Guidance for Conducting an Online Recruitment Process

Conducting your recruitment processes online, in the current circumstances can offer voluntary Boards and job applicants a safer alternative to face-to-face interviews.

As with all online activity, however certain checks and balances must be put in place to:

  • safeguard the Board, job applicants and the integrity of the process; and
  • ensure that you continue to meet your legal obligations around recruitment.

Recruitment and selection policy and procedures

A useful starting point is to read your organisation’s current policy and procedures for the recruitment of staff to assess which procedural aspects can be amended to facilitate an online process while still adhering to your organisation’s policy principles and its obligations under employment legislation.  The following guidance is intended to support you in this process.

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A designated email address for receipt of completed application forms and recruitment queries should be provided as part of your application pack, along with instructions regarding what applicants should include in the ‘subject heading’ of their email.  All incoming emails should be marked ‘CONFIDENTIAL RECRUITMENT’ along with the title of post they are applying for.  If necessary, a new email address can be created for this purpose, accessible only by the member of staff or Board member responsible for the recruitment process.

This is an important aspect of any recruitment process where completed applications are received via email.  Completed job applications generally include personal information and can also include sensitive personal information.  Data Protection law requires all organisations processing personal information to adhere to certain data protection principles, these include processing in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the personal data, including protection against unauthorised or unlawful processing (for more information refer to your organisation’s data protection policy). 

Selection Process

Instructions regarding anticipated shortlisting and interview processes should be issued via email to all panel members to ensure full understanding of the process and consistency of approach. Panel members may wish to meet online to discuss and agree these procedures in advance and a confirmation email sent to reinforce and document the process.  Emails should be saved by a designated staff or Board member as part of your organisation’s audit trail and evidence of the integrity of the recruitment process.  

Shortlisting

As with any recruitment process, a shortlisting framework should be drawn up using the Person Specification. Each incoming application form should be individually numbered in the order that they are received. It is good practice to save a second copy of each numbered application for shortlisting, with applicants’ personal contact information and contact information for designated references removed.  Applications for shortlisting can then be saved as PDFs ready for issuing to the panel.  The reason for removing personal information is two-fold:

  • Employers must ensure that their recruitment and selection practices are objective, free of bias and that individuals are selected for employment on the basis of merit and ability only.
  • Organisations, processing personal data have a legal obligation to protect an individual’s personal data.  By anonymising applications Board members are reducing the risk of a data breach occurring.   

Issuing applications for shortlisting in a PDF format can help protect against vital information being deleted by panel members in error, during review.

Panel members should be provided with clear instructions regarding shortlisting.  For example:

Dear [panel member], please find attached ‘X number’ application forms for shortlisting with regards to position, ‘X’. It would be helpful if you could shortlist these in advance of our online meeting tomorrow where we can discuss and agree final shortlisted applicants.

I attach a Shortlisting framework for each applicant (attached as one document) and numbered in order 1-‘X’ in line with application reference numbers. 

Sections ‘X’ & ‘X’ have been removed from attached application forms in line with recruitment best practice. [Applicant personal/ contact details and references] 

I am suggesting we meet tomorrow ?pm-?pm to finalise shortlisting and discuss interview questions and process.  Please see draft interview questions framework attached for your consideration.’

It is up to individual organisations what software application they choose to use to conduct their online meetings and interviews.  This guidance is based on using ZOOM video conferencing to conduct online interviews.

The Panel Chair or staff support member should maintain a master copy of the shortlisting framework and use this to record final shortlisting decisions in relation to each applicant, noting to what extent the panel felt that they met or did not meet individual shortlisting criterion.  Panel members should retain their own copies of the shortlisting documents, with comments and confirmation of which applications they felt met the essential criteria (these can be passed on to the Panel Chair or designated staff member at a later date). 

Following the shortlisting meeting, a further email should be issued along with the completed shortlisting master copy, for example:

Please see attached Shortlisting Results Form and copy of Agreed Individual Shortlisting Forms, based on verbal confirmation received during our ZOOM meeting yesterday, with regards to position, ‘X’.

I ask that you please review the attached forms and confirm via email that this was the agreed outcome from our Shortlisting ZOOM conferencing call yesterday.

Email confirmation will be taken as your authorising signature for the purposes of an audit trail and invitations to interview will be been issued accordingly.’

Interviews

In preparation for online interviews each panel member should receive a copy of the agreed interview framework, to include agreed questions and scoring matrix with clear instructions on how to proceed.  For example:

Dear Panel members, please find attached final: 

Interview Framework

This includes your scoring matrix and ‘X number’ interview response forms, one for each applicant.

