Planning a recruitment

The UK labour market has become very challenging with high numbers of job vacancies being advertised. It is important that our  recruitment processes are quicker than usual to ensure we have the best opportunity to attract and secure the best possible candidates.

Job adverts should be written in a positive engaging way and have as wide a reach as possible, so the use of external advertising is strongly encouraged.

Interview dates should be included in job adverts and hiring managers and supervisors are encouraged where possible, to review applications as they arrive.  This is because most candidates will have likely made several other job applications, so acting quickly is important.

Where possible, hiring managers and supervisors should make themselves available for a conversations about the role when a candidate requests it.


Below is an example of good practice timeline for recruitment.

There may be local operational reasons why some of these aspects may not be achievable.

Week 1

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Advert live

Advert close


Interview & offer


Vacancy live on

  • social media i.e:- LinkedIn, Twitter



Recommend adverts are live for 2-4 weeks






Remaining applications reviewed by panel







Preferred candidate contacted by the line manager on the day of interviews. Start date/salary provisionally discussed




Contract and offer letter sent







Ensure interview dates are in adverts




Hiring managers or HR administrator to check applications as they arrive




Next steps communicated with shortlisted and unsuccessful candidates



References requested for preferred candidate





Pre-employment checks initiated







Candidates of interest circulated to panels prior to closing date



Interview arrangements coordinated i.e. testing, logistics, interview packs circulated to panel


Feedback to unsuccessful shortlisted candidates (some may be kept on hold)



Feedback to any shortlisted candidates that were on hold after signed contract received





Draft contract and offer letter prepared


PeopleXD updated and EDI data captured



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 The University has set high-level equality objectives to increase the proportion of women in senior roles, and to improve the recruitment and retention of BME staff, supported by the University’s Equality Policy. Each recruitment is an opportunity to identify and attract as diverse a pool of applicants as possible to meet the aims of recruiting the best people and increasing diversity. To achieve this, good practice needs to run all the way through the recruitment process, taking into account the following guidance:

  1. Chairs of recruitment panels have a leadership role to ensure that diversity and fairness are considered at every stage, that selection is made objectively against the advertised selection criteria and that bias is challenged. 
  2. Chairs of selection panels will have completed 'Recruitment and Selection'  and  'Implicit bias training every 4 years.
  3. It is strongly recommended that all staff involved in recruitment also complete the 'Recruitment and Selection'  and briefings and training on 'Implicit bias'. 
  4. Job descriptions on the most recent University template and objectively graded, are provided for all posts. Reach out to under-represented group through the advert and job description to position Oxford as a welcoming and inclusive place to work.
  5. Offering flexible working, such as part-time or a job share, signals a positive approach to equality and the participation of under-represented groups.
  6. Job qualifications or requirements should not be demanded without justification in terms of the job to be done.
  7. Job advertisements will be normally widely publicised to encourage applications from a broad range of suitable candidates from a wide talent pool.
  8. Candidates may declare personal circumstances either during a recruitment or after a job offer is made that could affect how and when they can perform the role. These circumstances could include maternity or family leave requirements, disability or illness.  Note that, if a woman is on or about to go on maternity leave you may have to wait for her to start work and make interim arrangements to cover the role. It would be discriminatory if you rejected her, or withdrew a job offer, or insisted that she end her maternity leave earlier than intended to start work, unless she agreed. 
  9. If disabled applicants identify themselves at application stage, reasonable adjustments to the application process should be offered such as accepting applications in alternative formats. All shortlisted applicants are offered reasonable adjustments at interview or in any practical tests (such as accessible interview rooms, the assistance of a sign language interpreter or additional time for a timed assessment exercise). The abilities of disabled candidates should be assessed assuming that appropriate reasonable adjustments will be provided in the workplace.
  10. Consideration should be given to achieving a diverse selection panel.  There should be at least one member of each gender on a panel, with the aim of achieving at least one third representation of women wherever possible. The gender composition of selection panels will be monitored. 
  11. When considering a candidate’s CV relative to the selection criteria, any career breaks should be taken into consideration. Circumstances such as caring responsibilities, ill health or disability may result in the quantity of applicants’ outputs being less than might otherwise be expected, but the quality of the outputs should be judged in the usual way. Candidates can be asked at the application stage to identify their best research outputs / significant achievements in terms of quality and/or impact. This will enable the selection committee to focus on key attainments in CVs and also enable those candidates who have taken career breaks or who have atypical careers for any reason to highlight their highest quality work.
  12. Recruitment monitoring is done anonymously in the central Equality and Diversity Unit and details of candidates are not provided to any member of the selection panel. Candidates are asked for details of sex, age, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion and belief and any disability of all candidates and of those shortlisted and appointed.
  13. Bias can occur if recruitments are hurried. Take time to shortlist and make decisions. If necessary, leave decision-making until the next day. The outcome of each recruitment could have an impact on the department for years to come; extra time invested in recruitment is never wasted.

