Human Resources

Recruitment and selection guide

1. Introduction

2. Equal Opportunities

3. Addressing conflicts of interest

4. Recruitment procedure

5. Appointing to posts not funded by the college

6. Temporary employees (excluding sessional lecturers)

1. Introduction

1.1 Purpose of the guide

This guide supplements the College's "Recruitment Policy" and provides further information and practical advice for those involved in all aspects of recruitment and selection. Recruitment and selection is a very important process and it is important to select the best candidates for the College. This guide sets out best practice guidelines to assist you in making this process as effective as possible. In addition, our Human Resources Team is very willing to support you and give further advice should you require it.

1.2 Contents

The guide sets out to:

  • encourage good practice and adopt an equal opportunities approach throughout

  • explain the College’s policy, procedures and link with the legal obligations laid out in the relevant legislation in a pragmatic way

  • specify what information is required from schools and departments at each stage

  • indicate what the Human Resources Team will do in response at each stage

  • provides working examples of the documentation using a sample post

  • assists schools and departments in recruiting the best people for each job in a fair and efficient way.

1.3 Improving the guide

This guide has been recently updated to comply with amendments to employment law, and to improve the guidance and best practice examples given. We would greatly appreciate any comments on this guide and the recruitment process generally, and the information and advice provided.  Please contact either myself, or one of my colleagues in the Human Resources Team with any suggestions.  Amendments will be made periodically and the most up-to-date copies will be available on the Web at

1.4 Training

All those involved on a regular basis, or who may be required to assist with, the recruitment and selection of staff should attend the appropriate College workshop (see for more information). These workshops provide detailed guidance on the legal framework and equal opportunities issues throughout the process, as well as the more practical skills involved in interviewing.  From 1 October 2004, attendance at the Recruitment and Selection workshop is mandatory for those involved in recruitment, in accordance with the College's Human Resources Strategy.

1.5 Documentation

All the standard forms and documents that are used in the recruitment process are available on the Human Resources intranet site,, or from the Human Resources Team.

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2. Equal Opportunities

Birkbeck is committed to equality of opportunity and fair treatment of both current and potential employees. Equal opportunities and anti-discrimination measures are promoted throughout the whole recruitment and selection process. Guidance on how to ensure you are complying with this commitment is set out in this document. However, please  refer to, and ensure you are familiar with the College’s Equal Opportunities Policy. The College's "Code of Practice on Disability in Employment" is also included in the appendix for your information.

In addition to the ethical and effective business case reasons that support an equal opportunities approach, we are also open to legal challenge. It is therefore vital that our selection and interviewing processes are fair and objective.  If an applicant makes a claim against the College to an Employment Tribunal, on the grounds of alleged unlawful discrimination, the College will be required to demonstrate that:

  1. the person(s) appointed most closely matched the selection criteria and had greater relevant experience and/or skills than other candidates;

  2. the complainant was not unlawfully discriminated against.

There is a considerable volume of employment legislation that is relevant in the recruitment and selection process; please refer to the Recruitment Policy for further details. Please do not hesitate to contact the Human Resources Team if you require further advice or assistance in this area.

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3. Addressing conflicts of interest

Please refer to the College's Addressing Conflicts of Interest – Code of Conduct on Relationships at Work and the Recruitment Policy, which aim to ensure that no real or perceived unequal treatment, or conflict of interest occurs throughout the recruitment process or within working relationships.

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4. Recruitment Procedure

Please refer to appendix for a flow chart of the whole recruitment and selection process.

Step 1: Analyse the job

Step 2: Obtain authorisation to recruit

Step 3: Advertising the post

Step 4: Composition of the selection panel

Step 5: Select candidates for interview & identify any tests or presentations required

Step 6: The selection interview

Step 7: Appoint the successful candidate

Step 8: Notify unsuccessful candidates

Step 9: Returning recruitment documentation

Step 10: Inducting the new employee

4.1 Step 1: Analyse the job

4.1.1 Job analysis

If an employee leaves the College, it is likely that you will want to replace them. However, before getting approval to appoint and advertising the same post, you should take time to consider the role and decide if there are any changes required. Job analysis is the term given to this assessment of a role. Job analysis is a systematic procedure for obtaining detailed and objective information about the post, before it is advertised and filled, giving the opportunity to tailor it to what is currently required.

Questions to ask about the role:

  • What tasks did the previous postholder carry out

  • What level were these tasks

  • Did they have supervisory responsibility or budgetary control

  • Are the reporting lines still appropriate

  • Are there any other tasks that would need to be added to this role (or taken away if the role is considered too large)

  • Is the level at which the role holder is expected to undertake tasks still appropriate (note, if changes are made here, the role may need to be regraded; please contact your Human Resources Adviser for advice).

  • Is the grade of the post accurate for a new person to come in and fill (this is especially important if the previous postholder was promoted during their time in the role (you should consult with Human Resources to determine the correct grade)

  • Are the hours of work still suitable (i.e. does it need to be made full-time or vice versa)

  • Is there still a requirement for this role at all

4.1.2 Job design

If you wish to create a new post, which is not replacing a leaver, or filling an established post, you will need to design the job. This involves considering the duties that the new post will cover, and the level these tasks will be (e.g. maintain, develop, manage, or assist etc.).  You will need to decide how the post will fit in with the current organizational structure for your school/department/faculty, what the reporting lines will be, and if the post will be responsible for supervising or managing people in other posts.

