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***UPDATED***As there're so many candidates applying for jobs at the moment (with completely the wrong qualifications etc) -

we need a good technique for filtering candidates without looking like being discriminatory. How can we do this?

I spoke to Tracy Purkiss, the head of HR at Ryman and she helped me answer this question because she is at the front line of filtering candidates.  Yes – I am a great believer in delegation.

A good technique for filtering the right candidate for the job is to make sure that you write an accurate and sound job description or job specification.  For this you need to list the purpose tasks and responsibilities of the job, which should include the following:

  • Main purpose of the job – which you should try putting in one sentence.
  • Main tasks of the job – use active verbs like ‘writing’, ‘repairing’, ‘machining’, ‘calculating’, instead of vague terms like ‘dealing with’, ‘in charge of’. 
  • Scope of the job – expanding on the main tasks and the importance of the job.  Job importance can be indicated by giving information such as the number of people to be supervised, the degree of precision required and the value of any materials and equipment used.

A good job description can help with induction and training.  It provides the basis of drawing up a personal specification – a profile of skills and aptitudes considered essential and desirable in the job-holder.  It enables prospective applicants to assess themselves for the job and provides a benchmark for judging achievements.

Incidentally, a number of employers are now putting the following on job adds, ‘If you do not have the qualifications for this role do not apply’ or ‘If you do not have relevant experience please do not apply for this role’ because clearly they are facing the issue of receiving too many inappropriate applications. 

Person specification 

Drawing up the person specification allows the business to profile the ideal person to fill the job.  It is very important that the skills, aptitude and knowledge included in the specification are related precisely to the needs of the job.  If they are inflated beyond those necessary for effective job performance, the risk is that someone will be employed on the basis of false hopes and aspirations and both the employer and employee will end up disappointed in each other.

Another good reason not to set unnecessary requirements is to avoid any possibility of discrimination against particular groups of potential applicants.  The very process of writing a job and person specification should help the employer to develop and implement a policy of equal opportunity and selection of employees.

  • Skills, knowledge, ability directly related to the job.
  • The type of experience necessary.
  • The competencies necessary.
  • Education and training but only so far as is necessary for satisfactory job performance, unless the person is being recruited on the basis of future potential (eg graduate trainees), when a higher level of education may be specified.
  • Any criteria relating to personal qualities of circumstances which must be essential and directly related to the job, and must be applied equally to all groups irrespective of age, sex, race, nationality, religion or belief, disability, membership or non-membership of a trade union. To do otherwise is potentially discriminatory.

For instance, a clause requiring the successful candidate to move their place of work should be included only when absolutely necessary, as it is likely to discourage applicants with family care commitments.

The person specification helps the selection and subsequent interview to operate in a systematic way, as bias-free as possible. The use of competency-based approaches can help by focusing on the ‘match’ between candidate and role, but they are best used where they are an integral part of the continuing assessment and development of staff.

Theo Paphitis, Entrepreneur

You can use psychometric tools effectively (e.g. Predictive Index) to profile the role you are hiring for and the skills you need, careful planning at the advertisement stage using the role profile will help candidates self deselect and then assist in matching employees against the role profile both at screening and interview stages in a fair and egalitarian way.

Other methods would be to use your in house facilities such as ‘recruit a friend’ to help quality assure the candidates you are seeing - mypeoplebiz a lost cost resourcing solution that takes account of the rise of social networking to attract high calibre candidates is also worth considering .

With white collar unemployment rising, many applicants will consider sideways and downward career moves to secure employment. It is worth considering over-hiring and raising the bar on your talent requirements to take advantage of some of the talent currently available.

Nadine Jones, Consultant

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