Document Sample
					                UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

                         Recruitment & Selection:
          Guide to the Appointment of Academic Staff

                                Part I: Guidance

    Written by Rebecca Nestor, Oxford Learning Institute, with advice from officers of
                                                     the Personnel Services section

                          Approved on behalf of the Personnel Committee: May 2003

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1.     Overview ............................................................................................................................ 3

     (a)        Status of the handbook ............................................................................................... 3

     (b)        Further advice ............................................................................................................ 3

     (c)        Key stages in the recruitment and selection process .................................................. 3

     (d)        Principles of good practice......................................................................................... 4

     (e)        University policy and guidelines ............................................................................... 4

2.     Legislative Framework ...................................................................................................... 5

     (a)        Introduction ................................................................................................................ 6

     (b)        General principles ...................................................................................................... 7

     (c)        Summary of relevant legislation .............................................................................. 10

     (d)        Practical implications for members of selection committees and panels ................ 18

3.         Responsibility for recruitment and selection .................................................................. 21

     (a)        Composition of the selection committee.................................................................. 21

     (b)        Responsibilities and duties ....................................................................................... 22

4.           Describing the post and its context .............................................................................. 24

5.           Selection criteria .......................................................................................................... 25

     (a)        Definition and purpose ............................................................................................. 25

     (b)        Relationship to description of post .......................................................................... 25

     (c)        Defining criteria ....................................................................................................... 25

     (d)        Structure ................................................................................................................... 26

6.           Advertising ................................................................................................................... 28

7.           Shortlisting and references ........................................................................................... 29

     (a)        Purpose..................................................................................................................... 29

     (b)        Assessment against selection criteria ....................................................................... 29

     (c)        References ................................................................................................................ 30

     (d)        Timing ...................................................................................................................... 30

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     (e)      Notifying candidates of the shortlisting decision..................................................... 31

8.         Interviewing, selection exercises and informal activities ............................................ 32

     (a)      Reliability of interviews: eliciting direct evidence .................................................. 32

     (b)      Practical arrangements for the interview ................................................................. 33

     (c)      Planning the interview ............................................................................................. 33

     (d)      Recording information ............................................................................................. 34

     (e)      Selection exercises ................................................................................................... 34

     (f)      Informal activities .................................................................................................... 35

9.         Making the final decision............................................................................................. 37

10.        Informing candidates ................................................................................................... 38

11.        Conclusion ................................................................................................................... 39

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Section Contents

(a)   Status of the handbook

(b)   Further advice

(c)   Key stages in the recruitment and selection process

(d)   Principles of good practice (consistency, transparency and objectivity)

(e)   University policy and guidelines (joint appointments procedure, equal opportunities

(a)   Status of the handbook
1.1 This handbook is issued by the University Personnel Committee and is designed for those
who serve on selection committees appointing academic staff. Recruitment and selection is a
legally complex activity on which the committee and its officers are increasingly asked for
advice. This handbook aims to provide guidance on the legal framework and university
policy in this crucially important area.

1.2 The principles set out in this handbook include reference to the University’s procedure on
joint appointments, which appears in Part II as Annexe A to the handbook. The handbook
does not aim to provide advice on the detail of procedural matters such as placing
advertisements, recruitment monitoring, and adding new staff to the payroll, which are the
responsibility of administrative colleagues and on which advice is available from the
University Offices.

1.3 The information included in this handbook is published both on the Personnel Services
website and as a printed booklet (available for downloading from the Personnel Services
website at, and is
updated at regular intervals. Please check the website at the start of each recruitment exercise
to ensure that your printed version is still current.

(b)   Further advice
1.4 The Oxford Learning Institute runs seminars on recruitment and selection at which the
advice in this handbook is discussed in greater depth, and at which there is the opportunity to
practise some of the techniques of effective selection. Tel: 2-86808 or email: for further details.

1.5 Sector Personnel Officers within Personnel Services (tel: 2-89900, email: personnel. and the Diversity and Equal Opportunities Officer, (tel: 2-89821,
email:, can provide advice in specific cases.

(c)   Key stages in the recruitment and selection process
1.6 There will be some variation in the structure and sequence of recruitment and selection
processes adopted across the University. We think that it is, none the less, helpful to consider
each stage in turn. In this context, the handbook defines, and offers advice on, the key stages
of the process as follows:

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     Describing the post (Section 4)

     Defining selection criteria (Section 5)

     Advertising the post (Section 6)

     Shortlisting and references (Section 7)

     Interviewing, selection exercises and informal activities (Section 8)

     Making the decision (Section 9)

     Informing candidates (Section 10)

(d)   Principles of good practice
1.7 Complying with legislative or policy requirements is sometimes perceived as being at
odds with the objective of appointing the person most suited to the post – the ‘best person for
the job’. But in fact the key principle both of the legislation and of university policy is quite
simple, and entirely consonant with this overriding objective. The principle is to be clear and
explicit about what constitutes ‘best’, recognising that this will vary depending on the post in
question and on the different views and perspectives of the members of the selection
committee. Hence the practice of defining and publishing selection criteria for each vacancy,
which is generally recognised as good practice and is explored in Section 5 of this handbook.

1.8 The law and good practice require that the selection process be conducted in a manner
that is consistent, transparent, and objective. Consistency is achieved by ensuring that, at
each stage of the process, all candidates are considered against the same criteria and are given
the same opportunity to demonstrate their suitability for the post. Through the sharing with
candidates of information about the post, as well as the selection criteria, methods and
decisions, the selection process can be shown to be transparent. The use of selection criteria
against which each candidate is assessed using evidence gathered from a number of sources is
the means by which we seek to ensure that selection decisions are objective.

(e)   University policy and guidelines
1.9 The main sources of policy for recruitment and selection are the joint appointments
procedure described in Part II, Annexe A, and the University’s Equal Opportunities Code of
Practice on staff recruitment and selection which is also included in Annexe B in Part II. The
Equal Opportunities Policy has been designed to reflect the requirements of current
legislation, and is reinforced by codes of practice issued by the Equal Opportunities
Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality, and the Disability Rights Commission. It
is particularly important that all those involved in recruitment and selection are aware of the
provisions of these documents, and of the underlying legislative framework, which is
summarised in Section 2 of this handbook.

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(a)   Introduction

(b)   General principles

      Direct and indirect discrimination


      ‘Positive action’

      Harassment and victimisation

      Bringing a complaint

      Burden of proof

      Role of the Commissions

(c)   Summary of relevant legislation

      Equal Pay Act 1970 and Equal Pay (Amendment) Regulations 1983

      Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA)

      Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999

      Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003

      Race Relations Act 1976 and Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000

      Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and Disability Discrimination Act 1995
      (Amendment) Regulations 2003

      Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003

      Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000

      Employment Act 2002 – Flexible working

      Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002

      Data Protection Act 1998 and Freedom of Information Act 2000

      Employment Equality (Age) Regulations

(d)   Practical implications for members of selection committees and panels

      Selection criteria

      Selection processes

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          Employment tribunal requirements


(a)       Introduction
2.1 The UK has a significant body of legislation affecting recruitment and selection (see part
(c) of this section), most of which is aimed at ensuring that individuals do not suffer unfair
discrimination in any of a wide variety of matters relating to employment, as well as to
education and training, and to the provision of goods and services.

2.2 Legislation covering discrimination on grounds related to gender or race has been in place
since the 1970s, and the Disability Discrimination Act was introduced in 1995. During the
past few years the existing acts have been supplemented by a number of extensions and
amendments, together with new regulations covering matters such as religion or belief, age,
sexual orientation, and fixed-term, part-time, or flexible working, all of which can be relevant
to recruitment processes. The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations are also effective
from 1 October 2006.

2.3 Grounds for discrimination in recruitment and selection that are currently specifically
prohibited by UK legislation (as at October 2006) are:

         Gender

         Marital or civil partnership status

         Colour

         Racial group

         Nationality1

         National or ethnic origin

         Disability

         Gender reassignment

         Sexual orientation

         Religion or belief

         Age

      Whilst it is unlawful to discriminate purely on grounds of nationality, it is, of course, equally unlawful to employ
someone who requires a work permit to work in the UK and does not have such a permit. Further guidance on
eligibility to work in the UK and work permits is provided on the Personnel Services website

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In addition, existing staff applying for new jobs within the University, particularly those that
would involve training or promotion, are protected from less favourable treatment (i.e.
discrimination) on grounds of their status as either fixed-term or part-time workers.

2.4 So far as recruitment and selection are concerned, discrimination on any of the grounds
listed above is unlawful in respect of:

     the arrangements made for the purpose of determining who should be offered

     the terms on which employment is offered; or

     refusing or deliberately omitting to offer employment, including deliberate omission
      from a short-list.