4.1.3 Job titles

The job title should be an accurate reflection of the scope and nature of the role undertaken, including giving an indication of the seniority of the post. In view of this, and of the fact that job titles relate to other processes in the College, please give due consideration to the correct job title for the role. If you feel a current job title needs to be changed before being filled, and/or if you would like advice on selecting the most appropriate title, please contact your Human Resources Adviser.

4.1.4 Job descriptions

Once you have either analysed an existing role, or designed a new post, you will need to produce a job description. The job description should provide basic information about the role, including the title, whom the post reports to (job title of the postholder only, not their actual name), any other posts for which the job has responsibility, and the date it was created or updated.

Please see appendix for a sample Job Description and Further Particulars, using a standard Birkbeck template, which should be used for all jobs.

The main purpose of the role should come next, followed by a breakdown of the specific duties. Whilst the description should be comprehensive, it must be concise; there is no need for every minor task to be quoted. The working relationships that the postholder must maintain should be outlined to illustrate the communications aspects of the role (e.g. relationships with students, members of the public, trade unions etc.). Finally, the dimensions of the job may be noted where applicable (e.g. size of budget managed, number of students supervised, number direct line reports etc.).

A good job description will enable candidates to apply effectively; it is a statement, which sets out:

  1. the roles and functions of the faculty, school or department

  2. the general purpose of the job

  3. an outline of the duties involved

  4. a full description of the main responsibilities of the post

The more accurate and informative a job description is, the more likely it will be that the College will attract applicants who meet a school or department's needs.  This often makes shortlisting and interviewing easier and less time-consuming for everyone involved.  A well-written and laid out job description also helps to give potential applicants a positive first impression of the school or department and the College. Job descriptions should not contain any personalized information, such as the names of postholders as this can mean they become out of date very quickly.

Job descriptions are working documents that will be used for other purposes following the selection process, such as for staff development discussions and job evaluation/promotions reviews.

4.1.5 Person specification

The person specification is one of the most important documents within the recruitment and selection process and so is an essential requirement for every post. The purpose of the Person Specification is to set out a list of the knowledge, skills, experience and level of qualifications that are required to carry out the role effectively, and should be developed from the job description. Consider the range and depth of duties to be undertaken, and assess what the postholder will need, under the headings above, to enable them to do the job.

This specification then forms the objective criteria against which all candidates will be assessed throughout the selection process. These criteria must consist of the minimum standards considered essential for the effective performance of the job.  Desirable criteria may be included, but these must be referred to only if candidates have met the essential criteria.

Mention of selection tests, which form part of the recruitment process, should be made on the person specification form.

The following key points will help you to develop your person specification:

  • identify the key duties from the job description

  • translate the duties into the skills and knowledge required to do the job

  • separate the essential skills from the desirable ones; specify as far as possible in precise job-related terms

  • identify any specific knowledge requirements for the job or the requirement of some evidence of the ability to learn

  • indicate qualifications and level of education required for the job, if relevant (remembering to state "or equivalent" to cover all types of qualifications)

  • identify what experience is required to carry out the job. This should be realistic and appropriate to the role

Reference to age, marital status or to dependents should not be included since these are unlawfully discriminatory. The main aim of the person specification is to set out the skills and abilities that a candidate would need in order to be able to carry out the role to a satisfactory standard. It is not a 'wish list'; setting the criteria too 'high' may result in a lack of suitable applicants. However, pitching them too low may mean you have a high volume of applicants who all meet your criteria. Please refer to appendix for a sample person specification for the post of Lecturer in Psychology, which uses the standard template form.

The job described and the level of skills/experience required must relate to an appropriate grade. Where necessary, the Human Resources Team will undertake job evaluation; any subsequent amendments to the job will have to be agreed before the post is advertised, to ensure the correct grade and salary.

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4.2 Step 2: Obtain authorisation to recruit

Before beginning the recruitment and selection process, you must obtain the appropriate authorization for your post. Please refer to the Recruitment Policy for further information, or alternatively seek advice from your Human Resources Adviser.

You must inform Human Resources of any requests to recruit in order for us to advise on the correct grade for the post.

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4.3 Step 3: Advertising the post

4.3.1 Do we need to advertise?

All College-funded posts that are for 6 months or more, must be advertised in external media.  This is in accordance with the College's Equal Opportunities Policy. Certain rare exceptions may apply, such as:

  • temporary/fixed term posts of 6 months’ duration or less

  • externally funded research posts, where a named researcher has been identified

  • when employees whose fixed-term contracts of employment are ending are offered a permanent post to avoid a redundancy situation (where the original appointment was made in accordance with the College’s Recruitment and Selection Guidelines);

  • where there is a risk of a redundancy situation within the College

  • where an individual employee is being considered for re-deployment under another College policy

Maternity cover posts are normally advertised if the vacancy is for 6 months duration or more. The advertisement will need to state that the post is available up to a certain date in the first instance, to allow for the possibility of the permanent postholder extending her maternity leave. If the permanent postholder decides not to return to her post then the permanent vacancy will be advertised.

