Selecting candidates

The methods and procedures used during the selection process should enable departments to make successful appointment decisions. This should lead to the recruitment of staff who can add value by effectively applying their skills and knowledge to the job, whilst contributing to the strategic aims of the department and the wider University.

1) Collating applications and creating ‘shortlisting packs’

After the advert closing date, collate all the completed applications into a ‘shortlisting pack’. See QRG REC03 Managing Online Applications (1,162kb).

Priority applicants:
Applications must first be checked for candidates with priority status (identifiable by the priority candidate letter, and/or by the priority candidate field in the 'Additional questions' section of the application). A separate shortlisting pack of only priority candidates should be sent to the selection panel, along with the link to the relevant guidance on priority candidates, ideally before other applications are considered.

Applications made outside CoreHR:
Manual applications can be accepted in exceptional circumstances, for example if an applicant cannot apply online due to a disability. Any such eligible applications should be entered into CoreHR as per the QRG: REC02 Managing Paper Applications (122kb) and the guide on Manual application process (48kb).

Ensure any applicants who have previously worked at the University have the right to return (for example, if an individual left through ill-health retirement, or under a settlement agreement, as they may be inelgibile to work for the University again). (Remember to update CoreHR to show that the 'Right to Return' has been checked.)

2) Shortlisting applicants (assessing applications)

The CoreHR shortlisting pack can also produce a non-compulsory shortlisting form. This may be used in a number of ways, for example, as a simple tick/cross system in each box, a scoring system or a coding system. A notes column can be used to clarify the score or add to it. An alternative method may be used, if preferred, as long as it is fair and can be applied consistently and systematically to help ensure the best candidates are selected for the next stage of recruitment, and allows record-keeping.

Ideally the whole selection panel, but at least two panel members, should assess all the applications. Applications should be assessed objectively against the selection criteria listed in the job description, seeking to gather evidence from the application as to whether the candidate meets the necessary selection criteria. This guards against potential bias or lack of impartiality, for example where an applicant is known to the panel, or is from a group under-represented at the University. Focus should be placed on the essential criteria, with the desirable criteria being used where too many candidates remain. New selection criteria should not be introduced at this stage as these will not have been reflected in the published advert/job description, and as such could be seen as discriminatory. It is important to take into account any relevant skills and experience which may have been gained by the applicant outside of employment.

Keep a note of all the applicants ruled out initially, with more detail for those in the 'long' shortlist. This not only enables vital evidence to be provided if the process is challenged, but also provides a basis for feedback if requested by unsuccessful candidates. This is also necessary to meet the Home Office requirements where non-EEA applicants were considered. Any cases of inconsistent scoring or assessment should be discussed by all members of the selection panel.

At this stage it is important not to base decisions on information disclosed in references (if already provided), as they may be biased or reveal personal information which should not be taken into account. Where references have already been provided at this stage they must be held separately and confidentially until the selection panel has made its selection based on the selection criteria in the job description.

Where applicants mention disability in their application, selection panels should assess them against the selection criteria in the normal way, and on the assumption that appropriate reasonable adjustments will be put in place.

Priority candidates who meet the selection criteria should be invited for interview (see: priority candidates). If a suitable priority applicant is identified and appointed after interview, the recruitment may be closed, without the need to further assess other applicants. Other applicants should be informed that the post has been filled by a redeployee.

steps: Interview invitations can be generated via CoreHR. Where selection tests will be used state this in the letter. Candidates must always be asked if they have specific requirements regarding access or adaptations to interview/tests to accommodate disabilities. Update the Vacancy Status and Applicant Status as per QRG: REC00 Recruitment Basics (284kb)).

See also: Recruitment monitoring scheme.

3) Tier 2 visa sponsorship considerations

In the event that the successful candidate requires sponsorship under Tier 2, the Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) application will require copies of the shortlisted candidates' job applications together with reasons why each shortlisted candidate was or was not chosen for the role. Reasons must relate to the selection criteria. In cases where only one applicant was shortlisted the shortlisting grid, justifying why only one was shortlisted against the selection criteria, and copies of all the job applications must also be sent to the Staff Immigration Team. Interview notes and all other recruitment documentation will normally be retained for six months. Where a Tier 2 CoS has been granted these documents must be retained in line with the latest guidance, as these could be requested as part of a Home Office audit.

4) Selection methods

Candidates’ suitability for a role can be assessed via a range of selection methods, to gather evidence for selection. The use of tests can help to compare candidates with the requirements of the job in a fair and objective way. Any tests used need to relate to, and aim to assess, the selection criteria listed in the job description.

Departments need to inform the shortlisted candidates in advance what type of assessment they will undergo, and whether any preparation may be required. Some tests could potentially unfairly discriminate against people with certain disabilities and you are advised to contact the University Staff Disability Adviser with any questions before proceeding with a test. When a test is used, all documentation relating to it must be kept with all other interview notes.