2.5 There are, of course, many ways in which discrimination can occur that are not directly
related to recruitment and selection, and are therefore outside the scope of this guidance.
Further information may be obtained from the University’s Diversity and Equal
Opportunities Unit (see their web page at

(b)   General principles

Direct and indirect discrimination
2.6 The legislation outlawing unfair discrimination covers both direct and indirect

2.7 Direct discrimination occurs where people are treated less favourably than others on
grounds of age, gender, race, etc. This can include:

     Action taken as a result of stereotyping (whether or not the stereotype is a negative one)
      – for example, rejecting an application from a married woman for a post which would
      require travelling, because married women are thought to be less mobile than single
      women or married men. This would be discrimination on grounds of both gender and

     Inconsistency - for example, not shortlisting an ethnic minority candidate because of a
      lack of certain qualifications, while white candidates without those qualifications are
      shortlisted. This would be discrimination on grounds of race;

     Concerns about acceptability – for example, refusing to employ a candidate whose
      manner at interview gives the impression that he is gay, because it is felt that other staff
      or students might object to him. This would be discrimination on grounds of sexual

     Action taken because of pregnancy – for example, refusing to select a woman for
      promotion because she is, or may become, pregnant. This would be discrimination on
      grounds of gender.

2.8 Indirect discrimination occurs where, although everyone is treated in the same way, an
employer imposes requirements which put members of one gender, age, race, etc. at a
disadvantage compared with other people, and which cannot be justified as a proportionate

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means of achieving a legitimate aim. All selection criteria for employment are covered by
this definition.

2.9 Indirect discrimination has four essential components:

    The employer must operate a ‘provision, criterion or practice’ which is applied equally
     to all – for example, a selection criterion requiring candidates to be aged under thirty
     with at least five years’ previous relevant experience

    The requirement must have a disproportionate effect on members of a group covered by
     the legislation – for example, on women, who are more likely to have spent time out of
     paid work to bring up children, and are therefore less likely than men to be able to meet
     an age-related criterion

    There must be a detrimental effect on members of the group in question – for example,
     that they are barred from being appointed to the job

    The requirement must not be justifiable on grounds unrelated to gender, age, race, etc.

2.10 It is not unlawful to discriminate in circumstances where authenticity is required (e.g. a
waiter in a Chinese restaurant, or an actress playing a female character), or where personal
services are performed (e.g. an Asian female carer). This is known as a ‘genuine occupational
qualification’. However, the legislation specifically excludes a requirement for physical
strength or stamina as possible grounds for such a qualification.

2.11 There are other rare exceptions to the legislation which may be relevant to work within
the University, for example, schemes sponsored by the European Union in order to foster the
interchange of knowledge between member states, under which it is lawful to offer grant-
funded employment only to researchers who are nationals of certain countries (normally,
members of the EU other than the country in which the employment will be carried out). In
cases of doubt, advice may be sought from Personnel Services.

‘Positive action’
2.12 Some limited ‘positive action’ is permitted under the legislation. Employers may use job
advertisements to encourage applications from members of particular racial groups or
members of one gender or age where it can be shown that this group is under-represented
among the employer’s staff compared with numbers in the relevant recruitment pool.
Offering specific training or opportunities for work experience for members of under-
represented groups is also permitted with the aim of enabling them to compete for posts on
equal terms. ‘Positive’ discrimination on racial grounds or on grounds of gender, age, marital
or civil partnership status at the point of selection remains unlawful.

Harassment and victimisation
2.13 Anyone who, in good faith, makes a complaint about discrimination, or assists someone
else in making a complaint by providing information, is protected by the legislation from any
form of harassment or victimisation that occurs as a result of the complaint. (This is a
separate right from the general right to be protected from harassment at work, which is
covered by the University’s Code of Practice on Harassment - see

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Bringing a complaint
2.14 Those who feel they have suffered unlawful discrimination in recruitment or
employment can take their case to an employment tribunal2. Where an employment tribunal
is satisfied that a complaint of discrimination is well-founded, it can:

      Make an order declaring the party’s rights;

      Award compensation (which, unlike compensation for unfair dismissal, has no upper

      Recommend action to be taken within a specified period by the discriminator to put
       matters right.

2.15 A party who is dissatisfied with a decision made by an employment tribunal may appeal
to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), on the grounds either that the tribunal has
misinterpreted the relevant legislation, or that its decision was unreasonable. In certain cases,
appeals may ultimately be taken to the Court of Appeal or, in cases where it might be argued
that UK legislation does not fully comply with European law, to the Court of Human Rights
at Strasbourg.

Burden of proof
2.16 Courts and tribunals have acknowledged that unfair discrimination is rarely overt and is
therefore difficult for a complainant to establish. For this reason, where there is evidence that
might point to a discriminatory act, the burden of proof in such cases now lies with the
employer, who must attempt to show that there was a non-discriminatory reason for the
action complained of. Otherwise, where less favourable treatment has been established,
discrimination may be inferred by a tribunal without direct evidence. In addition, if it can be
shown that discrimination occurred, there is no need for the complainant to prove that it was
intentional. For these reasons, any institution that is not taking positive steps to minimise
unlawful discrimination will find it difficult to meet the burden of proof. It is therefore
particularly important that care is taken to avoid the possibility of any form of discrimination
in recruitment and selection procedures, and that proper records are kept to show the basis on
which decisions were taken.

Role of the Commissions
2.17 The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and the Commission for Racial Equality
(CRE) were set up in the 1970s. They have the responsibilities of

      Working towards the elimination of discrimination;

      Promoting equality of opportunity and (in the case of the CRE) good relations between
       persons of different racial groups generally;

      Keeping under review the working of relevant acts of parliament.

  It is essential that any member of staff receiving either notification that such a complaint has been made, or a
preliminary questionnaire which states that the person who sent it believes he or she may have grounds for such a
complaint, should immediately seek advice from Personnel Services.

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2.18 They have the power to investigate employers who they have good reason to believe are
discriminating unlawfully. If discrimination is found to be taking place, the commissions can
require the employer to take specified steps to end the discrimination. They can also help
individuals to bring complaints of discrimination.

2.19 The Disability Rights Commission, set up in 2000, has similar responsibilities in respect
of disabled people, although it does not have the same power to investigate employers and
require them to take corrective action.

(c)   Summary of relevant legislation

Equal Pay Act 1970 and Equal Pay (Amendment) Regulations 1983
2.20 Under the Equal Pay Act, every employment contract is deemed to include an ‘equality
clause’ which guarantees both sexes the same remuneration for doing the same or broadly
similar work, or work rated as equivalent by a job evaluation study. Such a clause operates
unless an employer can prove that pay variation between the sexes is reasonable and
genuinely due to a material difference between their cases.

2.21 The Equal Pay (Amendment) Regulations 1983 also gave a woman a right to claim
equal pay for work of ‘equal value’ to that of a man in the same employment (or vice versa)
in a case where there is no existing job evaluation scheme, and/or there is no person of the
opposite sex engaged on ‘like work’.

2.22 Whilst the major implications of this legislation clearly relate to the pay of existing
employees (see separate guidance on the law related to salary setting on the Personnel
Services website:
shtml), selection committees and panels will need to be mindful of its principles when
deciding which point on a pay scale should be offered to a successful candidate.

Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA)
2.23 The SDA aims to prevent unlawful discrimination on grounds of gender or marital or
civil partnership status in relation to employment, education and training, in the provision of
goods and services, and in the disposal of premises.

2.24 It sets out a number of principles which have since been incorporated into the Race
Relations Act and subsequent anti-discrimination law. As explained above, one very
important principle established by the SDA is that discrimination on the grounds of gender
may be direct or indirect (see above, 2.6 – 2.9). For example, a requirement to work hours
that women would find more difficult to work than men could amount to indirect
discrimination. Both types of discrimination were made unlawful by the SDA, although there
is a defence of ‘justification’ in relation to indirect discrimination, which cannot be used
where direct discrimination is involved. There is also a defence where a ‘genuine
occupational qualification’ is involved (see above, 2.10).

Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999
2.25 Discrimination on the grounds of gender means treating members of the opposite sex
less favourably. In the UK, sex change operations do not change a person’s sex in law.
However, by virtue of the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999,
discrimination in employment and vocational training on the grounds that a person intends to
undergo, is undergoing, or has undergone gender reassignment is also unlawful.

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2.26 Guidance issued by the Department for Education and Employment at the time these
regulations were issued makes it clear that employers ‘should not expect that job applicants
and interviewees will necessarily wish to disclose transsexual status since many consider it a
very private matter. It is not a question that should ever be asked at interview (just as, for
example, a woman should not be asked about her plans to have children)’. Where transsexual
status is known or declared, it should be disregarded by selection committees and panels.

2.27 Further information and guidance is available on the Personnel Services website on the
practical implications of these regulations in relation to existing staff.

Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
2.28 The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 came into force from
1 December 2003 making it unlawful to discriminate against job applicants and employees on
grounds of their sexual orientation. The Regulations cover direct and indirect discrimination,
harassment, and victimisation of someone who has made a complaint or who has helped
another person to do so. Sexual orientation is defined in the regulations as orientation
towards persons of the same sex (lesbians and gay men), towards persons of the opposite sex
(heterosexual), or towards persons of the same sex and the opposite sex (bisexual).

2.29 Further information on the Regulations is available from the DTI website at For detailed case-specific
advice please contact your Sector Personnel Officer, who will liaise where necessary with the
Diversity and Equal Opportunities Officer.

Race Relations Act 1976 and Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000
2.30 The Race Relations Act 1976 (RRA) established that it is unlawful to treat one person
less favourably than another on racial grounds, including colour, nationality, or national or
ethnic origin. Like the SDA, it covers both direct and indirect discrimination.