Employment status falls into two broad categories; 'employee' (including 'variable hours') and 'non-employee'. Non-employee categories include: casual workers, casual teachers, agency workers (including TSS workers), self-employed contractors or consultants, interns, visitors and volunteers.

Employment status affects individuals' employment rights and matters such as pensions and employment benefits, and should be established early in recruitment. It cannot simply be agreed between an individual and a department, for example, an individual cannot be 'self-employed' because this is their preference, and someone cannot work as a ‘volunteer’ if the work to be done constitutes employment.

Read more about employment status

If in doubt, please contact the relevant HR Business Partner.

Government guidance states that a person may be an employee in employment law but have a different status for tax purposes. Employers must work out each individual’s employment status in both employment law and tax law.



Whether recruiting to a new post or refilling a vacant post, consider the requirements for it carefully and compile a business case (or equivalent), in accordance with local requirements (eg any headcount control measures etc). A 'Business case considerations (PDF)' checklist is available when assessing the requirements.

When defining the role, consider any duties or risks associated with the post which may mean the successful postholder would be subject to additional pre-employment checks, such as criminal record or background checks, or a fitness to work assessment by Occupational Health. This will help to:

  • determine the safeguarding measures that could be put in place to help minimise the risk(s)
  • determine the appropriate level of pre-employment screening required and
  • manage the wellbeing of the postholder once in post

Obtain departmental and/or divisional authorisation for recruitment according to departmental or divisional protocols.

Ensure there is funding available to support posts at the appropriate grade and for the complete duration of the proposed contract, before an appointment is made (see Financial Regulations 3.2 (3)).


Staff who draft or advise on job descriptions should attend the Reward team’s training on ‘Introduction to HERA and writing job descriptions’. The latest job description template should be used in all recruitment exercises. This ensures compliance with relevant legislation, the University’s key policies, and the University’s house style. Key information and prompts are highlighted in the template, and should be carefully read before being deleted and replaced with text for your new role.

Check whether a generic job description already exists for the post, before proceeding further. Generic job descriptions exist for many University roles, and using one of these will save the time spent on writing a new job description and on grading (see below).

A job description is used to:

  • provide a clear outline of what is required in the job (the overall objectives and the main tasks of the role);
  • determine the grade of the post
  • assess pre-employment health screening requirements through the identification of any hazardous or safety-critical duties
  • support an application for outside funding (where relevant)
  • help attract the right candidates for the job from a diverse field (potential applicants should be able to accurately match their skills and experience with those listed in the selection criteria and be aware of any pre-employment health/security checks which may be required, which may make them ineligible for the post)
  • enable the selection of candidates objectively, consistently, and transparently to ensure that the candidate who best meets the selection criteria is appointed and
  • eventually form part of the contract of employment, and be used to manage the induction and on-going performance of the postholder

Complete and attach the Occupational Health Services Hazards and safety-critical activities checklist) to the job description for the line manager (or the PI) to fill in/check, to ensure the correct new starter health checks procedures may be followed later in the recruitment process. Specify any pre-employment security screening requirements.

Refer to the Tips on writing job descriptions and adverts (PDF) and Job description checklist (PDF) when writing job descriptions.

Before advertising, the appropriate grade for the post must be determined via the job evaluation process called ‘grading’. Submit the post for grading via a staff request. When the post has been graded, it will be set up in the Recruitment Dashboard by the Reward team, ready for advertising.

