Business Law: Will Oakes on how to sift a pile of job applications without risking a discrimination claim

Will Oakes of Attwells Solicitors

Will Oakes of Attwells Solicitors - Credit: Archant

WHEN coffee chain Costa advertised eight new jobs, it received more than 1,700 applications.

So, faced with such a selection task, how can employers sift out the “undesirables” safely without the risk of incurring a discrimination claim?

The mountain of responses received by Costa to its advert for the eight new jobs (not all of the full-time) was largely a reflection of the number of people who have been made redundant from the retail sector and who featured heavily among the applicants.

While it is an extreme example, Costa’s experience is not all that unusual; many employers are now finding themselves overwhelmed with applications when a vacancy is advertised.

Although this means that they can have their pick, they first have to weed out the “no-hopers”. However, as applicants can scream “discrimination” at the drop of a hat these days, this can be something of a daunting task. Say, or do, the wrong thing and you could be penalised. So if you’re ever in this position, what non-discriminatory criteria could you apply to the initial sifting process?

First things first. Look closely at the application and see if it contains any fundamental mistakes, such as mis-spellings, typos, grammatical errors or gaps in work history that are not accounted for. These suggest a lack of attention to detail.

Next, depending on the role, you could consider the applicant’s location. If you need flexibility or someone who can work at short notice, those who live closer may be more desirable. Then consider availability; someone who has to give three months’ notice can be a no-no if you need them next week.

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Finally, you could disregard anybody who has not explained why they want to work for you. With competition for jobs at an all-time high, applicants know that they need to stand out from the crowd, so there is really no excuse for not providing this information.

In summary, consider the criteria that are important to you, and what qualities are most important, then devise a process of sifting which ensures that you are left only with those candidates who, on the face of it, most closely match those criteria.

: : Will Oakes is a solicitor with Attwells. This article is intended to be informative; it does not amount to legal advice. Attwells is happy to advise confidentially on this and any other issue, usually on a free-of-charge basis in the very first instance.

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