Recruitment Guidelines for Employers

The old cliche that any business is only as good as its people is certainly true but in practice recruitment activity is often carried out in an unstructured and haphazard manner. Spending time on effective and structured recruitment activities will ensure that employers have the right people in place in their business and do not have to spend unnecessary time and money dealing with the impact of poor recruitment decisions and lack of productivity.

A clear and structured approach to the recruitment cycle from the initial stage of defining the role and its requirements, the short-listing and interviewing processes and right through to the early stages of employment and a supported induction programme will help ensure that costly recruitment decisions are avoided and that the right resources are in place in your business. The following post outlines some essential recruitment tips and key legal considerations to assist with effective and legal recruitment for your business:

Equality Framework & Data Protection Requirements

Discrimination is prohibited on the following nine grounds under the Equality Acts 1998 – 2011 and care must be taken at all stages of the recruitment process to ensure that there is no potential for discrimination either with unnecessary role requirements or inappropriate interview questions:

  • Age (does not apply under the age of 16 years)
  • Gender (man, woman or transexual)
  • Civil Status (single, married, divorced, separated, widowed, civil partners and former civil partners)
  • Family status (parent of a person under 18 or the parent or resident primary carer of a person with a disability)
  • Sexual orientation (gay, lesbian, bisexual or hetrosexual)
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Membership of the traveling community
  • Race

Discrimination may be direct or indirect which occurs when an apparently neutral requirement places one of the nine groups at a disadvantage over another and employers should note that non employees or applicants who were unsuccessful in obtaining a position may be awarded up to €12,697 if it is found that they have been discriminated against during the recruitment process.

The Data Protection Acts 1998 – 2003 aim to safeguard the privacy rights of individuals and impose strict obligations on all employers in respect of collecting, storing and disclosing personal information and the following general principles of data protection must be adhered to during the recruitment process:

  • Obtain & process information fairly
  • Keep information only for specified and legitimate purpose
  • Use and disclose information only in ways compatible with specified purpose
  • Ensure information is kept accurate and up to date
  • Ensure information is adequate and relevant and not excessive
  • Retain information for no longer than is necessary
  • Give copies of person data to individuals on request
  • Ensure appropriate security measures are in place to safeguard data.

At a practical level only relevant applicant details should be requested on an application form and details such as an applicant’s age, marital status, address or whether they have children should not be asked. If an applicant is asked to respond to a PO Box, the identity of the employer must be disclosed once the application is first considered.

Employers should also be aware that interview notes may be requested by individuals and unsuccessful applicants who could be considering bringing a discrimination claim and it is critical that there is a clear and consistent note taking and scoring system in use during the recruitment process.Irrelevant and personal notes should not be made about applicants as they may be construed very differently during legal proceedings even if there was no mis-intention when writing. Clear records of recruitment decisions should be retained for 12 months in the event that there is a claim of discrimination brought.

Job Descriptions

For effective recruitment, it is critical that employers ensure the requirements of each role in the organisation is defined with a detailed job and person specification. A clearly defined job specification will allow accurate and objective short-listing and interviewing to take place as well as providing a clear road map for future employee performance management and training and development activities.

Interview Questions

Interview questions must be chosen carefully and must not be discriminatory on any of the nine grounds outlined earlier and must always relate to objectively pre-defined requirements of the role.

The following questions are some examples that were posed by employers and found to be discriminatory with the relevant compensation awarded and cost to the employer highlighted. The first one relates to causal chit chat by the interviewer before the interview actually started.

What age are the children now? (€1,000)

What age are you? (€5,000)

You wouldn’t want this job if married with children ? (€6,000)

When are you going on maternity leave? (€10,000)

Interviewers should ask relevant objective questions of all the candidates against the requirements of the role and should never make assumptions that older candidates or candidates with children will not be available to do required hours or carry out certain tasks.  It is permissible to ask candidates if they are available to do night work/regular overtime/travel provided the same questions are asked of all candidates and relate to a genuine job requirement.

It is also important to ask questions that will provide real information on a candidate’s experience and ability to fullfill the requirements of the job. Assumptions should not be made based on personal knowledge of candidates or details on a CV/application form or on views held about any of the specific groups that are protected under the equality legislation.Ask open questions related to the job and probe:

  • What exactly were you responsible for in your previous job?
  • What did that involve on a daily basis?
  • Tell me how you demonstrated your ability to solve customer problems?
  • Outline the specific steps you undertook to complete XYZ project?
  • How do you organise your workload ? What do you specifically do?

Do not ask closed questions that can result in a YES or NO answer unless you just need to confirm a fact and do not ask leading questions based on your opinions or assumptions. Keep questions open and probing at all times.


Employers are not legally obliged to provide references on former employees but it is common practice to do so even though some organisations will only provide a statement of employment dates and job title.Where possible, references should be taken up prior to new employees commencing employment and from their most recent employers. Contact should always be made directly with former employers rather than relying on written references that are provided by a new employee and offers of employment should be made conditional upon receipt of satisfactory references.

When issuing references as an employer, it is important that the content is factual, fair and accurate and not based on opinions as references may be disclosed under data protection requests. 

If you require further information  or support with your recruitment activities on how on how to avoid potentially costly recruitment mistakes, please contact Carmel Murphy on 071 9642748 or email