceptable if it describes a post in the reception team which has additional responsibilities and is 'senior' to the rest of the team in organisational terms. Using 'office junior', with the implication that the successful applicant is likely to be younger, would be discriminatory.
  • Use the same criteria in your advert as specified in the job description/personal specification. As long as your person specification has been based on the job description, the criteria set out in your job advert will be based on characteristics that can be justified objectively. Do not be tempted at this stage to add detail to the advert which comes from anywhere else or just feels like 'a good idea'.
  • Advertise as widely as appropriate. Equality and Human Rights Commission advice states: 'If you do not advertise at all or you advertise in a way that will not reach people with a particular protected characteristic, this might in some situations lead to indirect discrimination, unless you can objectively justify your approach.' For example, if you have a vacancy in the office team and offer it directly to a team member without advertising internally, then other existing staff with protected characteristics could claim you discriminated against them.
  • Remember, less is more. The less information you put in a job advertisement, the greater the number of applicants you will attract. The converse is also true. Do you want to narrow down your pool of recruits or keep your options more open?
  • Additional information: Including an indication of the rate of pay will narrow the field of applicants because it clarifies your expectations. It is also useful to consider including the interview date if you do not mind excluding candidates on that basis and cannot be flexible.

Equal opportunities statements

Equal opportunities statements can be very simple, for example: 'We are an equal opportunities employer'. Look to the Equality and Human Rights Commission for further suggestions and information.

Shortlisting and interviewing

The personal specification will continue to keep your recruitment process on track.

  • Use your personal specification to draw up a candidate assessment sheet. Transfer the criteria from the personal specification to a candidate selection sheet. Consider using an objective scoring system so that the individuals involved in shortlisting can assess applications against your requirements for the post. Only specific criteria in a personal specification can be assessed in this way at this stage. Avoid including candidates for interview who do not have elements you previously decided were essential. Do not select candidates who do not meet your criteria just because they have a protected characteristic if there are better candidates who do not have that characteristic.
  • Use the personal specification to structure the interview. The criteria on the personal specification which could not be assessed adequately at the stage of shortlisting can be explored at interview.

Again, make your assessment of each candidate as objective as possible so that you can justify any decisions you make if you are challenged. Draw up an interview structure which is used consistently for each candidate.

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