2.31 Under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, public authorities (which includes
universities and the Oxford and Cambridge colleges) are required to eliminate racial
discrimination, promote equality of opportunity, and promote good race relations between
people of different racial groups. Specific duties placed on higher education institutions by
this legislation include the requirement for a race equality policy (see the University’s race
equality policy, which may be found on the Equal Opportunities website -, and the requirement to monitor staff selection and
career progression (which is one of the purposes of the University’s recruitment monitoring
scheme, details of which may also be found on the Equal Opportunities website -

Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment)
Regulations 2003
2.32 The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) outlaws discrimination against a
disabled employee or job applicant:

    by treating him or her less favourably (without justification) than other employees or
     job applicants because of his or her disability, or;

    by not making reasonable adjustments (without justification).

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2.33 The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment) Regulations 2003, which came
into force in October 2004, extended the scope of the original legislation, and in particular
introduced more specific protection against harassment for reasons related to a person’s

2.34 The DDA defines a disabled person as someone who ‘has a physical or mental
impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out
normal day-to-day activities’. This includes severe disfigurements, but not addiction to
alcohol or other substances, nor some mental conditions such as pyromania.

2.35 In the context of recruitment and selection, examples of discrimination on grounds of
disability might include failing to appoint someone with a facial disfigurement from a car
crash because their appearance might be uncomfortable for the people they have to deal with
in the post; or holding interviews for a post in a building that is inaccessible to a candidate
who uses a wheelchair.

2.36 ‘Reasonable adjustments’ that might need to be made to accommodate a disabled job
applicant include alterations to the job and changes in location or working practice, as well as
adaptations to the premises. However, the term ‘reasonable’ is not defined in the legislation.
Case law suggests that, in reaching its decision, a tribunal would take into account the size
and financial resources of the organisation, as well as factors such as time needed to achieve
an adjustment, the impact on colleagues, or the type of premises in which the post-holder
would work. Solutions can be found to most ‘reasonable adjustment’ problems and advice on
reasonable adjustments can be obtained from the University Disability Co-ordinator, tel.: 2-

2.37 Further information and guidance is available on the Equal Opportunities website
( on the definitions of disability and types of
adjustment that might be expected, and on the practical implications of these regulations in
relation to existing staff.

Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
2.38 The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations came into force in the UK
on 2 December 2003. The legislation covers students as well as job applicants, staff, and
contract workers. The Regulations cover direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, and
victimisation of someone who has made a complaint or who has helped another person to do

2.39 Religion or belief is defined as being any religion, religious belief or similar
philosophical belief. The belief must be similar to a religious belief and some unusual cases
may need to be decided in court.

2.40 Further information on the Regulations is available from the DTI website at For detailed case-specific
advice please contact your Sector Personnel Officer, who will liaise where necessary with the
Diversity and Equal Opportunities Officer.

Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000
2.41 The Part Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000
came into force on 1 July 2000, giving part-time workers the right to receive the same access

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to benefits and entitlements as full-time workers. This means that no part-time worker should
be treated less favourably in respect of any term and condition of employment than a
comparable full-time worker, unless less favourable treatment can be justified on objective

2.42 Detailed guidance on the application of these regulations to part-time workers within the
University      is     provided       on       the      Personnel        Services     website

2.43 In relation to recruitment and selection, previous or current part-time status must not be
considered a barrier to promotion to a more senior post and where a part-time worker wishes
to apply for a full-time position on a part-time basis, this must be given serious consideration.

Employment Act 2002 – Flexible working
2.44 The Employment Act 2002 sets out statutory provisions for flexible working, which
took effect from 6 April 2003. The University has extended the legal provisions under this
legislation so that all eligible employees who are parents of a child under statutory school
leaving age, or of a disabled child under 18, and those who have caring responsibilities for a
dependent adult will have the right to apply to work flexibly. Guidance on the University’s
flexible working procedure is provided on the Personnel Services website

2.45 In relation to recruitment and selection, an indication that a particular candidate would
desire to work flexibly if appointed to the post should not be considered as a barrier to
appointment, unless there are genuine operational reasons why the job could not be
satisfactorily performed within a flexible working arrangement.

Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002
2.46 The Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations
2002, which came into force on 1 October 2002, are designed to prevent fixed-term
employees being treated less favourably than similar permanent employees, and to limit the
use of successive fixed-term contracts, unless this can be ‘objectively justified’. Further
information    is     available    on     the     Personnel     Services    website      at

2.47 Detailed guidance on the use and renewal of fixed-term contracts is provided within this
area of the Personnel Services website for departments and divisions employing university
staff on outside grant funded, supernumerary, and other forms of fixed-term contract.

2.48 Fixed-term employees are entitled to receive information on permanent vacancies in
their organisation but have no automatic right to preferential treatment when applying for
such posts. However, the failure to select an employee who is coming to the end of his or her
fixed-term appointment for a ‘suitable’ alternative vacancy (whether fixed-term or
permanent) may ultimately lead to a claim of unfair dismissal. This emphasises the
importance of clearly stated selection criteria (see Section 5) that will enable selection
committees and panels to give specific reasons for deciding whether or not a vacancy is
‘suitable’ for a particular candidate.

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Data Protection Act 1998 and Freedom of Information Act 2000
2.49 The University is obliged to abide by the Data Protection principles embodied in the
Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). These principles require that personal data shall be
processed fairly and lawfully; be held only for specified purposes and not used or disclosed in
any way incompatible with those purposes; be adequate, relevant and not excessive; be
accurate and kept up-to-date; not be kept for longer than necessary for the particular purpose;
be processed in accordance with data subjects’ rights; be kept secure; and not be transferred
outside the European Economic Area unless the recipient country ensures an adequate level
of data protection.

2.50 The DPA gives individuals a right of access to their own personal data subject to third
party rights, and this is particularly important in the context of references, on which specific
guidance       is     provided       on     the      Personnel       Services     website     at Members of selection
committees and panels should also be aware that candidates may request access to
shortlisting records and interview notes containing personal data about themselves. Requests
for access to personal data under the provisions of the DPA should be referred to the
University’s Data Protection Officer, Miss Jennifer Noon (tel 2-70002, email, in order to ensure that the provisions of the legislation are
properly followed.

2.51 Whilst individuals have the right to gain access to information about themselves under
the DPA, the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA), which came into full force for universities
in 2005, extends this right to allow access to all types of information held by public bodies.
This right is subject to certain limited exemptions.

2.52 Further guidance on the DPA and FoIA is available on the University’s Data Protection
website (, and in Part II, Annexe C,
Guidance on data protection.

Employment (Equality) Age Regulations 2006

2.53 The Employment (Equality) Age Regulations 2006 are effective from 1 October 2006.
They make it unlawful, on the grounds of age, to discriminate directly or indirectly (for
example, in recruitment, promotion, training, the terms on which employment is offered, and
dismissal), unless

 such discrimination can be objectively justified as a proportionate means of achieving a
legitimate aim,

 there is a genuine occupational requirement for employing a person of a certain age for a
particular post, or

 because such different treatment is covered by a specific exemption within the regulations.

2.54 In common with existing legislation, the Employment (Equality) Age Regulations 2006
render unlawful both harassment on the basis of age and victimisation for having made a
complaint about treatment of oneself or another on grounds of age. The legislation also
allows for employers to be held vicariously liable for acts of employees who discriminate on
the grounds of age.

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2.55 Further information on the regulations is available from the DTI website Supplementary
guidance on avoiding inadvertent age discrimination in the recruitment and selection process
is available on the Personnel Services website For detailed case-specific advice please
contact your Sector Personnel Officer, who will liaise where necessarily with the Diversity
and Equal Opportunities Officer.

Guidance on avoiding inadvertent age discrimination in recruitment and selection
2.56 This guidance advises departments and divisions on the implications of the Employment
(Equality) Age Regulations 2006 (‘the Age Regulations’) for recruitment and selection to
university posts. It supplements the University’s general policies, practices and guidance on
recruitment and selection which are available on the Personnel Services website.

Advertising posts

Job advertisements
2.57 Care should be taken to ensure that job advertisements do not imply or suggest that a
person of a particular age should not apply for the job being advertised (unless that job has a
Genuine Occupational Requirement).

2.58 Language and images with age connotations should be avoided as should age related
criteria. For example requiring a job applicant to have ten years work experience may, unless
such a criterion can be objectively justified, amount to unlawful indirect age discrimination
against younger job applicants.

2.59 In order that employers can increase the age diversity of their workforce the Age
Regulations permit advertisements to be placed in publications aimed at persons within a
certain age group which is underrepresented at the University in work of the type being
advertised as long as advertising is not limited to this particular group. Where a particular age
group is underrepresented in a particular type of work it is also permissible to specifically
encourage people from that age group to apply for work of that type and to offer them
training (but not jobs) in it. It must reasonably appear to the employer that offering
encouragement would prevent or compensate for disadvantages connected to age that
individuals from that age group suffer. Such positive advertising requires specific wording
referring to the Age Regulations to be used in the advertisement and further particulars and
Sector Personnel Officers should, therefore, be consulted.

2.60 The University’s equal opportunities statement for use in job advertisements and further
particulars has been amended to reflect the fact that the University would welcome job
applications from all persons, regardless of their age.