Please note that all advertisements must be placed via Human Resources; no post should be advertised without prior consultation with the Human Resources Team. Birkbeck has an account with a professional advertising agency, which has developed an agreed template and corporate style for our advertisements. This encourages consistency and ensures that the text is appropriate and free from bias or discrimination.

4.3.2 Composing the advertisement

There is a standard template for Birkbeck advertisements, and certain paragraphs need to be included. Please refer to appendix for a sample advertisement for our post of Lecturer in Psychology, which includes these standard paragraphs in bold italics. These standard paragraphs contain important information and keep the look of Birkbeck’s adverts consistent; they should not be changed without reference to your Human Resources Adviser.

When composing the non-standard parts of your advert (normally no more than one or two paragraphs), you need to think about how you can attract the people that will meet the criteria for the role. It is therefore advisable to develop an informative paragraph about what the role involves, and include at least two of the main criteria that are essential to carry out the role (e.g. …"applicants must have experience of managing a team and have a working knowledge of database design…")

You may wish to include the contact details of an individual to whom informal inquiries can be made.. However, it is better to include it with the information that goes out to those who actually respond to the advert. This allows them to read the details sent about the role, before deciding whether they still require further information from the contact.

If you are including contact details for someone, please ensure that they are aware that they may be receiving some calls, and that they will be available for the period when the advert appears in the media (e.g. not on annual leave!).

4.3.3 Advertisement process

You should send your draft advertisement to your Human Resources Adviser, along with the Job Description, Person Specification, Further Particulars and Information on the post, and any other details that you would like to go to applicants. Please state in which publications you would like your advert to appear and when.

This information should be sent via e-mail as an attachment, or if not possible, on a disk in Word for Windows format (no hardcopies please). Please note that deadlines are set by the advertising agency for receiving advertising copy, in order to place it in time in the appropriate media. These deadlines are at least a calendar week before the publication date, and in addition, your Human Resources Adviser will need time to process the advert and get it to the agency. For details of actual deadlines, please contact your Human Resources Adviser. 

Along with your draft advert, it is important to include a copy of the appropriate authorization for the post and ensure that the source of funding is highlighted.

Each post is given a reference number by the Human Resources Team. The number relates to the Human Resources database post number and is quoted in the advertisement, the job description and other documents related to recruitment and to the post thereafter. This reference number should be used for this post for any further correspondence or actions.

4.3.4 Where to advertise

The Human Resources Team places all adverts on the UK’s leading higher education recruitment website, ‘’, which is accessible via the College website. 

In addition to these sources, please indicate in which, if any other publications you would like your advert to appear. The choice of publication will obviously depend on the nature of the role.

Care must be taken to ensure that the advert will reach as diverse a range of the population as possible, to ensure indirect discrimination does not take place. For example, placing an advert, solely in "Ms London" magazine, which is aimed at women would be indirect discrimination as there is less chance of men seeing and therefore being able to apply for the post. Certain exceptions may be made in cases of targeted recruitment to reach under-represented groups. However, this would need to be justified and may still need to be placed in other publications. Human Resources may advise you where necessary.

4.3.5 Cost of advertising

The College’s central recruitment advertising budget normally covers the cost for all agreed College funded posts to be placed in one publication. Your School or Department or the relevant Faculty will be required to meet the cost of advertisements placed in any additional requested publications.

Recruitment costs for non-College funded posts are normally met by the funding body.  Therefore it is advisable, when applying for a grant to an outside funding body (other than a Research Council) to include recruitment expenses in the calculation of the overhead spending money required, together with provision for the College’s maternity and sickness absence leave (copies of these policies are available on the Web at or from the Human Resources Team).

4.3.6 Information required of applicants

Appointees to all posts (College funded or not) must complete a College Application Form. This ensures that the College obtains all essential information regarding the employment status. Candidates are asked to provide Equal Opportunities data on a separate document. This information is retained permanently by the Human Resources Team on a database and it is used anonymously for statistical purposes in accordance with the HEFCE, HESA and the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 requirements.

Applicants for academic posts may attach a C.V. and a list of publications to the application form. For some posts, Heads of Schools may wish to request that candidates send in a sample of work with their initial applications, e.g. a copy of a recent publication. Human Resources send any original documents received to the Head of School. After the interviews have been held, the publications should be returned to the candidate either by the School or by the Human Resources Team.

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4.4 Step 4: Composition of the selection panel

At this stage (or earlier) the appointing manager (the panel Chair) should decide on the composition of your selection panel. To comply with best practice in equal opportunities and the College’s Equal Opportunities Policy, panels should reflect an appropriate mix of gender and ethnicity. Please note that panels will be monitored in accordance with the College’s Race Equality Policy. All panel members must be trained (see section 1.4).

The membership of the panel must be agreed upon by the closing date of the post. Please refer to section 7. “Panel Membership” of the Recruitment Policy for further information of the minimum requirements.

The names of the panel members will be provided to shortlisted applicants in their invitation to interview letter.

