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Human resources: The best person for the job

Every Issue

Cite as: (2004) 78(4) LIJ, p.86

Recruitment is an expensive process that has long-term consequences for a firm.

Before hurrying into recruitment, it is worth considering a few questions:

  • do you need to replace the position in the current format – or is this an opportunity to review the structure of the area or business?;
  • does the job description provide enough detail in terms of the activities and responsibilities and the type of person who is able to perform these successfully?;
  • have you invested the time to build an accurate job description which may give you a better chance of attracting quality candidates?;
  • how and where do you advertise?; and
  • have you included enough information in the advertisement to attract a reasonable number of quality applications.

There are three important stages to the recruitment process: initial screening of applications, interviewing and reference checking.

Screening applications is the process to reach a short list of candidates to interview. When screening resumes, look out for:

  • experience – should be relevant to the target job;
  • actual achievements, rather than tenure;
  • extracurricular activities – achievements and awards can demonstrate a candidate’s initiative, achievement orientation and motivation; and
  • presentation – look for clear, concise, professionally presented documents.


Once the applicants have been screened there should be a shortlist of people to interview. The interview is your opportunity to find out more about the person and also market your firm.

Preparation is the key to a good interview. Ensure that you know the questions that you would like to ask the person.

During the first stage of the interview build rapport with the candidate. Ask a general question to relax them. Tell the person what the process for the interview will be, e.g. you will ask them a series of questions relevant to the position, talk about the position and the firm and then at the end they will have an opportunity to ask any questions. Advise the person that you will be taking notes. See the Law Institute website for sample interview questions.

Make sure that the applicant clearly understands the position. Be realistic about what you have on offer. Describe to candidates the culture of the firm, working environment – both professional and social.

At the close of the interview, thank the candidate for their time. Make it clear when they can expect to hear back from you.


The value of written references is questionable and generally a verbal reference is more accurate.

When seeking a verbal reference you should:

  • verify the information provided by the applicant;
  • ask specific questions where you need further clarification;
  • consider the Privacy Act – only ask for job-related information, ask for examples and keep it factual;
  • assure the referee that your conversation will remain confidential; however, under the Privacy Act candidates have access to information; and
  • record the information.

After you have made the decision contact the successful applicant and also contact the unsuccessful applicant(s).

Make sure that the successful candidate has any questions answered and is provided with a formal letter of offer and contract as soon as possible after the verbal offer.

Information regarding employees is excluded under the provisions of the Privacy Act. You can hold personal information relating to your employees. However, this exclusion does not come into force until they are employees, hence the Privacy Act is relevant during the recruitment phase. A candidate can request a copy of all information collected during the recruitment phase. Once the position has been filled it is important to discard all information on other candidates.

You will also need to consider anti-discrimination legislation during all stages of the recruitment process, e.g. when drafting the advertisement, interviewing, reference checking, making the selection decision, making a job offer and providing feedback.

Providing feedback to candidates is a particular area in which to consider anti-discrimination issues, particularly if a person challenges a decision.

Some steps to follow when providing feedback are:

  • encourage the applicant to assess themselves by asking them how they believe they performed;
  • be objective and compare the candidate to the requirements of the role, not to other candidates; and
  • start and finish the feedback with strengths, with development areas discussed inbetween – i.e. the sandwich technique.

Please refer to the LIV website for more tools in relation to recruitment, e.g. interview guides.

KATIE ROUND is the Law Institute’s human resources manager. For more information on this column and other HR issues tel 9607 9410.


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