Setting age limits for job applicants
2.61 In certain circumstances it may be justifiable to set an age limit for applicants. The
specific employment objectives that might justify treating job applicants differently on
grounds of their age include:

   health and safety (i.e. a need to protect young workers as required by the Young
Workers ' Directive 1999),

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     to facilitate employment planning (for example, where a number of people are
approaching retirement age at the same time it may be legitimate to address this after taking
advice from the relevant Sector Personnel Officer),

     the need for a reasonable period of employment before retirement if, given the cost and
length of time required to train a new appointee, it would be unreasonable to take on an older

    if an applicant at the time of his or her application is over or within six months of the
University’s normal retirement age, and

     where there is, as defined by the Age Regulations, a Genuine Occupational
Requirement (GOR) for a person of a certain age or age group to carry out particular duties. It
is not expected that university posts will usually be eligible for a GOR as such exemptions
are very specific (for example, acting or modelling roles where a person of a certain age
group is required or jobs for which there is a minimum age requirement such as working in a
bar or driving). Departments and divisions should contact their Sector Personnel Officer if it
is thought that a GOR might apply.

2.62 Please contact your Sector Personnel Officer for further advice on justifying age limits
for job applicants.

2.63 Where a department or division wishes to make an initial appointment over the age of
retirement approval should be sought from the Head of Department, in the case of university
support staff, and from the Personnel Committee in the case of academic and related staff.
Where a division or department wishes to make an appointment over the age of 70 approval
will be required under Personnel Committee procedures and advice from the relevant Sector
Personnel Officer should be sought accordingly.

Using application forms
2.64 Where application forms are used, any request made for date of birth or age must be
deleted. The Diversity and Equal Opportunities Unit will continue to collect this information
in monitoring recruitment and can supply anonymised data to departments and divisions.

2.65 It is recognized that there may also be doubt as to whether requests on application forms
for dates of education or employment, which could clearly indicate age, should also be
deleted. The officers of Personnel Services will monitor developments in this area and further
advice will be provided to departments and divisions if necessary. Departments and divisions
which continue to request such information should ensure that Personnel Services guidance
on shortlisting and interviewing is carefully followed.

2.66 An example of an application form that excludes all age-related information is available
on       the       Employers        Forum       on       Age       (EFA)       website      at Where a department or division prefers
to follow this approach it is advisable (i) to include a ‘tick box’ asking the applicant to
declare if he or she is over or within six months of the University’s normal retirement age as
it is permissible to discriminate against applicants who fall into this age category, and (ii)
where experience in particular fields is required, to ask applicants to record the amount of
time spent in each employment (rather than the dates of employment which may indicate

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Job descriptions and selection criteria
2.67 Careful consideration should be given to ensuring that job descriptions and selection
criteria do not directly or indirectly discriminate against potential applicants on the basis of
age. In particular:

      where a particular number of years of experience are requested this must be objectively
justified as such criteria may rule out younger people who have the skills required but have
not had the opportunity to demonstrate them over an extended period. It is, therefore,
advisable to replace length of experience criteria with a requirement for proven skills in that
area, and

      where specific qualifications are required for a post these should not disadvantage
people of a particular age compared with people of other ages (for example a requirement for
GCSEs (i.e. A-C grades in English and Mathematics) should be broadened to include
equivalent qualifications that may be held by different age groups such as O Levels). Any
request for specific qualifications that could disadvantage people of one age compared with
people of others must be justified in objective terms. Please contact your Sector Personnel
Officer for advice where it is felt that a specific qualification is required which would need to
be objectively justified. Advertisements and further particulars of posts should make it clear
that equivalent alternative qualifications will be considered. Wherever possible, particularly
in the case of appointments to the university support staff, consideration should be given as to
whether particular qualifications are strictly necessary. Departments are reminded that it is
already the University’s policy that a degree should not normally be required of applicants for
university support staff posts. It is preferable to focus instead on the competencies required in
the post (for example ‘proven skills of analytical thinking, innovation and problem solving ’).

2.68 Please contact your Sector Personnel Officer for further advice on using and/or
objectively justifying selection criteria which may be directly or indirectly age related.

Shortlisting and interviewing
2.69 Even where an application form is used and all age-related details are removed from it,
an applicant's employment and educational history may give a clear indication of his or her
age and, where application is by a letter and C.V., age is often likely to be explicitly revealed
by applicants. Therefore, all those involved in shortlisting and interviewing must avoid
making stereotypical assumptions about a candidate on the basis of age or apparent age. For
example that an older candidate may not be in touch with the latest thinking on a particular
subject or that a younger candidate would not have the gravitas to persuade and influence

2.70 To avoid successful claims of unlawful discrimination on the grounds of age,
interviewers should, wherever possible, avoid asking questions relating directly or indirectly
to age during the interview.

2.71 For example questions such as ‘how would you feel about managing older/younger
people?’ or ‘do you think you are mature enough to take on this level of responsibility?’
could be perceived to be discriminatory. Interviewers should also try to avoid stereotypes
based on the applicant's age (or apparent age).

2.72 It is recommended that those who regularly shortlist and interview for university posts,
even where they already meet the Personnel Committee’s requirements for trained personnel

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participating in recruitment and selection, should join the programme on recruitment and
retention currently organised by the Oxford Learning Institute; this has been revised to
consider age-related recruitment matters.

Graduate or trainee recruitment schemes
2.73 Graduate or trainee recruitment schemes directed towards a particular age group may
unlawfully discriminate indirectly against persons of a particular age unless an age
requirement can be objectively justified. Contact your Sector Personnel Officer for advice if
you are considering specifically recruiting graduates or offering traineeships.

(d) Practical implications for members of selection committees and panels
2.74 This section provides a brief summary of the practical ways in which equal opportunities
legislation can impact on recruitment and selection processes. More detailed information and
advice on the key topics concerned, such as selection criteria and interview questioning, is
provided elsewhere within this guidance (see Sections 5 and 8).

Selection criteria
2.75 In order to refute any potential charge of discriminating unfairly, selection committees
and panels will need to ensure that all their decisions relate solely to the individual’s
suitability for the post as measured against objective selection criteria.

2.76 Any requirement or condition must be justifiable in terms of the demands of the job: that
is, it must be possible to show how meeting that criterion would make a candidate better
able to do the job. All selection criteria, whether essential or desirable, and whether stated or
implicit, must satisfy this test. This is particularly important when defining ‘desirable’
criteria. Tribunals may look closely at these to ensure that the organisation is not seeking to
appoint someone significantly better qualified than is needed for the post. This issue is
particularly relevant to Oxford: since the University aims to appoint the very best candidates,
it is important to be able to show why ‘the best’ is what is required, and to demonstrate that
the selection committee has defined ‘the best’ clearly. It is also important to consider the
justifiability of selection criteria when trying to ensure that the criteria are sufficiently
flexible, for example, to accommodate various research interests, or to allow for an
appointment to be made either at the top of the pay scale or at the bottom.

2.77 When selecting for a post, the most common type of potential discrimination is indirect
discrimination, i.e. the imposition of a ‘provision, criterion or practice’ which applies equally
to all candidates, but tends to put members of one particular group at a disadvantage. On the
face of it, a particular requirement may appear reasonable. The following are examples of
working practices or terms and conditions of employment that may lead to unlawful indirect
sec discrimination.

    A requirement that a worker must be mobile or must be able to spend long periods
      away from home;

    A requirement that a worker must work overtime;

    A refusal to allow a worker to work flexibly, e.g. part-ime or work from home;

    A change to a worker’s working hours or working days.

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2.78 Selection committees and panels need to be able to show that comparisons between
candidates were made only on the basis of job-related criteria. In assessing the experience
and expertise of each candidate, selectors will of course often need to make comparisons with
their competitors, as well as with the selection criteria. The key principle here is that such
comparisons must relate to the selection criteria.

2.79 When advertising vacancies, departments should also review whether part-time workers
could perform the posts they are offering and whether or not this information might be
included in the advertisement. If approached by an applicant wishing to work part-time, or on
a flexible basis, serious consideration should be given to such a request. Refusals must be
objectively justifiable and based on operational requirements. Advice should be sought from
Sector Personnel Officers in such circumstances.

Selection processes
2.80 The provisions of the law are not confined to the final decision. All aspects of the
selection process must be fair and without bias. Therefore, if someone believes that s/he was
subject to discrimination during the selection process, whether or not s/he feels s/he should
have actually got the job, s/he may have a legitimate claim against the University (e.g. over a
decision not to shortlist him/her).

2.81 Likewise, selection committees and panels need to ensure that the selection process does
not in itself disadvantage disabled candidates. It is recommended therefore that written
invitations for interview include a sentence inviting all candidates to specify any particular
needs which s/he might have in relation to the selection process.

2.82 The requirement to promote race equality and good race relations suggests that selection
committees should consider how to encourage applications from a diverse pool of potential
candidates, including making full use of the ‘positive action’ provisions of the legislation.
Advice on appropriate initiatives under this heading is available from the Diversity and Equal
Opportunities Office or the Personnel Services team.

2.83 The law requires consistent treatment of candidates. It does not require identical
treatment. Selection committees therefore need to be able to show that all candidates have
been assessed against the same standards; but in a selection interview, it is neither desirable
nor necessary to ask all candidates exactly the same questions. Discussions are likely to take
different directions depending on candidates’ interests and responses. In the eyes of the law,
consistency would be demonstrated by providing each candidate interviewed with the
opportunity to discuss the same subjects and issues, and to demonstrate their competence in
respect of each; and by avoiding questions that may be seen as discriminatory by some

2.84 There is no legal requirement that the details of the selection process adopted for a post
should be made known to applicants. However, providing candidates with sufficient
information to enable them to know what will happen and when is regarded as good practice.
This also supports the University’s principle of transparency.