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4.5 Step 5: Select candidates for interview & identify any tests or presentations required

All applications received are held in the Human Resources Team until the closing date. On the first working day after the closing date, one set of all the application forms, together with a Shortlist memo and Shortlist form is sent to the Chair of the interview panel (or nominee) along with a list of the names of all applicants. Human Resources retain the other

4.5.1 Shortlisting the applicants

In order to ensure the best candidates are chosen for the role, and to promote an objective and non-discriminatory process, shortlisting should ideally be carried out by the interview panel, or at least by one member of the panel and another appropriate person. This ensures that a number of people assess a candidate and that individual opinions or prejudices do not dominate. Those involved in the shortlisting should meet to discuss their views on applications. If it is possible to gather the panel together, this makes an ideal opportunity to also plan for the interview itself.

Each applicant should be assessed against the person specification to determine the extent to which they meet the criteria. Applicants should not be shortlisted if they do not meet the essential criteria as set out in the specification.

If you have specified a particular qualification, or standard of education, you should note that many overseas qualifications are comparable and, in some cases superior to those awarded in the UK, and therefore may warrant the applicant being shortlisted. If you are uncertain of the status of such qualifications, please contact the Registry for further advice.

Stereotyping should be avoided and assumptions must not be made whether or not someone will ‘fit in’ because of their age, gender or disability, for example. Assumptions can be incorrect and the College could be wrongfully deprived of a potential asset. Such assumptions are also likely to be subjective and discriminatory, and therefore, may contravene the College's Equal Opportunities Policy.

In terms of the optimum number of applicants to shortlist, it is difficult to put a limit as each post is different and may attract a very different number of appropriate candidates. However, it is advisable to restrict the number of interviews that you carry out to five or six in any one day. If you wish to shortlist more than this, it is recommended that interviews be carried out over 2 days, and you may consider a two-stage selection process to reduce the number of candidates who reach a panel interview.

For academic posts, the Master has requested shortlists are limited to up to five applicants for any one post. If you wish to shortlist more than five applicants, you must make a case to the Master to do so, before the invitation to interview letters are sent out.

It is possible to identify (usually up to two) applicants as reserves in case any of your first choice candidates do not attend. However you will need to be able to differentiate as to why they were not first choice candidates by the extent to which they met the criteria.

4.5.2 Shortlisting paperwork

The Shortlist form is designed to give space for (brief) notes and reasons on why l candidates were or were not shortlisted. This is necessary in case of any potential dispute, or if applicants request feedback on why they did not get an interview. The reasons given must relate to the criteria set out in the person specification for the post. These notes will also be referred to if a work permit application is required for the successful candidate at a later stage.

Once the Shortlist form has been completed, you should fill in the Shortlist memo form, ensuring that all the necessary information required to set up the interviews is included and send it to your Human Resources Adviser.  Please ensure that you allow sufficient time between getting the forms to Human Resources and the interview date. This is to allow the appropriate paperwork to be completed and to give the candidates time to arrange leave from work and prepare for the interview, (ideally a minimum of 10 working days).

4.5.3 Selection tests and presentations

If your selection procedure requires candidates to deliver a presentation or undergo a test, they will be informed of this in their invitation letter. Please ensure that you include the relevant presentation topic or test instructions on the Shortlist memo.

Selection tests can be very useful tools in the selection process to help with assessing the suitability of candidates for the role. Any test you use must be fair, unbiased and directly relevant to the central requirements of the job. Ideally, they should take place in an environment similar to the job situation.  For example, for some administrative jobs, a word-processing or written test may be useful. This could include drafting correspondence or setting up a simple spreadsheet, whereas candidates for a Lecturer role are likely to be asked to prepare a presentation to test their delivery skills and knowledge of a subject.

Whilst the Human Resources Team is happy to provide advice about devising tests, the school or department should provide the material/content.  This ensures that the test is relevant to the job in question.  The tests should be held in the school or department concerned and there should be a member of that school or department available to monitor the candidates and to offer appropriate assistance if required. The appointing School/Department should arrange any equipment or rooms required for any presentations or tests.

4.5.4 Invitation to interview letters

Once Human Resources receive the Shortlist Memo and Shortlist Form, they will invite the candidates to interview.  The Human Resources Team will then (except for externally funded posts) send an interview pack to the Chair of the panel, which will include:

  • A set of the application forms/CVs of those shortlisted

  • A set of any references received (where applicable)

  • A copy of the advertisement

  • Job description & person specification

  • Interview Record & Offer Details form and salary scales

In the invitation to interview letters, candidates are requested to report to the Reception Desk of the appropriate building, for directions to the interview room. The Human Resources Team will inform the attendant on duty at the Reception Desk of the interview arrangements so that they are prepared to welcome the candidates. If you wish to vary these reporting arrangements for any reason, please ensure that you inform Human Resources at the shortlisting stage.

You should make arrangements for the interview papers to be copied to the members of your interview panel. If you wish to send the invitation to interview paperwork out yourself directly from your school/department, this is fine. However, you must use the template letters and documentation, which are available from your Human Resources Adviser.