'Staff classification' codes describe the primary function of a job and must be entered into all staff requests. This data is included in the compulsory annual staff data return to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).


All HR staff with recruitment responsibilities should attend training on Right to Work and visa requirements provided by the Staff Immigration Team.

Consider whether the role is eligible for a sponsored visa route in the early planning stages of the recruitment, and discuss with the Staff Immigration Team if unsure. A wider range of roles are sponsorable under the Skilled Worker visa route, which replaced Tier 2 in December 2020, but the salary thresholds can be complex.

While the strict Tier 2 rules on where and how long to advertise no longer apply, under the Skilled Worker rules the applicant must still meet the 'qualifications required' as listed in the job description/ further particulars, and the role must be a 'genuine vacancy'.

The Global Talent visa route should also be considered for senior research and academic appointments, those whose research or technical specialist role is specified in a grant from an ‘endorsed funder’, and those awarded recognised individual fellowships.

Selection panels should be agreed early in the recruitment process. Consider the diversity of your panel, especially, but not limited to gender balance. It may not always be possible to have a highly diverse panel, but a more diverse panel should help with better decision-making and addressing any issues of unconscious bias. Wherever possible, the same panel should be involved in the entire process, from shortlisting through to selecting the successful candidate. The role of the selection panel is to:

  • shortlist applicants for interview against the selection criteria
  • decide on the Interview format and practical arrangements (questions, tests, etc)
  • carry out the interviews
  • consider the collated outcomes of the interviews and any other selection methods
  • reach an agreed selection decision and recommend the selected candidate to the Head of Department (or equivalent), and
  • nominate a member of the panel (normally the chair) to give feedback to candidates where this is requested

The involvement of more than one person at every stage of the recruitment process should help to avoid decisions being made on the basis of stereotyped assumptions or prejudices and discrimination on the part of individual panel members.

All panel members:

  • must be clear about their role
  • must understand the selection criteria listed in the job description
  • must have been fully briefed on any decisions and
  • should ideally have completed the online 'Recruitment and Selection' and 'Implicit bias' courses

Chair of the panel: The Chair of the selection panel must have completed the training outlined above within the previous 4 years. It is the responsibility of the Chair to ensure that all members of the panel are familiar with the relevant elements of the University's guidelines on recruitment and selection outlined in this guidance.

For equal opportunities monitoring and communication purposes, enter the details of all selection panel members in the Recruitment Dashboard.


In planning your recruitment, think carefully about the overall strategy you will adopt to attract suitable candidates from a diverse talent pool to apply for your vacancy. Your search strategy should address issues such as how a diverse pool of applicants can be attracted, whilst targeting any under-represented groups within your area, which may, for example, include women, men or BME applicants. The under-represented groups will vary across the different areas of the University, and therefore, the local diversity requirements will need to be considered as part of every recruitment campaign. Departments that have Athena Swan plans should refer to the priorities set out in those plans, as a way of identifying any specific diversity targets.

An advertisement alone may not always reach a diverse pool of candidates and you may need to consider a more active search strategy as part of the recruitment process.

Wording should not be included in adverts or job descriptions stating that a role is not sponsorable under the Skilled Worker route. This could be misinterpreted to infer that we do not want applicants who require a visa, and good candidates may be dissuaded from applying for the role while not being aware of other visa routes they could pursue. If a chosen candidate requires a UK visa and the role is not sponsorable the Staff Immigration Team will help explore other visa routes, and if none are appropriate you would then revert to your second choice candidate.

Before advertising the post departments should consider whether it might present a redeployment opportunity for any suitably qualified University employees who are coming to the end of a fixed-term contract, or whose post is otherwise at risk of redundancy (ie 'priority candidates').

There may be other circumstances where appointment without advertising may be appropriate, for example, due to identifying a suitable internal candidate or external funding, where an individual is named on a grant. Further guidance on recruitment without advertising is available.

Under the Skilled Worker visa rules it can be possible to sponsor a chosen candidate without advertising if the reasons for making the ‘direct appointment’ are justified in line with University guidance but this should be discussed with the Staff Immigration Team.