Legally speaking: What do I do if I receive thousands of job applications?

For many people, the dream of living on a remote island is idyllic. The opportunity to make a living while surrounded by peace and tranquillity is an attractive proposition, as evidenced by the 23,000 applications received for two summer jobs on the remote island of Great Blasket in County Kerry. However, for businesses dealing with volumes of candidates on this scale could cause issues when handling the recruitment process. 

Although the majority of businesses will have had plenty of experience running through the recruitment process with previous candidates. There are still some key areas that they must be aware of to avoid issues later down the line, particularly if they are expecting a flurry of job applications.

applications Don’t discriminate

One of the most common issues businesses face during the recruitment process are potential claims of discrimination, as aggrieved applicants feel they have been unfairly treated.

The general principles of discrimination and recruitment are that an employer must not discriminate against a person when deciding who they want to hire. The same rules apply to the terms on which they offer or don’t offer a candidate employment.

Also, when shortlisting employers need to ensure they do not hold meetings on days which could be disadvantageous to particular candidates, for example on dates which could coincide with religious festivals.

Discrimination can also apply to the job advertisement; for example, adverts that appeal for a specific gender are deemed inappropriate unless the employer can prove that it’s an ‘occupational requirement.’

Keeping a paper trail

Although applicants would not have the qualifying service to bring claims against employers, they will still be able to pursue a claim against a business if they believe they have been discriminated against during the recruitment process.

Therefore, businesses must take clear steps towards protecting their reputation by keeping a detailed record of events that can be used as evidence if needed.

Maintaining good practise and keeping a paper trail are two of the most effective ways to protect the organisation, as these will prove an employer has taken all the necessary steps to prevent unlawful discrimination or harassment.

When creating a paper trail, employers should ensure that all the relevant documents are recorded, including the recruitment and equal opportunities policies, job adverts, job description, person specification and notes from the interview.

Documentation that shows staff involved in the process have received training on the employer’s equality process must also be included.

Data protection

With the introduction of GDPR, employers must be careful with how they use the information they receive from applicants.

All information and data must be processed and stored appropriately, ensuring the candidate is aware of how their job applications are being used and deleting or removing information upon request from the individual.

The ICO will be revising the employment practices code in light of GDPR, so employers should be aware of any future developments that may occur.

However, in the meantime organisations should treat all sensitive information with care, ensuring it is secure and protected from any potential leaks or incoming cyber-attacks.

Remain mindful of the risks…

Although the recruitment process is an indication of growth and success on behalf of the organisation, it’s still important to exercise caution before engaging potential candidates.

Generally, employers should remain mindful of any issues that can arise during the recruitment process and should ensure that a fair and consistent approach is applied when they are looking to bring in new talent.

It’s always best to remain cautious about potential discrimination claims and ensure that those who are undertaking the recruitment process have been trained and are aware of the risks that apply when looking though job applications.

Tina Chander is head of employment law at Wright Hassall. She is a qualified barrister and solicitor with extensive experience in employment law matters for both individuals and businesses.