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Best practice in recruitment to avoid a PR disaster

Napthens - May 24th 2017

Last week, a Tonbridge company, Tecomak Environmental Services, emailed an applicant inviting her for an interview.  However, the invite accidentally included a chain of previous internal messages, which contained brutal comments about the applicant. The young woman was labelled as being an “oddball” and “a biscuit short of a packet”. They then went on to say that they ought to invite her for an interview “if only for a laugh”.

Naturally, the applicant, Ms Jacobs, was left furious about these remarks and, of course, declined to attend an interview with the Company.

Whilst slip-ups do happen occasionally, providing training for your staff on how to handle recruitment is essential, and will limit any unwelcome surprises such as this one.

Here we have a brief look at the selection process, and how to apply it to your business.

It is important that you get the selection process right from the start. You can do this by ensuring that the selection process is suitable for the role which you are recruiting for. So whether you decide to only do a formal interview or add in assessment days or an online test, you must be able to show that it was fair, consistent and produced the best suited person for the role. It is apparent that the process Tecomak used was none of these things. No matter the process, you opt for it must not disadvantage anybody with a protected characteristic, such as those with disabilities or for religious reasons, among others. However, if the process potentially disadvantages any of these groups, you would need to objectively justify the reasons why you have opted for this process.

In order to ensure a consistent recruitment process, it is strongly advisable that you use the same staff throughout the recruitment process. To avoid a similar situation as Tecomak suffered, the staff you are using should be trained in your equality policy and its application in the recruitment process. This will help to ensure that your recruitment process is of a high standard.

Should any of your applicants declare that they are disabled, or it’s reasonable to expect that they are disabled from the information you have about them, it is important to ensure that you make any reasonable adjustments should the premises or arrangements substantially disadvantage them. Be aware that some standard recruitment processes could potentially be indirectly discriminatory and anybody could fall foul, if care isn’t taken. Recently the Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled in The Government Legal Service v Brookes, that a Situational Judgement Test (SJT) disadvantaged an applicant who had Asperger’s Syndrome. Whilst the SJT served a legitimate aim, the means of achieving it were not proportional to it and an alternative method could have been used.

To summarise, ensure that the recruiting method is fair and consistent, ideally carried out by the same people from start to finish. If including additional ‘tests’ ensure that they are relevant to the role and that they don’t indirectly discriminate against certain people. If they do discriminate, then you must show that they were a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

In the example cited at the start of this article, the Company does not appear to have fallen foul of discrimination laws.  However, its actions have resulted in a PR nightmare for the Company, with the adverse publicity likely to have an impact on the quality of candidates it can now attract.  Employers should also be aware that personal opinions of its employees could certainly lead to inadvertent discrimination against the candidate, for which the company will be liable and accordingly, appropriate training is essential.