Recruitment and References

October 3rd 2019

When recruiting, your first decision is whether to advertise a vacancy internally or externally. 

Remember, in redundancy situations an employer should offer vacancies to existing staff. Employers have a duty to actively look for alternative positions for staff selected for redundancy.

What is the disadvantage of advertising internally?

Recruiting internally can negatively affect diversity. Likewise, asking existing staff members to source candidates can result in an existing demographic being over-represented at work.

Recruiting externally often makes a workplace more diverse. Not doing so may cause you discrimination law issues.

Why you should advertise carefully

Advertise vacancies carefully to avoid discriminating against potential candidates.  Using phrases like:

  • “Mature staff” could exclude young workers
  • “Youthful workforce” would exclude older workers
  • “Mobile” or “energetic” might discriminate against disabled candidates

Why application forms are popular

Application forms are increasingly popular because they:

  • Give candidates an equal chance to reflect their skills and experience
  • Can be tailored by the employer find out more about the individual

Always consider:

  • How the form will be distributed – not all candidates have internet access
  • Providing the form in brail or audio, to avoid inadvertently discriminating at this early stage

Interview panels – a guide

  • Decide if an interview panel is appropriate (depending on the business’ size)

If you do have an interview panel, members should:

  • Meet pre-interview to prepare and discuss the order and type of questions to be asked
  • Find out beforehand if adjustments are needed, e.g. having a ground floor meeting (to avoid steps) or having someone meet visually impaired candidates outside the building
  • Ask questions relevant to the candidate’s ability to carry out the role.  Asking, for example, if a female candidate plans to have children is potentially discriminatory
  • Keep consistent notes of how the candidates were scored by the panel


Employers can make an offer conditional on receipt of a good reference from the candidate’s previous employer.  If this is not included, then on receipt of a bad reference the employer would have to give notice (or pay in lieu of notice) to withdraw the offer.

The previous employer is not under an obligation to provide you with a reference unless:

  • The employment contract stipulates it; or
  • Refusal will amount to victimisation

What profession-specific checks can I make?

Depending on the role the employee will carry out, the following checks can be made:

  • Criminal Record Bureau
  • Drug and alcohol testing
  • Credit checks

What goes in the offer letter?

The offer letter can either:

  • Set out the contract of employment terms, or;
  • Simply provide the commencement date with the contract as a separate document

Why probation periods are useful

Employers find probation periods useful because they:

  • Stipulate a time period to assess the employee
  • Give a shorter notice period if they wish to terminate employment 

Probation periods are common practice (except in cases of short-term contracts or senior employees).

How long are probation periods?

Probation periods are usually three to six months long.

Can probation period be extended?

Yes. If the employer wants longer to decide about keeping the employee, they can extend the probation period so long as the contract stipulates this entitlement.

Be careful extending the probation period beyond 12 months, as the employee will gain unfair dismissal rights after one year’s continuous employment.

Getting in touch

To find out more about our Recruitment and References service, please contact Carol Shaw on 01295 204140 or email