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2.85 Under the provisions of the Data Protection Act, candidates will normally be entitled to
seek access to the personal data about themselves generated as part of the record of the
selection process.

Employment tribunal requirements
2.86 Defending complaints before an employment tribunal can entail considerable expense in
both time and money. There is no upper limit on the amount of compensation that an
employment tribunal can award in cases of discrimination. Some recent awards in respect of
discrimination have been in excess of £100,000.

2.87 Should the University be required to defend a claim made to an employment tribunal, it
will be the chairman and the members of the selection committee or panel who, with the
support of Personnel Services and the Diversity and Equal Opportunities team as appropriate,
will be most involved in providing evidence of the selection process and the resulting
decisions. All those involved in recruitment and selection need to be aware of the relevant
guidance on assessment against selection criteria, using an ‘official’ note-taker where
appropriate (particularly for academic appointments), and retaining notes. It is advised that
all documents and reports be retained for a period of six months after the final decision
on the appointment, that being the latest date by which a complaint could normally be lodged
with a tribunal.

2.88 A tribunal can require an employer to produce any documents in its possession by means
of a ‘disclosure’ or ‘discovery’ order. It is therefore particularly important that any such
documents do not contain material that could potentially be used to bear out a claim of unfair

2.89 When making appointments of people to posts, no method designed to identify the ‘best’
candidate can be entirely objective. However, the process summarised in this guidance, if
followed, should provide sufficient rigour to ensure that decisions are made consistently and
fairly on the basis of fair and unbiased information and against reasonable criteria.

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Section Contents

(a)   Composition of the selection committee (university, college; members of both sexes)

(b)   Responsibilities and duties (involvement at all stages; planning dates in advance,
      involvement of those not on the selection committee; collective responsibility; final

(a)   Composition of the selection committee
3.1 The joint appointments procedure (Part II, Annexe A) lays down the rules for
membership of selection committees. These rules are summarised here: for full details, see
Annexe A, Part II.

3.2 For each post, a joint selection committee is appointed by the appropriate department or
faculty board and by the college governing body following discussions between the faculty
board or department and college as to the broad field within which the appointment will be
made. The relevant divisional board also appoints one representative. The overall intention of
these procedures is to ensure that the appointment in each case is of the candidate best suited
to the needs of the college and the University. To this end the committee must agree joint
selection criteria.

3.3 The committee will normally comprise seven members in total. If the post is a CUF
lecturership and/or the number of weekly college teaching hours to be specified in the initial
contractual arrangements is equal to or exceeds eight, then the college will be the ‘major’
employer and the combined selection committee will comprise four members appointed by
the college and three appointed by the University (one of the latter three must hold a tutorial
fellowship). Otherwise the University will be the major employer and the committee will
comprise two members appointed by the college, four appointed by the faculty
board/department (one of these four to hold a tutorial fellowship if the post being advertised
is associated with a tutorial fellowship), and one appointed by the relevant division with the
approval of the college. If the post is held in a department, the head of department or sub-
department must be a member of the committee (and will normally chair it if the University,
rather than the college, is the ‘major’ employer). The committee can be enlarged in
appropriate circumstances by negotiation between the two employers and must retain broadly
the same proportions of university and college members. In all cases it may be helpful for a
non-voting individual from the major employer to attend in order to take notes and monitor
the process.

3.4 Not all those appointed by the college need be fellows of the college (fellows being
understood to include the head of house): indeed on many occasions colleges may wish to
appoint, for example, fellows of other colleges in order to ensure a sufficient spread of
subject expertise among the college members of the committee, and in order to ensure that a
broader collegiate view is available during the recruitment process.

3.5 Selection committees should contain at least one member of each sex wherever possible
(this is a requirement of the Code of Practice on Equality of Opportunity, see Annexe B, Part
II). Consideration should also be given to promoting other forms of diversity (e.g.
representation of different ethnic groups and disabled people) among the membership of the
committee. Close consultation between the divisional board and the college is necessary to

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see that this provision is observed. At the time of writing this handbook, there are fewer
women than men amongst academic staff: this means that active measures should be taken to
identify suitably qualified women from within and outside the collegiate University to serve
on selection committees. The advantages of asking any such women to serve should be
balanced against the dangers of tokenism and of overburdening them. If it is not thought
possible to identify a suitably qualified and available woman, the chairmen of the Personnel
Committee and of the Senior Tutors’ Committee should be consulted before a selection
committee is formally constituted without a woman member.

3.6 The chair of the selection committee is normally drawn from the set of members
appointed by the ‘major’ employer. The chair ensures that proper procedures are followed;
that a record is kept of the decisions made by the committee at each stage of the process; and
that notes are made relating these decisions to the selection criteria.

3.7 Selection committees for academic posts at Oxford are large. This is unavoidable because
of the range of interests that must be represented, but it can create some difficulties. An
interviewing panel larger than about four may be hard to chair; it can also create a tendency
to limit questioning so that little depth is achieved; and it may have an intimidating effect on
some candidates. Agreeing roles and questioning strategy in advance (see Section 8, part c)
may help limit the difficulties.

(b)   Responsibilities and duties
3.8 All members of the combined selection committee must be involved in all stages of
the recruitment process (see paragraph 11 of Annexe A, Part II, for the procedures to follow
if a member of the selection committee becomes unable to serve.) This ensures consistency in
the treatment of candidates. It can sometimes be difficult to organise, especially with a large
selection committee involving external members. One of the first tasks of the selection
committee should therefore be planning and scheduling all significant meetings. The stages
of the process can be defined as follows:

     Finalising the further particulars;

     Making decisions on which applicants’ references to take up;

     Requesting written work from candidates on a long shortlist, if this is the approach the
      committee decides to take;

     Short listing candidates;

     Interviews of shortlisted candidates;

     Final discussion within the selection committee of the suitability of the various

3.9 Generally, recruitment and selection for academic posts is a slow process. There is a
large committee, all of whom must be present at each stage. Timescales may also be affected
by a number of factors such as publication dates of relevant journals used for advertising, the
time taken to obtain references, and candidates’ travelling arrangements. Electronic mail can
be used to speed up the process at some stages. However, this form of communication cannot
be regarded as entirely confidential. Likewise, the telephone, although useful on occasions,
does not provide either party with a written record of points discussed. The only way to keep

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the process manageable is to plan it carefully and agree all dates well in advance. If it is
thought to be helpful, the dates of interviews can be made known to potential applicants in
the advertisement or the further particulars of the post.

3.10 It should be made clear to all those involved or associated with the selection process that
the recommendation as to whom to appoint will be made by the selection committee alone
and on the basis of hard evidence which they have gathered against the selection criteria.
Either employer may, however, decide to undertake a separate exercise designed, as part of
the selection process, to assess candidates against one or more of the selection criteria which
are of particular relevance to that employer. The status of any such exercise must be clear
to all concerned (especially candidates), and all members of the selection committee are
entitled to be present and to participate in that separate process. Arrangements must be made
to report all relevant information from any such separate process to any members of the
selection committee who were not present. Such information must involve consistent
treatment of all of the candidates concerned against the relevant selection criteria. Care must
be taken to ensure that the role of any individuals from either employer who may participate
in any such separate process, but are not members of the selection committee, is clearly
understood by the candidates, those individuals themselves, and the selection committee:
their role should be strictly limited to providing objective evidence (for example on
performance in a presentation) to enable the selection committee to assess all candidates
consistently against the agreed criteria. It can be helpful in this context to define in advance
the criteria on which the selection committee seeks feedback from such meetings. In addition,
we recommend that all those who will talk to or meet candidates be made aware of the
essential requirements relating to discrimination.

3.11 The selection committee’s responsibilities cover all aspects of the selection process, not
just the shortlisting and interviewing of candidates.

3.12 Following the interviews, the committee’s recommendation as to the successful
candidate is considered separately by the divisional board on the university side and the
governing body on the college side. It is these bodies that make the final decision as to
whom to appoint.

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4.1 The University uses ‘further particulars’ to describe the post, provide information about
Oxford, outline the selection criteria to be applied, and give details of the terms and
conditions of employment. The prime purpose of the further particulars is to provide potential
applicants with enough information to enable them to decide whether or not they are
interested in the position, and, if so, whether they are suitably qualified to apply for it. The
first stage in drafting further particulars is to clarify the purpose and remit of the post in

4.2 It is in the interests of both the department or faculty and the college involved to provide
enough information to enable potential applicants to make an informed decision about the
role as it stands at present. (That is not to say that the role will not change over time. Indeed,
in writing any description of the duties, it is helpful to indicate the scope for adapting to areas
of individual interest. This will be in addition to any changes needed in response to
developments within the faculty, department or college.)

4.3 Further particulars are public documents in the sense that they will be seen by a wide
range of people external to the University. It is important that they present information about
Oxford in a form that those not familiar with the collegiate structure can understand, and
provide enough such information to enable candidates to understand the joint selection

4.4 Standard versions of further particulars are at Part II, Annexe D. Selection committees
should consider carefully how to tailor these to the post in question, and may, in particular,
wish to consider how they can be used in conjunction with background information to form
an attractive pack of materials designed to encourage applications. This can be especially
helpful to candidates without previous experience of Oxford.

