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Equality and Diversity 

There are equality and diversity considerations throughout the recruitment and selection process.

Positive action

Positive action seeks to address an imbalance in employment opportunities among targeted groups that have previously experienced disadvantage or that are under-represented in the workforce.

Equality monitoring data of the recruitment process is available from the Equality and Diversity Team and allows schools to identify where groups are under-represented at application, shortlist and appointment stages.

If the evidence indicates a certain group has been under-represented in a particular area of work over the last 12 months then positive action should be considered.

There are a variety of positive action initiatives that range from using positive action statements in recruitment adverts to running specific mentoring programmes for under-represented groups.  It is important to identify any required initiatives or actions as early as possible in the recruitment process. 

Any positive action initiative needs to be clearly communicated and the purpose and need for such an initiative should be explained.

Job descriptions and person specifications

When developing a job description and person specification the members will need to consider how the content might impact on the talent pool attracted.  Points to consider include:

Ensure that the selection criteria in the person specification are directly related to the requirements of the position in the job description; making sure they are clearly understood and accepted.

Are specific specialities or requirements absolutely necessary for the post; or will they potentially limit the pool unnecessarily by focusing too narrowly on subfields which few specialise?

Establish how the selection criteria will be assessed at short listing and interview stage and how accurate records of decisions will be kept.

Do not ask for a certain number of years’ experience, be specific about what experience you are looking for and the breadth and depth of experience that is required.

All University job descriptions should include the following sentence "Post holders are required to familiarise themselves with the University’s Equality and Diversity Policies and to actively support these wherever possible."

Advertising a vacancy

Where and how you advertise a post can have an impact on the pool of candidates that apply. Panel members should consider the following points:

Include positive language in the advert and job description to indicate the School’s commitment to diversity.  Consider using a positive action statement.

Promote the University as an employer of choice to targeted underrepresented minority groups. In adverts and job descriptions Include details of flexible working options, childcare facilities or current projects that are underway that promote equality in career development and senior recruitment.

Internal recruitment can perpetuate the status quo i.e. lack of diversity at some levels. The recruiting manager should seriously consider advertising all posts externally so that posts are open to all, which demonstrates fairness and potentially offers a diverse pool of applicants to help get the best person for job.

Consider using the disability two ticks logo and or the Athena Swan logo on advertisements.

Identify and generate potential candidate pools

There are a number of ways in which panel members might identify and generate a potential candidate pool.

Find out what has happened to those underrepresented minorities who have previously been unsuccessful and consider inviting them to apply.

Use a personal approach to actively identify and invite potentially suitable internal and external candidates from underrepresented minority groups to apply.

Invite nominations from colleagues internally and externally and consider inviting those nominated to apply.

Actively participate in groups that encourage and promote diversity in academic positions and seek to identify potentially suitable candidates.

Encourage staff that are attending professional conferences or networks to be mindful of potentially promising candidates for present and future positions.  If a person of interest is noticed a CV could be requested and kept until an appropriate post becomes available.

The search committee

When a senior post becomes available it is advisable to establish a wider search committee, which will include members of the appointment panel and additional members of staff who can act in an advisory capacity. It is important that decision makers consider carefully the composition of the committee, as this can have a significant impact on the outcome of the search.

Committee advisors

In addition to those who will make the decision on appointment, other key stakeholders or specialists may add value to the search process, some of which may include:

  • Underrepresented minority colleagues, where there may be a gap on the appointment panel
  • Other colleagues or potentially students who are able to tap into formal or informal networks to help broaden the search.


Once the committee has been established, they should meet to consider the following points:

  • The use of positive action
  • How might the details of job description and person specification impact on the talent pool attracted?
  • How and where the post will be advertised?
  • How to identify and generate a diverse candidate pool
  • Explore good practice in other areas or institutions that have successfully attracted and appointed applicants from underrepresented minorities.

Identifying a diverse shortlist

When deciding who to short list the appointment panel should be mindful of potential unconscious biases when selecting candidates.

Appointment panel members should ensure their processes reduce the potential for any negative effects. Some considerations include:

Ensure all of those short listing assess and score each applicant individually against the selection criteria identified in the Person Specification.  This process should take place prior to meeting with the rest of the short listing panel.

The details in the application form and supporting documents, such as CV or personal statement, should be used to establish their score for each of the identified criteria.

Alternative Formats

In some cases applicants may request information in an alternative format.  It is not only considered good practice to communicate with applicants in their preferred format, it is a legal obligation of the University’s. The alternative document must have the same content and be of the same quality as the original documents.

If an applicant requests any information in an alternative format it’s important a note is made and all further correspondence is provided in that preferred format.

A few things to consider;

  • As soon as you receive a request for information in an alternative format the first thing to do is check what their preferred format is
  • This request should be prioritised to ensure you get the information to them in a reasonable time to ensure they are able to meet any deadlines


The appointment panel

It is recommended that where possible all panels should include:

  • members with different perspectives and expertise, and with a demonstrated commitment to diversity;
  • underrepresented minorities whenever possible;
  • A nominee from an independently associated area i.e. another faculty or school.

It is mandatory that panel members should have received training in equality and diversity issues. In addition mandatory requirements in relation to Recruitment and Selection training must be observed.

Plan the questions beforehand

You should have standard questions to ask all the candidates- the question should be linked to the criteria in the person specification.

Supplementary questions can be asked of candidates if required.

Model answers

This can help panellists to have the same understanding of what is being tested and level of competency expected

When the panel meet to review and reflect on the scores given, each applicant should be considered individually allowing sufficient time. Panel members should focus on the evidence provided and should not ask for ‘first thoughts’ or ‘gut instincts’. When we’re under time pressure, we are more likely to rely on ‘gut instincts’ which can lead to unconscious biases

The Chair of the meeting should ensure there is an open and relaxed environment where each panel member is given the same opportunity to express their views on each candidate.

Reasonable Adjustments

The University’s application form includes a section asking applicants if they require any reasonable adjustments. 

The Equality Act 2010 requires the University to make reasonable adjustments to their practices and premises to accommodate a disabled applicant, where some arrangement or physical feature of the premises causes a substantial disadvantage.

Reasonable adjustments need to be considered in the recruitment and selection process and also when a candidate is appointed, some examples may include:

  • Making adjustments to premises
  • Altering his/ her working hours
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment
  • Modifying instructions or reference manuals
  • Modifying procedures for testing or assessments
  • Providing a reader or interpreter

In many cases the funding for these adjustments can be accessed centrally or through schemes such as access to work. Information and advice can be sought from the University’s Staff Disability Advisor, placed in the Disability Advisory & Support Service



The Data Protection Act gives applicants right to request access to ‘their’ short-listing and interview notes. Giving objective feedback related to the person specification can stop applicants going down a more formal route.