Employers need robust processes to uncover CV lies, select the best candidate and avoid claims

Recruitment is expensive both in terms of management time and costs.  There are two key areas of risk for businesses:

  • recruiting the wrong person
  • facing the prospect of a claim from a disgruntled unsuccessful candidate.

Virgin Atlantic recently successfully defended a claim for race discrimination when a candidate was rejected for a job, but then offered an interview for the same role when he submitted a second application under a different name (see Kpakio v Virgin Atlantic Airways).  The airline can thank its recruitment process for that success.   

It has been reported separately that an individual blagged their way into a job as office manager for a reputable law firm having lied about their qualifications.  Shortly after being dismissed, the person did the same again and landed another highly paid role.  Eventually the individual was jailed for (among other matters) obtaining a financial advantage by deception.  Imagine having to explain that one to your CEO?

During the recruitment process a lot is taken on trust.  A little judicious editing of a CV can turn a so-so candidate into a star.  Exam grades can be ‘improved’ or professional experience exaggerated, so it is important that proper due diligence is carried out.  Furthermore, businesses often forget the fact that they might be legally challenged by an unhappy candidate.

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against job applicants on the grounds of race, colour, nationality or national or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability and so on.  In a competitive job market, more candidates appear prepared to challenge recruitment decisions on the grounds of discrimination.  Many of these potential problems can be avoided by a robust recruitment process. 

Top tips

  1. Make sure you are clear on what the requirements of the job are and write these down. Try and express matters in plain English. A “thought leader” may mean something to those within a particular industry, but it is a difficult concept to explain if legally challenged on what it means and whether a particular candidate does or does not meet that requirement.
  2. Use an application form rather than relying on CVs alone.  An application form makes it harder to hide gaps in employment history and makes a fair comparison of candidates easier.
  3. If possible, consider asking technical questions during an interview to test whether or not the candidate really does have the necessary experience.  More general questions such as ‘give an example of where you were able to influence change’ are easier to answer for those who are both practiced in interview techniques and good at making things up.
  4. Consider requiring your recruiters to use interview forms, so that each candidate is asked the same questions.  This ensures consistency in approach.
  5. Take thorough interview notes and keep them.  They may be used in evidence, so make sure that all comments about candidates remain professional.
  6. If you use equality monitoring forms, make sure these are not provided to those who are carrying out the interview process, so that there is no argument of bias if a candidate is not taken forward to the next stage.
  7. Those who are carrying out the interviews should receive training.  Interviewing is a skill that not everyone has.  Businesses may also want to consider investing in equality training.
  8. Make sure that you ask to see a candidate’s original examination certificates.  It is surprising how infrequently this is done, especially with senior professionals.
  9. Consider carrying out independent background checks, to verify employment history, solvency and so on.
  10. Take written references. Try to call the writer to verify that the reference is valid.  Often former employers are more willing to speak on the telephone and ‘off the record’.  It is also not unheard of for employees to get friends to write references for them rather than the HR department or their manager, or to write their own reference using their employer’s headed paper. 

Sarah Rushton is an employment partner at Moon Beever

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