4.5 Selection committees need to be aware that certain duties are a contractual requirement:
that is, they cannot normally be varied. Annexe D refers to the duties that fall into this

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Section Contents

(a)   Definition and purpose (knowledge, skills and experience needed for post; use as
      benchmark and to ensure consistency, transparency and objectivity; use as defence
      against claims of discrimination)

(b)   Relationship to description of post

(c)   Defining criteria (teaching, research, organisational skills; avoiding discrimination)

(d)   Structure (essential and desirable criteria)

(a)   Definition and purpose
5.1 Selection criteria describe the attributes (that is, the knowledge, skills, qualities and
experience) needed to fulfil the requirements of the post, and follow from the description of
its duties. They must be clearly spelt out in the further particulars.

5.2 The purpose of defining and agreeing the criteria appropriate to each post and of using
these as a benchmark against which to assess candidates is to ensure that the person
appointed is the one who best meets the requirements. Using selection criteria as the basis
for a selection process also ensures that the University’s principles of consistency,
transparency, and objectivity underlie that process.

5.3 It is considered to be good practice that explicit selection criteria form a key part of the
recruitment process. The University has found, in defending claims of discrimination
before an employment tribunal, that selection criteria, identified for each post, agreed by
members of the selection committee in advance of recruitment and capable of being
objectively tested, were of crucial importance.

(b)   Relationship to description of post
5.4 While the ‘job description’ details what the successful candidate will be expected to do,
the ‘selection criteria’ set out the attributes needed to do that job. It therefore follows that
selection committees will not be in a position to define the selection criteria until the remit of
the role has been clarified (see Section 4).

(c)   Defining criteria
5.5 The process of identifying selection criteria is simply the explicit and careful
identification of the particular skills, experience, and qualities that are being sought in the
job. In considering the attributes that are sought, selection committees may wish to consider
the following:

     teaching skills and abilities;

     intellectual and research achievement and capabilities;

     personal / organisational skills.

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5.6 Both the effectiveness and fairness of the selection process are significantly enhanced if
these criteria are articulated, discussed, and agreed before any contact is made with
potential applicants. This reduces the chance that the criteria might be inappropriately
changed in response to the applicants’ attributes, a practice which can lead to charges of
‘moving the goalposts’. It also ensures that there is consensus amongst committee members
about the attributes sought and the standards appropriate to each of these.

5.7 All members of the selection committee should discuss and agree the criteria before they
are published. The post should not be advertised until after the criteria have been finalised,
since good practice suggests that the advertisement should contain a short description of the
key selection criteria. We therefore suggest that the committee schedule a meeting to take
place before the post is advertised.

5.8 We recognise that, in defining selection criteria, selection committees will not wish to
restrict unnecessarily the possible academic or research field. To ensure that this does not
happen, committees will need to distinguish between the skills or qualities they require
(which might be specific and essential) and the academic or research field, where the
requirement might be expressed in more general terms, perhaps with alternatives. Examples
of selection criteria for academic posts are provided in Part II, Annexe E. It is stressed that
these are examples only: selection criteria will be different for each post and are developed
through an analysis of the duties and responsibilities of the post.

5.9 Selection criteria must be justifiable in terms of the demands of the post. This means that
selectors must be able to demonstrate how possession of each attribute would make a positive
difference to the candidate’s ability to do the job.

5.10 Selection criteria, whether stated or implicit, should be formulated in a way that does
not, however unintentionally, harbour the potential for unlawful discrimination or
personal prejudice. For example, the selection committee might consider including a
reference to the desirability of the appointee behaving in a collegial manner. When this
criterion is analysed further, it might translate into a legitimate requirement concerning
contributing to admissions interviewing, contribution to college committees, and a reasonable
desirability of maintaining a general presence in college. It would not, however, be legitimate
if it were translated into, for example, a particular cultural background or common social
interests; an expectation that all college fellows attend Christian services; or an unreasonable
requirement to be present in college in the evening. For these reasons such a criterion would
be better expressed explicitly as the legitimate requirements set out above than in more
general terms.

(d)   Structure
5.11 It is common practice to indicate whether criteria are considered ‘essential’ or
‘desirable’ – that is on the one hand those attributes without which the post could not be
fulfilled, and on the other those attributes which the selectors would like to bring into the
faculty, department or college, but which could be acquired after appointment or dispensed
with altogether. The ‘essential’ criteria might then be regarded as the minimum requirement.
Candidates who do not meet this requirement should not be considered for appointment.

5.12 Where selection committees are concerned not to make the selection criteria for a post
over-prescriptive, they may identify most of the attributes as ‘desirable’ rather than
‘essential’. In our experience, it is unusual for even the best candidates to fulfil all the

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desirable criteria. Indeed, there can be occasions where some desirable criteria might be
regarded as mutually exclusive: for example, high levels of creativity and strong
organisational skills do not always go together. Selection committees need to be aware of this
possibility and ensure that their decision-making does not suffer as a result of it.

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6.1 The University has a standard wording for advertisements. This is given in Part II,
Annexe G. The standard wording is the minimum required: selection committees are free,
within reason given financial considerations, to introduce additional information about the
post, the department or faculty, or the selection criteria. This can have the twin advantages of
making the post more attractive and helping to reduce the number of applications from
individuals who are not suitably qualified. In disciplines where a good response is expected,
the latter can save the committee considerable time and effort when it comes to shortlisting.

6.2 As can be seen, the ‘standard wording’ avoids the use of gender specific language or of
any expressions that might discourage particular groups. Furthermore, all advertisements
carry a statement reflecting the University’s commitment to equality of opportunity. If
the selection committee decides to introduce additional information, these principles need to
be borne in mind.

6.3 Positive action - that is, encouragement to members of one sex, age group or race if
members of that sex, age group or race are under-represented in comparable posts within the
employing organisation - is permitted under the Sex Discrimination Act, The Employment
Equality (Age) Regulations and the Race Relations Act. (See Section 2 for more on this.)
Possible forms of positive action, including wording in advertisements and placing of
advertisements, must be checked with the University’s Diversity and Equal Opportunities
Officer (2-89821) before publication.

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Section Contents

(a)   Purpose

(b)   Assessment against selection criteria (use of examples of written work)

(c)   References (limitations of references; references in writing only)

(d)   Timing

(e)   Notifying candidates of the shortlisting decision

7.1 Having identified the selection criteria for a post, the selection committee will need to
decide how it intends to gather the information needed to assess the degree to which
candidates meet those criteria. Assessing curricula vitae against the selection criteria will be a
key element of all selection processes, and it will also be helpful to have asked applicants to
set out expressly in their covering letters how they believe they meet those criteria. Beyond
this, many other sources of information may be used.

(a)   Purpose
7.2 The purpose of shortlisting is to identify those candidates who, on the basis of
information available so far, best meet the relevant selection criteria for the post, and are
therefore worthy of further consideration. Given that some applicants are being eliminated at
this stage, selection is taking place. Selection committees need to be sure that the process
used and the decisions made comply with legal requirements.

(b)   Assessment against selection criteria
7.3 It is unlikely that the selection committee will be able to assess all the selection criteria
from the written application. For example, ability to work collaboratively is not easy to assess
at this stage. The committee may wish therefore to identify a sub-set of the criteria as
appropriate for use in shortlisting. Each application should then be assessed against these
criteria and notes made of the reasons for selection or rejection. Any candidate who does not
meet the ‘essential’ criteria within that sub-set should not be shortlisted. In the event of any
complaint about the shortlisting decisions, the notes would form important evidence and
therefore should be kept for at least six months (see Section 2, Employment tribunal
requirements). Under the Data Protection Act, candidates have a right to see their own
personal data (subject to third party rights in certain circumstances). Candidates will therefore
normally have the right to see their own notes on request and the notes must therefore be
written and kept in accordance with the principles of data protection. A suggested pro-forma
for recording shortlisting decisions is at Part II, Annexe H.

7.4 An accepted practice for academic appointments is to produce an initial long shortlist
based on assessment of a number of key criteria, and then to seek references and/or
examples of published or unpublished research for these applicants. The additional
information provided by referees, or through an assessment of the written work, is then used
to make a further assessment of applicants against the selection criteria. Those on the
resulting shortlist are then invited for interview. This approach can be helpful in reducing a
long shortlist, thus enabling more searching questioning of candidates who come for
interview; it can also be a way of assessing research potential by allowing candidates to send

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unpublished as well as published work. In the unusual event that this process does not reduce
the applications to a manageable number, the selection committee will need to consider how
best to select those who are to be interviewed. The most likely option is to refine one of the
selection criteria and re-assess candidates against this criterion. In no circumstances must
additional criteria be introduced or existing criteria substantially changed, since
candidates will not have had an equal chance to demonstrate the extent to which they meet
criteria that are not known to them.

(c)   References
7.5 Within the academic community, references form an important part of the portfolio of
evidence gathered on shortlisted candidates. As well as verifying information given by
candidates, they provide useful insights into the environment in which a candidate has
operated, and the perceived quality of their work.