4.5.5 Travel and accommodation expenses

The details of expenses available are set out in the Recruitment Policy. However, please note that any interview travel expenses over and above the £150  limit will be met by the recruiting School or Department and must therefore be agreed with the candidate beforehand. This is something to look out for if a candidate will need to travel from a distance/abroad.

4.5.6 References

The Human Resources Team will request references at the time they invite candidates to interview. In each case, two references are sought, including one from the current/most recent employer who should not be a relation of the candidate. If a referee happens to be a panel member (for either shortlisting or interviewing) then the candidate will be asked to provide an alternative referee.

Although the Human Resources Team does chase up outstanding references, sometimes these are not received before the interview panel meeting. Whilst it is advisable to see references before a candidate starts employment, if they have not been received, you should make the following statement (which will be added to their offer letter) when making the verbal offer to them, 'this offer is subject to the receipt of two references which the College finds satisfactory’.

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4.6 Step 6: The selection interview

4.6.1 Preparation

Preparation is a vital part of the recruitment and interviewing process. It is not sufficient for panel members to meet up 20 minutes before the start of the first interview. Time should be set aside at least a day or two in advance of the interview date for the panel to convene and decide on:

  • the format of the interview and order of questions

  • the questions to be asked of all candidates

  • the specific questions to be asked of individual candidates

  • who is going to ask which questions

  • the optimum start date for the post

  • any other details candidates may need about the role that were not sent at application

As noted previously, the ideal time to do this is at the short-listing stage, as all members of the panel should ideally be convened already for this part of the exercise. You will be looking through applications forms against the criteria in the person specification, and so the generic and specific questions could be developed at this stage.

4.6.2 The venue

Where you hold the interviews is important. This should ideally be in a light and airy room, with sufficient space to hold the panel and interviewees, without being so large as to be intimidating. Obviously, if a presentation is required, the correct equipment must be booked.

All potential distractions should be minimized, such as:

  • Put a sign on the door to indicate interviews are taking place, and if necessary, redirections to visitors

  • Forward any telephones to another office (ensure the occupants know this has been done!) or turn the volume right down

  • Provide refreshments (particularly water) for the panel and the interviewee, and replenish regularly

  • Where possible, ensure that the temperature in the room is comfortable

  • Place the interviewee's chair facing away from any windows where appropriate to minimize any distractions to them

Arrange the room and furniture in a format suitable to the particular interview you are doing. There are a number of possible options, dependent on the type of interview and number of panel members present. Some people think that having a desk between the panel and the interviewee is intimidating and presents a barrier, others prefer to have the use of a desk or table for the interview paperwork. An ideal layout is to have a round or square table around which the panel and the candidate can sit.

4.6.3 Welcoming the candidate

When organizing the interviews, it is best to allocate a person (not on the panel) who can meet the candidates as they arrive, complete some of the 'welcoming' tasks, such as taking their coats, giving them a drink etc, and the show them to the interview room. This means that the individual is settled when they get to the interview.

At the start of the interview, the Chair of the panel should introduce themselves and the other members, including names and job titles/roles. Next, outline the format of the interview so that the candidate is aware of what is going to happen. A typical format might be:

  • Introductions to the Chair and panel members

  • A brief introduction to the role/how it fits into the structure

  • Inform candidate that you may be taking some written notes

  • The candidate gives a presentation

  • Panel questions to the candidate on their presentation

  • Panel questions testing the criteria from the person specification

  • Time for the candidate to ask questions

  • Informing the candidate of the next step (i.e. they will be contacted either by phone or in writing of the outcome)

  • Thank them for coming and ensure someone shows them out

Before starting the interview, it is useful to ask a few welcoming, friendly questions to put them at ease, such as asking them about their journey and so on. The interview should not be about putting the candidate under excessive pressure and making them feel uncomfortable; putting them at their ease and building a rapport will ensure you get the right information from them.

It may be appropriate to include a visit to the relevant department or office as part of the interview so that candidates can see and get a feel for the work environment.

4.6.4 The interview questions

As the interview is the main, and often the only method of selection used after sifting applications, it is important to get it right, and get the most out of it, so that you build up a true picture of the candidates' ability to do the job. Careful consideration of the questions will help ensure that the right information is gathered in order to make an informed decision. You should use the criteria that you set out in your person specification at the start of the recruitment process as the basis for question development.

Start with the essential criteria, and design a question (or series of questions) to test for evidence of their abilities in each area. A few questions that would test some of the desirable criteria are useful as a tool to differentiate between suitable candidates. These questions should be asked of all candidates to ensure consistency, enable you to assess the level to which candidates match your criteria, and make an informed and fair recruitment decision. However, each interviewee will answer the questions in a slightly different way. Therefore, you will need to probe and ask specific questions of the individual candidates to explore their responses.

You may like to ask some questions of certain candidates that are specific to their application, or individual circumstances. However, care must be taken to ensure that such questions do not breach our Equal Opportunities Policy, or any employment legislation (see Section 2. of the Recruitment Policy). For example, if you were interviewing four male candidates and one female, and you asked the female if she had any childcare commitments, but did not ask this of the male candidates, assuming that they would not have any responsibility, this would be discriminatory. Further advice in this area can be obtained from your Human Resources Adviser.

