Advertising a job and interviewing candidates
The processes you should follow when advertising and interviewing potential new staff
This guide takes you through the different stages of the recruitment process, from deciding what you need and how you are going to advertise, through to preparing for and carrying out the interview.
It includes information about:
Carrying out the job interview
Prepare your questions in advance of the interview. Your aim is to get as much quality information from the candidate as possible to assess if they are right for the job.
- Welcome the candidate.
- Introduce yourself and any other people present.
- Explain the structure of the interview.
- Outline where the job role fits within the company.
- Ask questions and allow the candidate time to think and speak.
- Keep control of the interview and help the candidate focus on the information you need.
- Ask the candidate if they have any questions at the end of the interview.
- Explain the next stage in the recruitment process and give an idea of the timescales.
- Thank the candidate for their time.
Keeping records of the process
- Write notes about the interview as soon as possible afterwards.
- Only record what has been said in the interview and how the selection decision was made, not your beliefs or thoughts about the candidate.
- Candidates who later make a complaint to an industrial or fair employment tribunal have the right to ask for copies of any notes made during the interview. You may need them for defending any possible discrimination case relating to the process.
Only record or keep personal data after an interview if it is necessary and relevant to the recruitment process, or if there is a possibility of a discrimination challenge. Data that is kept should be securely stored.
Writing a good job advert
A good job advertisement should:
- give enough information so that candidates can decide whether to apply - eg give the location, pay range, summary of role and length of contract
- state the skills and experience needed for the role
- not discriminate
- state if applicants should send a CV or complete an application form
- state a deadline for responses
Writing a person specification and job description
Preparing a job description is not a legal requirement but it will help you to decide what type of person you are looking for and to write the job advert.
A job description should include:
- the job title
- the main duties and purpose of the role
- information about the company and what it does
- the job location
If you are recruiting a manager, decide what their additional responsibilities will be and the specific skills they will need - eg line management or team leadership experience.
The person specification
It is not a legal requirement to include a person specification in your job advert. If you do decide to have a person specification, include the essential and desirable knowledge, experience and skills you would like the successful applicant to have.
It's essential to not discriminate - see how to prevent discrimination and value diversity.
Where and how to advertise your job
There are a range of options available to you when advertising a job. These include:
- newspapers and magazines
- online job and recruitment sites
- your website and social media channels
- Jobs and Benefits office and JobCentre network
- Employers Online NI
- employment agencies
Decide what's appropriate for you
Think about who you want to read the advertisement, how long it should run for, how quickly you want a response and how much you can afford to pay.
Check the costs - internet sites can be cheaper than advertising in a newspaper - and time the advertisement carefully, eg avoid holiday periods.
Government support to find staff
The network of 35 Jobs and Benefits offices and JobCentres throughout Northern Ireland offers a range of no cost services to help you to find suitable staff.
Alternatively, you can register your business with Employers Online NI and submit your vacancies online.
Internship placements for graduates
Graduate Talent Pool is a government service that you can use to advertise internship vacancies to graduates.
Connect to Success NI is an online system developed by the Department for the Economy that enables employers to promote and advertise work experience opportunities for young people.
Find out more about Connect to Success NI.
Using employment agencies to find staff
Employment agencies can find you either temporary or permanent staff, depending on your needs.
You should agree fees and terms before you appoint an employment agency to find candidates on your behalf.
Questions your agency should ask
Your agency should ask the following questions each time you ask them to fill a vacancy:
- Name of your organisation and the work that it does.
- Dates that work will start and finish.
- Position and type of work.
- Location of the job.
- The hours the work-seeker will be required to work.
- Known risks to health and safety and preventative measures in place.
- Experience, training, qualifications and any authorisation required by you, the law or any professional body to do the job.
- Any expenses payable by or to the work-seeker.
In addition, when using an agency to recruit permanent members of staff, the agency should also ask:
- The minimum rate of pay and any other benefits the person can expect.
- Where applicable, the length of notice the worker will be required to give and expect to receive.
Advantages of using employment agencies
- You can take someone on for a set period of time.
- You can try out temporary workers before employing them permanently.
- The agency will pay the temporary workers and take care of tax issues.
- For permanent recruitment, your agency may offer a rebate or replacement if a candidate starts but proves to be unsuitable.
Disadvantages of using employment agencies
- For permanent recruitment you may have to pay a one-off placement fee to the agency which will usually be based on a percentage of the employee's annual salary.
- Temporary workers who work on an ongoing basis have certain employment rights.
- If you do choose to directly employ a temporary worker who has been getting supplied to you by an agency, you may have to pay the agency a 'temp to perm' transfer fee if you employ the worker during whichever of the following periods ends later:
(a) Eight weeks from the day after the day on which they were last supplied to you by the agency
(b) Fourteen weeks from the first day on which the worker was supplied to you by the agency
How to complain about an agency
Employment agencies must comply with the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) (NI) Order 1981 (as amended) and the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations (NI) 2005 (as amended).
If you are unhappy with your agency, you can make a complaint by contacting the Department for the Economy (DfE) Employment Agency Inspectorate Helpline on Tel 028 9025 7554.
