There are two key areas of risk for businesses:
- Recruiting the wrong person; and
- Facing the prospect of a claim from a disgruntled unsuccessful candidate.
During the recruitment process a lot is taken on trust. A little judicious editing of a c.v. can turn a so-so candidate into a star. Exam grades can be ‘improved’ or professional experience exaggerated. Businesses also often forget the fact that they might be legally challenged by an unhappy candidate especially in a competitive job market. The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against job applicants on the grounds of race, colour, nationality or national or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability etc. Many of these potential problems can be avoided by a robust recruitment process.
- Make sure you are clear on what the requirements of the job are and write these down. Try and express matters in plain English and avoid jargon. The term “Thought Leader” may sound good, but it is a difficult concept to explain if legally challenged on what it means and whether a particular candidate meets that requirement.
- Consider using an application form rather than relying on CV’s. An application form makes it harder to hide gaps in employment history and makes a fair comparison of candidates easier.
- If possible, consider asking technical questions at interview to test whether or not the candidate really does have the necessary experience. More general questions such as ‘give an example of where you were able to influence change’ are easier to answer for those who are both practised in interview techniques and good at making things up on the spot.
- Consider interview forms, so that each candidate is asked the same questions. This ensures consistency.
- Take thorough interview notes and keep them. Consider the fact that they may be used in evidence, so make sure that all comments remain professional.
- If you use equality monitoring forms, make sure that these are not provided to those who are carrying out the interview process, so that there is no argument of bias if a candidate is not taken forward.
- Consider training those who are carrying out the interviews. Interviewing is a skill that not everyone has. Businesses may also want to consider investing in equality training.
- Make sure that you ask to see a candidate’s original examination certificates. It is surprising how infrequently this is done, especially with senior professionals.
- Consider carrying out independent background checks, to verify employment history, solvency etc.
- Take written references. Try to call the writer to verify that the reference is valid. Often former employers are more willing to speak on the telephone and ‘off the record’. It is also not unheard of for employees to get friends to write references for them rather than the HR department or their manager, or to write their own reference using ‘borrowed’ employer’s headed note paper.
Scaremongering? Consider this:
- RM was reportedly the first woman in the UK to be imprisoned for lying on a CV, having wrongly claimed to have A-levels and also having made up her references.
- LW was jailed for three months after he lied about his qualifications to land a top NHS job
- A solicitor was struck off for providing false information on his c.v.
- An executive at an international hotel chain had to resign after he was found to have lied on his CV
- Virgin successfully defended a claim for race discrimination when a candidate was rejected for a job, but then offered an interview for the same role when he submitted a second application under a different name (see Kpakio v Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd Case no 1604280/2012). They can thank their robust recruitment process for their success.