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Recruitment shortlisting

Updating author: Lynda Macdonald


Where a job has been advertised resulting in the receipt of a number of job applications, there will normally be a need to carry out a shortlisting exercise. If the number of applicants is very small, and all appear to be suitable for the post, it may be worth interviewing all of them, but otherwise selections will have to be made to reduce the number of applications to a manageable number. The shortlist will represent those candidates whom the company wishes to interview. The decision on how many people to shortlist for interview depends on how many people have applied for the job, the quality of the applications, the type of job and the resources (including time) available.

  • The core provisions of the Equality Act 2010, which applies to England, Wales and Scotland (but not to Northern Ireland), came into force on 1 October 2010.
  • The Equality Act 2010 largely consolidates and replaces previous anti-discrimination legislation, ie the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/1661), the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/1660) and the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/1031).
  • The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against job applicants (and existing workers) because of a "protected characteristic". The protected characteristics are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
  • Shortlisting should be carried out objectively and consistently, by comparing each application with the employee specification. (See Ensuring shortlisting is carried out objectively and without discrimination)
  • The Equality Act 2010 permits employers to encourage people from under-represented or disadvantaged groups to apply for employment and allows employers to take positive action in connection with recruitment and promotion in limited circumstances. (See Positive action)
  • Managers responsible for shortlisting should disregard factors such as sex, family status, race and age and select for interview those candidates whose work-related background matches the employee specification. (See Avoiding assumptions)
  • If a job applicant has a disability such as dyslexia or learning difficulties, judging him or her on the basis of a poorly presented application form or CV could be discriminatory and unlawful. (See Avoiding assumptions)
  • If a job applicant has disclosed to an employer that he or she has a disability, it is important for the employer not to draw hasty or negative conclusions about the person's suitability for the job. (See Shortlisting in relation to disabled applicants)
  • Where someone has had an illness in the past that at the time would have amounted to a disability under the Equality Act 2010 (or the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which has been repealed by the Equality Act), it will be discriminatory to reject the person for employment on account of the past illness. (See Shortlisting in relation to disabled applicants)
  • It is potential discrimination on the ground of disability to ask a job applicant questions about his or her health or disability before making a job offer to that person, although there are some exceptions to this rule. (See Questions about health or disability)