The recruitment process: how to avoid a claim

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If you’re an employer, at some point you’ll go through a recruitment process. But how do you make sure that this process is fair? Because if it isn’t, you could be leaving your organisation open to a discrimination claim.

We’re seeing a rising number of complaints brought by unsuccessful job candidates alleging unfair treatment, suggesting that recruitment discrimination is a real issue. If a job applicant feels they’ve been discriminated against they can bring a claim in an employment tribunal under the Equality Act 2010.

Employers need to open up job opportunities to as wide a pool of candidates as possible and have a robust and transparent recruitment process in place. This will reduce the risk of claims and increase the chances of successfully defending against a complaint.

Here are our tips to help you avoid recruitment discrimination:

Job description

This should be written in plain language, accurately describe the job and focus on outcomes. It should also avoid specifying unnecessary working patterns that could be discriminatory.

Person specification

You’ve got your job description. Now you need to set out the skills, qualifications and experience a candidate needs to have to be able to perform all the duties described in it. The best way to avoid a potential claim is to make sure that any desirable or necessary criteria can be justified for the job in question.

Advertising the vacancy

If you’re opening up a vacancy to as wide a pool as possible, it makes sense that you need to reach as wide a variety of candidates as you can. Make sure there’s nothing potentially discriminatory in the language used, whether that’s around gender, working patterns, qualifications or amount of experience. For example, advertising for a ‘postman’ may suggest women can’t apply.

Application forms and CVs

Whilst it’s probably easier for a candidate to send in their CV, application forms are often the preferred route for employers. They don’t ask for any unnecessary information and relate to the role in question, which gives employers greater control over the information they receive. The more knowledge the employer has about a candidate’s personal life and circumstances, the greater the risk of a claim that it was this knowledge that resulted in an unsuccessful application.

The selection process

The selection process must be fair, consistent and result in the appointment of the best person for the job. Those involved in the shortlisting process should be properly trained, decisions should be objective, and notes should be kept of the reasoning behind any decisions made.


The most common method of selection is by interview. Consideration must be given to whether adjustments may be necessary to the interview process in terms of location, timing or format, in order to accommodate a candidate’s protected characteristics and personal circumstances. Reduce the possibility of an unlawful discrimination claim by making sure all staff involved have had equality training, including on your equal opportunities and recruitment policies. Remember, papers (including notes) are disclosable in the event of a claim so make sure that everyone’s aware and the documents are written clearly and objectively.


When offering feedback, negative comments or criticisms relating to the candidate’s failure to meet the requirements of the role or the person specification should be delivered sensitively.

Consistency is key

Make sure there’s a paper trail showing your staff training as well as the reasons for any recruitment decisions as this will be needed in the event of a complaint or litigation.

Consistency throughout the relevant stages of the recruitment process can be helpful. Involving the same people and making sure that more than one person is involved at each stage helps standardise the process and ensure balance when reviewing candidates.

If you’d like to discuss the issues around recruitment, we’re here to help. Get in touch with Claire Renney on  0191 211 7854 or email [email protected]