Job application process: CVs and application forms
Employers have two main options for inviting applications to job vacancies:
- providing a job application form for applicants to complete and return to you
- asking applicants to send a copy of their CV (Curriculum Vitae) and a covering letter explaining why they are suitable for the job
Advantages of application forms for recruitment
- You can ask for the exact information you need to know on the job applicant.
- It is easy to compare the skills and experience of different applicants.
- You can use the same form for future vacancies.
Disadvantages of application forms for recruitment
- They are time-consuming and can be challenging to design.
- There may be costs involved in producing and sending them out to applicants. However most employers will put their application forms online making them available for candidtaes to download and fill in.
- Lengthy application forms can be off-putting for potential candidates.
Information to request on a job application form
- Job applied for.
- Name, address, telephone numbers and email address.
- Work experience.
- Relevant skills or experience.
- Names and addresses of referees.
- If the applicant has a criminal record.
- If the applicant has the right to work in the UK.
Registered employers in Northern Ireland with more than ten full-time employees have a legal duty to monitor the composition of their workforce and of those applying to fill vacancies. Download a sample monitoring questionnaire for job applicants (DOC, 20K).
Read Equality Commission guidance on recruitment advertising.
Advantages of requesting CVs
- There is no need to produce and send out a job application form to every applicant.
- You may be able to get an idea of candidates' personality and characteristics by the way they present their CV.
- A covering letter can give you a good idea of their suitability for the job.
- It saves you time and there are no costs involved for you.
- Some applicants may see an application form as a barrier to applying for a job so requesting a CV may open you up to a lrager pool of candidates.
Disadvantages of requesting CVs
- It is harder to compare the skills and experience of different candidates.
- You may not get a true sense of whether a candidate is suitable for the job and skills required to perfrom their role.
- Gaps in education or work can be hidden more easily by the job applicant.
- You may end up appointing an unsuitable candidate for the job.
Shortlisting and inviting candidates to interview
When you have the replies to your advertisement:
match applications against your job description and person specification
eliminate applicants who do not have the basic requirements for the job
draw up a shortlist of candidates to interview
consider notifying candidates who you will not be inviting for interview
How do I make a shortlist?
- Draw up a table listing each candidate against the essential requirements of the job. This will be your shortlist.
- Include only the number of applicants you will have time to interview - usually no more than three to four people a day. Allow time for preparation and discussion before and after the interview.
- If there are too many possible candidates, look at how many meet both the essential and desirable criteria.
- Don't discriminate against applicants on the grounds of sex, race, age or disability, sexual orientation, religion, political opinion or belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership and gender reassignment.
- Get more than one person to compile the shortlist to avoid possible bias.
Inviting candidates to interview
Invite the most suitable candidates to interview by letter, telephone or email. If you do it by telephone, you are advised to confirm arrangements in writing.
You should say:
when and where the interview will be
what documents the candidate should bring
who the candidate should ask for on arrival
the names and job titles of the people conducting the interview
if there will be a test or a presentation
You should also ask candidates to tell you if they have any special needs that you will need to cater for.
Preparing for the job interview
The more preparation you do for the interview, the easier it will be for both you and the candidate.
Plan the questions
- Plan questions that give the candidate the chance to talk about their experience.
- Ask about any information in their application that is not clear, or that you would just like to know more about.
- Know the job description and person specification well so that your questions help you compare candidates.
- If two or more people are interviewing, decide who will deal with what topics.
- Think about what information candidates may want about the job and your organisation.
Prepare questions that need more than a 'yes' or 'no' answer. For example:
- Tell us why you are interested in this job.
- What were/are your main responsibilities in your previous/current job?
- Why did/do you want to leave your previous/current job?
- Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
- Looking back at your career, what would you have done differently?
Making arrangements for the interview
- Make sure that the interview room is properly prepared.
- Find out if a candidate has any special requirements before they arrive.
- Make sure there will be no interruptions.
- Brief other members of staff, such as receptionists, to expect the candidate.
- Allow enough time for the interview so you don't have to rush.
Practical tests, psychometric tests and assessment centres
As well as interviewing, there are other ways to select the best candidate. Options include:
- practical tests
- psychometric tests
- assessment centres
Tests can be done before or at the time of the interview, but should not be used as the sole method of selection. Keep in mind that such tests could also be unlawful if they discriminate against candidates of a particular race, sex or age or those who have a disability.
Before using any kind of test, think about how relevant it is to the job and measure the benefits against the costs of organising them.
Practical tests are used to gauge ability and are most useful for:
- manual jobs - eg to test trade skills
- secretarial jobs - eg to test word processing skills
- those working in call-centres or in telesales - eg to test telephone skills
Psychometric tests are more likely to be used when hiring managers and can be useful when choosing a candidate from a group of people who do not have easily comparable skills or experience. Psychometric tests can be used to measure intelligence, personality or aptitude for specific tasks, such as:
- reasoning and problem solving
- decision making
- interpersonal skills
You should bear in mind that these tests:
- are not always a good indicator of future performance
- should not be used unless there is a proven need and a suitably qualified person to administer them
- often require a fee when you use them
These are generally used by larger organisations when hiring senior staff or graduates.
Individual and group exercises take place, sometimes over a few days, often including an interview, psychometric test and group discussion. Tasks, written exercises and presentations are also commonly used.