7.6 Employers in other sectors are increasingly expressing concern about the value of
references. These concerns, which relate to the subjective nature of references and the
impossibility of knowing the motivation behind a reference from a current employer, have
traditionally held less weight within the academic community where, in general, all
concerned take the drafting and reading of references very seriously. But the Data Protection
Act 1998 may require those in receipt of references – that is, selection committees – to
disclose their contents in certain circumstances on request by the individual to whom they
refer, and recent case law has also strengthened the duty of care a referee has towards the
subject of a reference. Together these developments have had the effect of discouraging many
referees – particularly current employers – from writing anything more than statements of
incontrovertible fact. This clearly limits the extent to which references can add much to the
information already given by candidates themselves.

7.7 However, these limitations can be minimised if selection committees provide referees
with information about the duties of the post, the selection criteria, and the field(s) of
research that might be appropriate. In practice, this information is usually available already in
the form of the further particulars, but it is helpful to supplement these with a covering letter
that explicitly asks for comments against each of the relevant selection criteria. This enables
referees to focus their comments on information that is relevant to the post. Asking referees
to mark their reference ‘Strictly confidential’ also reduces, though it does not eliminate, the
chance that it would have to be disclosed on request and may therefore encourage greater
openness on the referee’s part. It is important, however, not to give referees the impression
that the reference is protected from any access request under the Data Protection Act. A
standard letter inviting a reference is at Part II, Annexe I, and at Part II, Annexe J is the full
text of a circular from Personnel Services setting out the detail of the University’s policy on
giving and receiving references.

(d) Timing
7.8 The University does not stipulate the stage in the selection process at which
references should be sought. Sometimes the selection committee will identify a shortlist of
candidates for interview and take up references only on these candidates. In most cases, there
is an initial sift of applications following which references are followed up for ‘long-listed’
applicants. Selection committees convinced of the value of references will perhaps feel that
the disadvantage of the significant administrative burden of requesting and ‘chasing’ several
references is outweighed by the benefits of having more information about applicants before

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final shortlisting; those more sceptical may wish to leave references until after shortlisting.
Committees must make an explicit decision as to the timing of references.

7.9 An applicant may ask that the reference from his/her current employer be not sought
without permission – sometimes not unless and until appointment is to be offered. In such
circumstances, it is important to respect the applicant’s wishes. The selection committee will
then be faced with the problem of not having the same amount of information about all
applicants. However, since the applicant is likely to have given the names of other referees, it
may be possible to obtain information from other sources.

7.10 The University’s policy is that references must be obtained in writing. Points within a
reference may be clarified by telephone, but, where the additional information is material to
the selection committee’s decision, we recommend that written confirmation be requested. If
candidates cite members of the selection committee as referees, written references should be
supplied as in other cases. Oral references should not be accepted.

7.11 Candidates who cite members of the selection committee as referees need not supply the
names of additional referees. If, however, a candidate is shortlisted for whom only internal
references are available, the candidate should be asked to supply the name of an external
referee in addition.

(e)   Notifying candidates of the shortlisting decision
7.12 As soon as it is clear to all members of the selection committee that a candidate does not
meet the selection criteria or meets them insufficiently to justify being considered further, the
candidate should be notified that his or her application has been unsuccessful. If there is a
possibility that some candidates might be invited for interview at a later stage (for example, if
higher-scoring candidates at the shortlisting stage perform badly at interview), the committee
may wish to hold those candidates in reserve. In such circumstances, rather than keeping
candidates in complete ignorance of the progress of their applications, we recommend that
the selection committee write a ‘holding’ letter.

7.13 Once the shortlisting decision has been made, selection committees will need to decide
on the arrangements for interview and other aspects of the selection process. Careful thought
should be given to planning this crucial stage (see Section 8, Interviewing, selection exercises
and informal activities) and candidates who are invited for interview should receive as much
information as possible about what will be expected of them.

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Section Contents

(a)       Reliability of interviews: (eliciting direct evidence, structuring interviews against
          selection criteria)

(b)       Practical arrangements for the interview (room layout, equipment, requirements placed
          on candidates)

(c)       Planning the interview (meeting beforehand, questioning strategy, sticking to selection
          criteria, consistency in questions, unacceptable questions, questions from candidates)

(d)       Recording information (taking notes, common format, example)

(e)       Selection exercises (requirement to use exercises, prior warning for candidates,
          agreeing standards, examples)

(f)       Informal activities (use, risks, university policy, college activities)

(a)       Reliability of interviews: eliciting direct evidence
8.1 Research suggests that interviews are most reliable3 if they are structured against
specific selection criteria, or aspects of criteria, about which the candidate can, in the
interview, provide direct evidence of his or her abilities. For example, a discussion of the
candidate’s research could provide direct evidence of his or her knowledge of the subject,
originality of thought, and ability to communicate complex thinking orally. Indirect evidence
of the candidate’s ability to conduct collaborative research might be elicited if during the
discussion he or she describes such activity. Direct evidence of the candidate’s effectiveness
in collaborative research is unlikely to be available via an interview, although it might be
possible to set up a group selection exercise designed to elicit direct evidence of this.
Similarly, direct evidence of some aspects of teaching competence can be obtained via the
interview: ability to explain complex subjects clearly, for example, or to communicate
enthusiasm, can be directly observed. Indirect evidence of the candidate’s ability to deal with
students’ pastoral problems can be gathered through discussion of hypothetical examples or
(often more effectively) by asking candidates to identify a real case from within their own
experience and describe how they dealt with it.

8.2 If the interview is most reliable when it is used to gather direct evidence, it follows that
on its own it is less reliable for gathering evidence on such qualities as ability to plan a course
of tutorials or manage a research budget which cannot be directly observed in the interview.
The university has a policy that all appointments processes must include a selection
exercise (whether research presentations, mini-lectures, or written exercises), and these
should be designed as far as possible to elicit direct evidence against specific criteria, or
aspects of criteria, for which there would otherwise be a lack of reliable evidence. (See

      Anderson, N. ‘The validity and adverse impact of selection interviews: a rejoinder to Wood’ in Selection and
Development Review Vol 13 No 5 October 1997; Boyle, S. ‘Can behavioural interviews produce results?’ in GA,
February 1988; Di Milia, L. and Gorodecki, M. ‘Some factors explaining the reliability of a structured interview
system at a work site’ in International Journal of Selection and Assessment, Vol 5, No 4, October 1997; Conway,
J.M., Jako, R.A. ‘A meta-analysis of interrater and internal consistency reliability of selection interviews’ in Journal
of Applied Psychology Vol 80, No 5, 1995.

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further guidance in paragraphs 8.12 – 8.14 below, and Annexe F, Part II, which provides
example selection exercises for different purposes.)

8.3 Having reviewed all the options open to them, the selection committee should decide
which criteria, or aspects of individual criteria are to be assessed:

     via interview;

     via the written materials: the application, further written material from the candidate,
      and references;

     via informal activities (bearing in mind the risks described in paragraph 8.15);

     via other selection exercises.

(b)   Practical arrangements for the interview
8.4 It is likely that administrative or clerical staff will handle many of the practical
considerations (e.g. venue, room layout, lighting, waiting area for candidates). None the less,
the committee should consider these issues well in advance of the interviews, and also check
that the ‘standard’ arrangements are suitable - particularly if any candidates have special
needs such as mobility or sensory impairments. Lack of attention to these issues can be
damaging to candidates’ performance: being unsure where to wait for the interview, staring
into a light source or being interrupted during interview can raise candidates’ levels of
discomfort to the point where they cannot perform at their best.

8.5 The written invitation to candidates should make clear the following:

     to whom / where they are to report on arrival;

     the format of the day (e.g. tour, exercises, interview(s)), and whether each of these is
      part of the selection process (see informal activities, paragraphs 8.15 – 8.17);

     the estimated length of time they will be expected to stay;

     the names and titles of those who will be interviewing;

     the provision for accommodating ‘special needs’ (see paragraph 2.60).

(c)   Planning the interview
8.6 The selection committee will need to meet well before the start of the first interview to
agree their roles and the question strategy. This allows members time to reflect on and
identify suitable questions in relation to their allocated selection criteria. Where a committee
is large (say, in excess of five people), it may be that some members will not take part in
questioning, but will concentrate on listening to the candidate’s responses and noting down
relevant evidence. If some members are taking a ‘silent’ role, we recommend that this be
explained to candidates either beforehand (perhaps in the written invitation) or in the
introduction to the interview.

8.7 The questioning strategy will be determined primarily by the selection criteria: committee
members will need to be confident that, by the end of the interview, they have gathered

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enough evidence to enable them to assess each candidate’s abilities in relation to the criteria
being addressed during the interview. It is very important that the selection criteria remain the
same for all candidates and are not allowed to change as the interviews proceed. (Committees
may be tempted to do this where, for example, it becomes apparent that none of the
candidates meets the essential criteria, or if a candidate meets one criterion very well but fails
to meet others.)

8.8 While discussions in different interviews for the same post may take different directions
depending on the candidate’s interests and responses, selection committees will need to
ensure that there is consistency in the type of questions asked. For example, it would be
entirely unacceptable and improper to ask only female candidates about their domestic
circumstances or childcare arrangements, or only ethnic minority candidates about their right
to work in the UK.