To help you with your interview planning, a bank of sample interview questions is set out in the appendix.

4.6.5 Question types

There are a number of different question types, some of which should be used frequently, others that should be used sparingly/carefully, and some of which should be avoided altogether:

Open - questions that start with, "what, when, how, who, why, please…" and illicit a fuller response than just ‘yes or no’, for example:

  • What experience do you have of managing a team?

  • Why did you decide to move from working in finance to Human Resources?

  • How do you keep up to date with the latest thinking/developments in your field?

  • Whom did you report to in your previous role?

Behavioural  - putting a question into a context and asking for examples of the interviewee's behaviour in the past. These questions are particularly effective as they provide 'evidence' of a candidate's experience/competence of a particular area or skill, for example;

  • Please tell me about a time when you successfully handled a complaint from a student

  • Please give an example of a complex problem that you solved with minimum assistance from others

  • Tell us about a time when you have had to use effective verbal communication skills

Probing - to ensure that you get the most information out of candidates, and to follow up an answer you may have got from another question, you need to probe. This is also useful if you want to be sure that a candidate really understands what they have said to you and that they have not just used a 'stock' answer. Probing is an important but difficult skill that becomes easier the more you practice for example;

  • Why do you think that project was so successful?

  • How do you think you might have approached it differently if you could do it again?

  • So, whom did you speak to about it?

  • What other people were involved in that group?

Closed - these are questions that only require a 'yes' or 'no' answer, or a very brief/specific response. These questions should be used sparingly as they do not encourage the candidate to open up and you will get very limited information, for example:

  • Have you completed your TiLL course?

  • Do you work well in a team?

However, closed questions can be useful for checking facts, or focusing a very talkative candidate, for example;

  • How many years experience have you had in finance?

  • So, have you actually created a database before?

Multiple  - a common mistake that interviewers make is to ask two or more questions in one. This can be very confusing for the candidate, and often results in the interviewer being asked to repeat the question, for example:

  • Have you ever done a presentation to a large group of people before, and what was the presentation about?

  • Tell me about a time when you led a research project, how did you go about it, and what were the main outcomes?

These questions are fine, if they are broken down and asked separately.

Hypothetical - the candidate is given a scenario (either fictitious of real) and asked how they would react/deal with the situation. These questions can be useful to test someone's reaction under 'pressure' or assess their initiative. However, they should be used sparingly as it is usually better to seek evidence of what someone has actually done or how they have behaved in the past ('behavioural' questions), e.g.,

  • You are in the office alone. You are dealing with a student who has a query about their coursework, which has gone missing. You have some papers that need copying for a meeting, which starts in half an hour, and then the phone rings. How do you manage these tasks?

  • A member of your team has been an hour late for work for the last three days without explanation. There is an important meeting in the morning that you need them to attend. How would you deal with this issue?

Checking/Reflective - used to clarify a point made by the candidate, and to check that you have understood what they meant, for example:

  • You say that you felt frustrated at the time, why was this?

  • So, you actually spoke to the student?

  • It seems that you felt you coped very well with the situation, is that right?

Leading/Loaded - these questions should be avoided as you are giving the candidate a limited possible response; they are likely to answer based on what they think you want to hear rather than what they actually think. Trying to ascertain 'political' answers is not helpful in seeing whether they have the ability to do the job, and in some cases could be seen as discriminatory, for example:

  • This is a very stressful environment; I presume you cope well under pressure?

  • Do you think it is better to own up if you have made a mistake, or attempt to cover it up and risk the consequences?

4.6.6 Taking notes

Most people like to take notes during an interview to assist with making recruitment decisions. It is good practice to let the candidate know that this will happen so they do not get alarmed when someone starts scribbling after their first answer! It is quite difficult to make notes and listen actively to responses at the same time. Therefore, a good tip is to take it in turns to make notes so that when one person is asking questions another panel member makes some notes.

It is important to remember that any notes made must be appropriate and non-discriminatory. Under the Data Protection Act 1998, individuals have the right to see any documentation held about them, this includes any formal and casual notes kept after the interviews. Therefore, if you wouldn't want the candidate to read it, do not to write it!

4.6.7 Candidates that require permission (work permit) to work in the UK

Before an employee can start work at the College, it is necessary to ascertain their eligibility to work in the UK.  All candidates are asked to make a declaration of their status on their application form. The successful candidate will be asked to provide documentary evidence of their status to Human Resources on appointment (see Section 11. in the Recruitment Policy).

The law and rules around employment of Non-EU Nationals is complex and so this section is not designed to represent a definitive guide to this issue. It is best to consult with your Human Resources Adviser to ensure compliance, or if you have any queries about a candidate’s eligibility, prior to making an offer.

The basic principle under The Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 is that it is illegal to employ an individual who is not a British Citizen or an EU National, without prior permission, either through obtaining a work permit, or if their individual circumstances allow it. The main exclusions to this rule are set out below, together with the current list  of EU countries.

Work permits are not required for the following Nationalities:










Czech Republic*

















United Kingdom



*Nationals of these countries coming to work in the UK are subject to the ‘Workers Registration Scheme’ (see for more details or ask your Human Resources Adviser).