To learn about the various types of selection tests, please click here.

5) Interviews

All priority candidates who meet the essential selection criteria must be offered an interview.

Job interviews are conducted in order to:

  • evaluate candidates’ experience and ability to perform the duties of the post;
  • explain to the employee about working in the University (eg outline the benefits, training provision, the culture of the team/department etc);
  • give the candidate a positive and realistic impression of your department and the University;
  • enable the candidate to understand the job and its responsibilities in more detail;
  • give the candidate a chance to ask questions about the post, department or the University;
  • establish and discuss details such as availability, start dates and terms and conditions; and
  • enable the candidate to decide whether they would like to take the job if offered it.

The key to successful interviewing is thorough preparation. To enable the selection of the right candidate for the job, it is important to conduct a structured interview, which means that:

  • questions are planned in advance of the interview (and relate to the selection criteria);
  • all candidates are asked the same types of questions;
  • answers are scored systematically and consistently; and
  • questions focus on the skills and behaviours required in the job.

To avoid hasty judgements focus on collecting information rather than on decision-making. Interview panels need to allow for some flexibility in order to allow candidates to ask any supplementary questions.

Do not introduce new criteria or exclude existing criteria at this stage; adhere to the selection criteria which were advertised and communicated to applicants. The panel should agree in advance how they will gain evidence of the candidate’s ability to meet the selection criteria, and how the various issues will be explored at interview, and how the questions will be divided amongst them. Some criteria may be tested more appropriately by means other than interview, eg by a practical test or exercise (see: selection methods). A Sample interview record (43kb) for capture of interview notes is recommended.

Please also read the additional guidance on interviews available from the right-hand side menu.

steps: Generate interview schedules in CoreHR. See section 2: REC03 Managing Online Applications (1,162kb).

6) Ensuring fair practice at shortlisting and interview stages

Even where all possible personal details are removed from applications, an applicant's employment and educational history may still reveal information about their protected characteristics, such as age, nationality or sex.

All those involved in shortlisting and interviewing must avoid making assumptions about candidates on the basis of any protected characteristics, for example, that:

  • an older candidate may not be in touch with the latest thinking on a particular subject;
  • a younger candidate would not have the skills-based competency to persuade and influence others;
  • a candidate with a declared disability will be unable to undertake particular duties;
  • gender, age or sexual orientation are indicators that a candidate is more or less likely to take family leave;
  • a candidate with a disability, or of a particular age, racial background, gender or sexual orientation would not 'fit in' with the 'culture' of the work place;
  • a foreign national candidate would be unable to get a work visa.

Interviewers must avoid asking candidates questions relating directly or indirectly to protected characteristics.

7) Employment of relatives and under 18s

Employment of relatives: When it is known that a relative of an existing member of staff in the department is a job applicant in that department, Council guidance and the Conflict of interest policy apply. In such cases, the related member of staff should not be a member of the selection panel. Where this is not possible, at least one additional independent member of staff should be included on the panel. The potential conflict of interest should be acknowledged and managed according to the Conflict of interest policy. A note should be sent to the Director of Human Resources confirming that these procedures have been followed, and an acknowledgement received before the offer of the post is made.

The closeness of the relationship requiring the above guidelines to be followed is a matter for local determination taking into account whether the degree of interest between the related members of staff is such that questions of bias could arise. In cases of doubt follow the guidelines above.

In unusual circumstances, such as the sudden absence of a key member of staff, it is recognised that the above guidelines might not be immediately appropriate and the short-term employment of an individual who is already known to the department and may be related to an existing member of staff, might be the most effective solution to that difficulty. Such arrangements should be of a limited duration, ie up to a few weeks only.

Employment of under 18s: If you suspect that an applicant may be under 18 years old, the following must be noted:

School-leaving age: Strict limits apply to the employment of children under 16 years old. No-one of compulsory school-age may be employed by the University. In England, school leavers must do one of the following until they are 18:

  • stay in full-time education, eg at a college;
  • start an apprenticeship or traineeship; or
  • work or volunteer (for 20 hours or more a week) while in part-time education or training.

Departments must comply with current legislation. If in doubt, seek advice from the last school attended or the Careers Service.

8) Complaints in recruitment

Job applicants, visitors, and others working within the University are protected by the Equality Act 2010.

Employees who have applied for a University post and believe that they have suffered unlawful discrimination or harassment (on account of their protected characteristics) by the University, may raise a complaint under the following procedures:

  • Complaints related to unlawful discrimination should be handled under the University’s procedures for grievance.
  • Complaints related to harassment on account of protected characteristics should be handled under the University's policy and procedure on harassment.
  • Claims of discrimination can be taken to the Employment Tribunal (ET).

NB Departments must respond to ET forms within 28 days. Please contact your HR Business Partner without delay, before any action is taken, in the event that you are made aware that an ET claim is to be made.