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Annie Hayes

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Man Friday wanted: Managing the recruitment game

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Reflections
Navigating the paths of recruitment advert ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ can be tricky with harsh punishments in store for those that stray; Peter Done, managing director of employment consultancy Peninsula explains.




Employment law within the UK has developed so much that people in Britain have at least five rights which they could pursue to an Employment Tribunal before they become an employee, or even before they are interviewed! Those five are to be joined by others in the not too distant future. The existing five are concerned with discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, disability, trade union and religion/political opinion or persuasion.

Sex can be subdivided to include sexual orientation and gender re-assignment and martial status. Age, the subject of a voluntary code of present, will join the others on the list from 1 October 2006. Therefore adverts should not contain any element, referring to these areas, which is directly or indirectly discriminatory.

But more of the law later. Why are you advertising? Recruitment advertising is usually done for one of two purposes, to replace leavers or to increase numbers (presumably to cope with growth/increased production).

It should only be done at the end of the thought process chain; it shouldn’t be the case that leavers are automatically replaced, like with like. Questions need to be asked first starting with, perhaps, why are they leaving and could something be done to persuade them to stay?

If they do leave do they need to be replaced? Could the work be split amongst a number of other employees thus saving the costs of employing someone? If some hours still need to be replaced (even all of them) is the replacement of a full-timer with a full-timer the best thing to do?

Would two, 20 hour, or four, 10 hour workers, be more flexible and economic (especially if you can keep them below the income tax, NI, employer’s contribution threshold). Does this leaver offer the opportunity of re-structure, re-engineer working methods and systems without problems of staff resistance?

Having explored these areas then thorough checking and updating of the job description to ensure it is still relevant is next. Use the job description requirements to define the attributes required of the person to carry it out (called a personnel specification).

For example, strict eye sight colour definition requirements required of airline pilots means that someone who is colour blind (especially red/green) simply cannot do the job.

Be sure that you do not introduce requirements which would indirectly discriminate by requiring a standard from an applicant that the job does not demand, for example a high standard of spoken and written English is not necessary for someone whose job is to pick out twigs/leaves, etc., from fruit passing along a production line.

Less obvious perhaps would be, as happened in a ladies’ wear chain store, where a man was refused employment because the job required certain intimate measurements of semi-clad ladies and it would clearly be inappropriate for a man to do this!

The Tribunal decided that as the measuring element took up such a small percentage of the total time, and as there were female assistants who could carry out those “intimate duties”, the Respondent was not justified in rejecting him – it was direct discrimination. Be very careful about what the job really requires!

Once you know what the job is and what it requires of the individual, the advert can then be drawn up. Job title should be the prominent heading. Adverts with the salary displayed attract a larger and more relevant response. Draw the skill requirements up prominently else too many unqualified personnel will chance their arm.

Highlight benefits, not just financial but growth or promotion opportunities, growing market sector/market leader, etc. If your job is not as attractive as others on the page you will lose the applicant to them.

Consider where and when to advertise and target carefully. Obviously avoid using any potentially discriminatory language, e.g. ‘Man Friday’ wanted as this clearly discriminates against females and may even be racist as well. ‘Waiter’ is not acceptable, ‘Waiter/Waitress’ is.

Manager is acceptable, it is not necessary to state manager/manageress – but should there be any doubt make this clear. Make clear how applications should be submitted, e.g. application form, letter and CV, fax, e-mail, etc., and by what closing date.

Time taken to carefully decide what precisely the job entails, what is required of the individual(s) and how this can best be translated to an advert is rarely time wasted. “Staff wanted”, as an advert, usually is!

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