Circumstances that may not require a work permit:

  • The spouse of an EU National

  • The spouse or family member of a Non-EU National who holds a valid work permit

  • A Student who holds a valid entry Visa, authorizing them to take up work. They must not be employed for more than 20 hours per week during term-time.

  • An individual with a Working Holiday Visa (restrictions will apply).

If you select a candidate who requires a work permit, the work permit application requires evidence of why the other EU National candidates could not perform the role. Therefore, if for example there are two candidates who are suitable for the role and one requires a work permit and the other does not, you are obliged by the legislation to select the individual who does not require a permit. It is important not to make assumptions about a person’s right to work based on their nationality, as this may be direct discrimination under the Race Discrimination Act. You should get advice from Human Resources before making any offer in this situation.

Please note that the roles and professions for which the Home Office will issue work permits are limited and are usually those that are considered to be 'shortage occupations', or very highly specialized. Work permits are highly unlikely to be approved for any posts other than academic or research roles, and will not be approved for any clerical, administrative, or manual posts. Again, it is strongly recommended that you seek advice from Human Resources if you are in any doubt as to a posts' eligibility.

4.6.8 Avoiding discrimination

It is important to distinguish between complying with the legislation in this area, and being discriminatory. Assumptions should not be made about a persons eligibility to work based on their appearance, accents or names, for example. All candidates are required to declare their eligibility to work on the application form, sign to say the information they give is correct and then bring evidence to the interview. Therefore it would not be appropriate to ask certain candidates to confirm their eligibility at interview because they are an ethnic minority, or have a 'non-western' sounding name as this could constitute discrimination and is based on prejudice and assumptions.

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4.7 Step 7: Appoint the successful candidate

4.7.1 Making a selection decision

Once you have seen all of the candidates, you will need to assess the extent to which each one met your selection criteria, based on evidence they gave from the questioning and any tests or exercises. It is very tempting to start comparing the candidates against one another; however, it is best practice (and minimizes the risk of discrimination) to try to stick to looking at how they each meet the person specification and selecting the individual who best fits this profile.

Some panels like to construct a scoring system. This could be something fairly simple such as looking at each area of criteria and assigning, 'Fully met', Partially met' or Not met' to each one. You will need to decide on what constitutes evidence for each category before you start the process. It is not essential to follow this sort of system. However, it can be useful in justifying decisions and making them as objective as possible.

The most important thing to remember is that you will need to be able to justify your decision, and you must complete the Interview Record & Offer Details Forms for each candidate, stating brief reasons why they were successful or unsuccessful (see Annex J for examples). Many interview panels have a second choice candidate who is a suitable appointee, if the first candidate declines the offer. This should be marked clearly on the  Interview Record and Offer Details Form.

4.7.2 Making an offer

Once the panel has made their decision, the Chair of the panel should verbally offer the position to the successful candidate (please refer to section 9. 'Selection Code' of the Recruitment Policy for further details). If the Chair is unable to make the offer, the Human Resources Adviser for your area may do so on your behalf. Please keep your Human Resources Adviser informed of when an offer has been made so that they can ensure that the candidate is contacted promptly and that the correct documentation is sent out as soon as possible.

  • When a verbal offer of employment is made, all the relevant information from the Interview Record & Offer Details form should be covered; the key points are:

  • The salary scale and the increment that the candidate is to be appointed to, including London Allowance

  • The start date and hours/pattern of work

  • The offer is subject to receipt of two satisfactory references

  • For some senior and all manual and catering posts, posts which involve dealing with animals, and any appointment where there is concern about the ability of the appointee to fulfill the requirements of the job (and adjustments may need to be made), a satisfactory medical report from the College Health Centre (CIHS) will be required

  • Verification of certain qualifications where appropriate

  • Verification of the individual’s right to work in the UK, and where required, receipt of a valid work permit issued to the College by the Home Office

  • There is a probationary period of six months for support staff, or up to three years for academic staff.

4.7.3 Probation periods

New appointees to academic posts are subject to a probationary period of up to three years, dependant on their experience and qualifications. Please indicate on the Interview Record and Offer Details Form if the probation is to be less than three years. New appointees to all other professional, research and support posts are subject to a six months probation period. Please refer to the Probationary Policy, which is available on the web, or from the Human Resources Team before making the offer to the successful candidate. The probationary period should be discussed at the interview.

Please note that existing Birkbeck employees whom have already completed their probationary period will not be required to complete another period of probation if they are successful in obtaining an internal appointment. They should, however, have some form of induction into their new role, where they receive the appropriate support and training.

4.7.4 Completing the interview record and offer details forms

The Chair of the panel must complete an Interview Record and Offer Details form for each candidate, even if they did not attend, and return them to the Human Resources Team immediately so that a contract can be sent to the successful candidate, and the unsuccessful candidates can be notified of the decision. 

If the successful candidate wishes to consider the offer of employment for a few days it is recommended that a deadline (of not more than 5 working days) be agreed by which time the candidate will communicate his/her decision to the Chair. In such circumstances the Interview Record and Offer Details forms should still be returned to the Human Resources Team immediately after the offer has been made with a covering note stating the situation. If there is another appointable candidate this should be clearly noted and he/she will be sent a holding letter. Once the Chair has been notified of the candidate’s decision he/she should inform the Human Resources Team in writing.