8.9 The interview is an important opportunity for the candidate to find out more about the
post, and the environment in which they would be working. Much of the information
concerning terms and conditions of appointment will be included in the further particulars.
None the less, the committee will need to schedule time for discussion of candidates’
preoccupations, and also, as far as possible, anticipate and prepare for likely questions
(especially since even with written information, some of the systems of the collegiate
University may be hard to follow). It is advisable to ensure explicitly at the end of each
interview that the candidate (and all members of the selection committee) are satisfied that all
relevant aspects of their applications have been covered, against the background of the
selection criteria and the requirements of the post.

(d)   Recording information
8.10 We recommend that all members of the selection committee keep notes of the
discussions with the candidates, even if the committee decides also to use an ‘official’ note
taker. (The committee member who is asking the questions will need to concentrate on that
task as a priority, which may mean that his / her notes may be rather more ‘sketchy’ for this
part of the interview.) Selection committee members will find it much easier to compare and
discuss evidence gathered if a common format for note taking is used. An example is given in
Part II , Annexe K.

8.11 Candidates will normally be entitled to see the note if they make a subject access request
under the Data Protection Act.

(e)   Selection exercises
8.12 It is university policy that all candidates for interview must also be asked to give a
presentation, or undertake some other relevant form of selection exercise to gather evidence
on teaching, research, and management or organisational ability. (See Part II, Annexe F for
some example selection exercises).

8.13 Candidates should be given prior warning of any form of selection exercise, either in the
further particulars or in the written invitation to interview.

8.14 As with any selection method, where it is decided that a job-related exercise is to be
used, the selection committee needs to agree, in advance, the standards that are sought. These
agreed standards form a guide for those observing or assessing the exercise. The guide does
not need to be lengthy: it simply needs to articulate what it is that the committee are looking

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for, such as – in the case of a presentation - clarity of ideas, communication with the
audience, and presentation of material. Using agreed standards is important for all exercises,
but we suggest that it is particularly important when collecting evidence from others who are
not part of the selection committee (see informal activities, below). This helps to ensure that
feedback from this source is related to specific criteria, is based on evidence, and is,
therefore, objective.

(f)   Informal activities
8.15 It can be very helpful to offer shortlisted candidates the opportunity to meet potential
colleagues, see the department, faculty or college, and become somewhat familiar with the
environment of the post - all outside the formal selection process. There are, however, risks
associated with these informal activities:

     those involved with the informal process may find it impossible to avoid discussing
      issues which may be considered relevant to the post with some, but not all, candidates;

     it may not be clear to candidates (or indeed to some of those involved in the process)
      whether the informal aspects are part of the selection process or not;

     those involved may acquire general views on candidates which they may
      inappropriately try to have taken into account by the selection committee;

     those involved with the process may not have been fully informed of the job or of the
      University’s equal opportunities policy, and some may ask candidates questions by way
      of conversation which candidates consider to be unfair in some way.

8.16 Those members of the selection committee appointed by the University should adopt the
following practice. Where candidates are to be involved in informal activities on the
university side, such as being offered the opportunity to look round departmental facilities,
the status of such an activity needs to be made clear to all involved. If the candidate’s
response during a ‘tour’ is to be assessed, those conducting it should be involved equally with
all candidates, and should be asked to make a written report to the selection committee of
their assessment only against specific selection criteria (see paragraph 8.17). Similarly, the
selection committee must ensure that it deals with such feedback consistently and considers it
only against the selection criteria. If the activity is not to be part of the selection process –
if, for example, it is simply an opportunity for the candidates to find out more about Oxford
and the department, the selection committee should arrange for other colleagues to organise
the activity. Candidates should be informed as to whether each activity is part of the selection
process or not.

8.17 College governing bodies commonly invite shortlisted candidates to dine in college, and
our view is that this practice is very helpful in giving candidates a sense of the culture within
which they would be operating were they to be offered the post. Colleges may wish to
consider the risks and put their own arrangements in place for minimising them: for example,
if dinner is not to be part of the selection process (the recommended approach), members of
the selection committee can simply ensure that they are not present, delegating the
responsibility for hosting the dinner to other colleagues. If dinner is to be part of the selection
process, it can take place in a private dining room, with all those present having been briefed
on the selection criteria and the nature of their responsibilities to the selection committee. The
joint selection committee also has a responsibility to ensure that any feedback from those

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dining with the candidates is considered strictly against the selection criteria. If a dinner
forms part of the selection process, this fact should be made clear to candidates.

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9.1 Though it is often tempting to go straight into discussion with panel colleagues after the
interview, the first responsibility of a committee member must be to evaluate, on their own,
the evidence they have gathered in respect of each candidate against the selection criteria
for the post. This will facilitate a full discussion of each candidate with a view to reaching
consensus on the degree to which each meets the selection criteria. As with shortlisting, any
candidate who does not fulfil the essential criteria should not be appointed.

9.2 Consideration of candidates, whether by individuals or by the committee as a whole,
should take place on the basis of appropriate sources of evidence: the CV and covering letter,
references, agreed selection exercises, any feedback from informal activities (if this is
provided systematically against specific criteria) and the interview.

9.3 Where there are several candidates for a post, it is likely that selection committees will
wish also to discuss their relative merits, particularly research achievements and interests and
teaching experience and ability insofar as these relate to the selection criteria. Once the
committee has decided whether or not a candidate is suitable for appointment, this finer
discussion will be important. It should be remembered that even the best candidate may not
meet all the desirable criteria.

9.4 It is rare for there to be only one candidate who is interviewed for a post, and even rarer
for there only to be one applicant. However, should this situation arise, it is still important
that the selection criteria be applied. The process outlined above will assist the selection
committee in deciding whether the sole candidate is, indeed, appointable.

9.5 The discussion between members of the selection committee needs to be recorded, in
summary, as do the decisions taken. Full guidance on the requirements in relation to reports
to divisional boards and governing bodies is given in Part II, Annexe A. Notes taken by
individual committee members also need to be retained, and should therefore be collected by
the chair. In the event of a challenge, the tribunal can ask to see all the notes and records
taken during and after the interviews. As mentioned in paragraphs 2.66 and 7.3, notes must
therefore be retained in their entirety, for at least six months. Candidates may request to
see the notes under the Data Protection Act.

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10.1 An appointment cannot be offered to a candidate until all the relevant bodies (the
college governing body and the divisional board) have given approval. (See Section 3.)
Since this can sometimes be a lengthy process, it may be important to make contact with
candidates pending a final decision. An oral communication that is interpreted as an offer of
employment could be regarded as a contractual commitment on behalf of the University. Any
interim communication needs to make clear therefore that although the selection committee
has agreed a recommendation, a final decision has not yet been made.

10.2 In most cases, references will have been sought at an earlier stage. Where for whatever
reason this is not the case, it should now be done. Arrangements for medical clearance of the
preferred candidate are made centrally once the appointment has been approved.

10.3 The divisional Academic Appointments Officer prepares letters of appointment. Should
the committee conclude that any particular requirements be included in that letter, this should
be made clear in the chair’s report to faculty or divisional board. The requirements will then
be made known to the Academic Appointments Officer once the appointment has been

10.4 Where a work permit is required, the application process is handled by the Work Permit
team ( within Personnel
Services (tel: 2-89904). In these circumstances, since the University cannot apply for a work
permit unless the individual has secured a post, appointment must be offered subject to the
work permit being granted.

10.5 In most cases, applicants request feedback in order to understand if there are any
particular gaps in their curriculum vitae, rather than to question the decision of the
committee. (If it is clear that an applicant requesting feedback is unhappy about the decision,
the chair of the selection committee should seek advice from the relevant Sector Personnel
Officer before responding.)

10.6 A judgement in the high court has indicated that public sector employers should, under
their duty of accountability, give reasons for a selection decision when asked to do so by
unsuccessful candidates. The University’s policy is that feedback should be given if
requested by candidates, whether after shortlisting or after interview. Feedback to all
candidates who request it must be given by one and the same member of the selection
committee, usually the chair. Information given to applicants should be based on the notes
taken by the committee, and should be objective and related to the selection criteria. As
a general rule, the feedback should not include references to other applicants, but rather to the
selection criteria. (This is easier to achieve after shortlisting than after interview, when
decisions may be based, in part, on the extent to which candidates meet the selection criteria.)
Providing the information in writing ensures that there is a record of the feedback given.

10.7 It is more likely that candidates will request feedback following an interview than after
the shortlisting. Indeed, where candidates have been interviewed, the selection committee
will have considerably more evidence of their abilities. This enables, and, in some cases,
leads candidates to expect, more comprehensive feedback. This feedback can be extremely
valuable to candidates who request it and it is therefore suggested that selection committees
might regard it as an appropriate ‘reward’ for the time and effort that such candidates have
invested in the selection process.

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This guidance should enable selection committees to apply their professional judgement in
making appropriate appointments, and, at the same time, to demonstrate the principles of
consistency, transparency, and objectivity. For further advice on general good practice in
recruitment and selection, please do not hesitate to contact:

     the Sector Personnel Officer for the division in question, website:, email:,
      tel: 2-89900;

     the University’s Diversity and Equal Opportunities Officer                  (website:, email:, tel: 2-89821);

     the Oxford Learning Institute (website:, email:, tel: 2-86808) for seminars on recruitment and selection.

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