Interview Attendance Schedule (for completion by the Panel Chair – this is a record of applicant attendance and non-attendance at interview) 

Interview Results Form (for completion by the Panel Chair)

Having assessed the applicant’s response to each question, panel members are asked to assign an individual score to each response in line with the scoring matrix provided.

Please sign and retain panel member individual applicant scores for our records.  

Following panel discussion, a final agreed score will be allocated to each applicant response, resulting in a final total score for each applicant. 

Applicants have been informed that they will be asked a series of questions and that ‘X’ minutes has been allocated to each question, with individual interviews limited to ‘X’ minutes. 

This is designed to allow sufficient time for applicant questions and panel responses regarding the post to be communicated at the end of each interview, We have also built in some additional time between interviews to allow for any unexpected technical issues to be resolved (e.g. temporary loss of WIFI).’

It may be advisable for individual panel members to share a contact number with the panel in the event that they experience a technical issue with their WIFI connection during the process.  Panel members should agree a protocol for dealing with this eventuality during an interview (see ‘Support for interview panel members’ below). 

Applicants invited to interview

Applicants that have been successfully shortlisted and invited to interview should be given a specific time to log-in using the meeting hyperlink generated for your scheduled ZOOM call.  On the day of the interviews, applicants clicking on the Zoom link provided, will automatically be placed in a virtual ‘waiting room’ until they are admitted by the Chair or staff support member.

Where an applicant does not appear in the ‘waiting room’ at the time of their interview, a call should be made to them to make sure that they are not having technical issues connecting in the first place.  To support this panel members should have access to a contact number for each applicant. 

In the event that an applicant experiences a technical issue with their WIFI connection during the process, applicants should be contacted by phone to confirm if they are able to reconnect.  Where reconnection is not possible it may be necessary to reschedule the concluding part of the interview.  To support this, it may be helpful in advance of the scheduling of interviews to plan a second day for the panel to keep their diaries free in case of mop up sessions needing to be carried out.

Support for interview panel members

Given that this method of interviewing job applicants is generally unfamiliar to Board members and that the level of concentration required for online interviewing to ask questions, actively listen and take notes is greater that what is required in person, it may be advisable, where possible, to use an ‘Observer/Note-taker’ as part of the process.  A suitably qualified Observer can support the Panel Chair to manage the process.  Your Observer can be off-camera and muted during each interview enabling them to type applicant responses directly into an interview framework master copy document. If adequately captured, the Observer’s interview notes may be used as your Master copy, also recording final agreed panel scores for each applicant.

If done well, Observer notes can provide a valuable aid memoire for panel members during their final deliberations.  It is essential that interview panel members also keep their own notes of the interview so that after the interviews there is a comprehensive record of responses and rationale behind the selection decision. Observer notes can act as a fall-back should a panel member temporarily lose their connection during an interview. Where a panel member loses their connection the Panel Chair should pause the interview before moving on to the next question to allow the panel member to reconnect.

Given the nature of online interviewing, physical cues like raising your hand or a thumbs up as you’re about to speak, will help the applicant to see who’s talking.

Important points to consider at this stage:

  • The panel should complete assessment forms individually and then discuss their results for each applicant with other members of the panel. This should ensure that a more objective decision is reached, where large discrepancies between panel member scoring can be reviewed.
  • The eventual decision can be reached in a number of ways, for example:
  • Adding all the panel members scores together and reaching a final score;
  • Agreeing by consensus an individual score for each question and combining these to reach a final score.
  • Each panel member scores each applicant individually and then reaches agreement on applicant’s final scores collectively.

Once interviews are completed and scores agreed, the panel will be in a position to identify the successful applicant and any reserve applicants, if applicable.  The Board member or staff member responsible for managing the process should email the panel to seek confirmation of this decision before the successful applicant is contacted.  For example:

Dear Panel members

Following the recent interviews and assessment process undertaken DAY, DATE, MONTH, via ZOOM, for the position of ‘X’, please find attached Interview Results Form and Interview framework/ Observer's notes and individual applicant agreed scores.

Please review the attached documents and confirm that you are satisfied they reflect panel scores and agreed outcome.

I also request that you delete all application forms and applicant information from your system (emails and folders) in line with Data Protection procedures.

Any hard copies of shortlisting and interview notes and scores should be signed and dated accordingly and retained for our records.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.’

Board members must ensure that any changes or additions to your current recruitment procedures are reviewed and agreed by the Board and the decision reflected in your Board minutes.