A copy of the appointment letter is sent to the Head of School and to the Dean of Faculty/Administrative Section Head. Candidates are welcome to contact the Human Resources Team if there are any questions. Please note that due to their legal status, written offers of employment should only be sent by Human Resources, and not directly by Schools/Departments.

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4.8 Step 8: Notify unsuccessful candidates

4.8.1 Unsuccessful candidates

Unsuccessful candidates are normally informed in writing of the outcome of their interview as soon as the successful candidate has accepted an offer of employment. However, if the panel had decided that a candidate is not appointable to a post (regardless of whether the first or second choice accepts) then they will be written to as soon as possible.

Once an acceptance is received from the first choice candidate, a final rejection letter is sent to any second choice candidates as required. If the first choice candidate does not accept then the Chair of the panel is informed and a decision is made about offering the job to another candidate or re-advertising.

As with other stages of the process, Schools/Departments are welcome to send out the letters to unsuccessful candidates directly, however, the standard template letters, which are available from Human Resources must be used.

4.8.2 Feedback

Some unsuccessful candidates may ask for reasons why they were not shortlisted or selected for a post. If the applicant has specific grounds for concern, the Human Resources Team will liaise with the school or department concerned to give feedback.

Well thought out and constructive feedback can be very useful for candidates and gives a good impression of the College. However, it is recognized that managers may feel wary of giving feedback for a number of reasons, and in such cases, you are encouraged to discuss this with your Human Resources Adviser before responding to the candidate.

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4.9 Step 9: Returning recruitment documentation

After the interviews have taken place all copies of application forms and supporting documents, and notes from all the panel members should be returned to Human Resources, as soon as possible by the school or department concerned, as they contain personal and confidential information, which should not be held in duplicate outside of Human Resources.

The successful employee’s original application form, CV, and associated paperwork will be retained in their staff file and their details entered on the Human Resources IT System. However, the appointing manager may also keep a copy of the application form and documents of the appointed candidate for the purposes of managing that employee. Such records must be kept securely and in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.

The Human Resources Team will keep a set of all the other application forms and recruitment information (including panel notes) for a period of one year in case a candidate makes an application to an Employment Tribunal claiming discrimination.

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4.10 Step 10: Inducting the new employee

All newly appointed staff:

  • Will have an induction mentor nominated by their line manager

  • Must attend the College’s ‘Introduction to Birkbeck for New Staff’ Day

  • Must complete the Induction Checklist (supplied with the offer letter and on the website)

  • Must report to the Human Resources Office with the relevant documentation on their first day of employment (they will be advised of what to bring in their offer letter)

For further information and advice on planning an induction programme, please contact the Staff Development Team or your Human Resources Adviser.

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5. Appointing to posts not funded by the college

All Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader and Professor posts will need to be externally advertised, irrespective of funding.

Posts that are not funded by the College (e.g. fixed term Research posts) may not have to be advertised if, for example, the grant is obtained by providing the name and CV of a candidate for the research post in question. Such candidates are also required to complete a College application form as this provides essential information, which may not be included in the CV. There is also a requirement for applicants to sign to verify that the information they have provided is accurate. If the post is for a Research Leave Fellowship replacement then it needs the approval of the Staffing Committee before recruitment can take place. However, candidates for such posts should be interviewed before a job offer is made.

In such cases, the information required from the Head of School or Dean of Faculty for the Human Resources Team to prepare an offer letter is as follows:

  • authorization to recruit

  • name of candidate

  • start and end date of appointment

  • proposed grade and starting point salary

  • details of the probation period

  • source of funding (including funding code or grant reference number)

  • completed application form and equal opportunities monitoring form

  • job description and person specification

The Human Resources Team will issue an offer of employment, once all of the above information is received, along with confirmation of approval from Research Grants and Contracts.

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6. Temporary employees (excluding sessional lecturers)

When recruitment has been authorized for a permanent post, and after any outstanding annual leave owing to the previous postholder has expired, a temporary member of staff may be recruited until a permanent postholder takes up the post. The salary for this temporary employee will be funded by the same source of funding as that of the permanent postholder.

If a school or department wishes to recruit someone temporarily and there is no vacancy then the school or department has to provide funding for the post.

To recruit a temporary member of staff for employment for a period of up to a maximum of six months, the Human Resources Team requires the following in writing:

  • authority to recruit

  • start and end date of appointment

  • source of funding and cost centre code (savings, vacancy)

  • hours/days to be worked

  • job description and person specification

  • reporting instructions for the first day.

If a suitable individual has not been found, or if an agency worker is required, you should complete the Agency Staff Request Form in the appendix and return it to Human Resources. Human Resources will then contact a temporary recruitment agency, to source a suitable individual.

It is strongly recommended that every candidate for employment by or within the College be interviewed before a job offer is made. This includes externally funded posts. The relevant forms should be completed before the new employee arrives at Birkbeck.

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The HR team is based on the first floor of Egmont House
Postal address: Human Resources, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX