Receiving applications through to interview
- Application forms
- Confidentiality of applications received
- Letter on receipt
- Setting times and places for the interview
- Deciding what type of interview is best
- Deciding the information you need
- Understanding the information that the applicant may need
- Assessment tasks
- Contacting referees
- Checking immigration status
- Employment agreements
Application forms can be used in three ways:
- your job advertisement can ask people to apply for one, which can often be provided along with the job description and personal profile.
- you can send an application form to applicants that you have short-listed before you make the final selection of applicants to interview.
- you can provide an application form either when you arrange the interview or when people arrive for the interview.
While providing and dealing with an application form can add to the time involved, it does have a number of advantages:
- It provides you with the information you require to help with your selection.
- It provides an opportunity for the applicant to indicate how and where they wish to be contacted.
- If certain prerequisites are important, such as university or polytechnic grades, or trade qualifications, the form can expressly request the inclusion of this information. if this information is important, it is well worth requesting that the applicant provides certified photocopies of original transcripts from the institution in question.
- Other important questions can be included in the application form, such as asking what responsibilities an applicant had in previous jobs, and how they are relevant to the job you are trying to fill.
- It can be used to obtain details of applicants’ residency status and, where appropriate, the nature of work visas held.
- The form can include a declaration for applicants to sign, acknowledging that they have provided all information relevant to the job and have not withheld any significant information. (In addition, it is sensible to draw attention to this with each applicant you interview, so that they understand the importance of the declaration. The presence of the declaration and the fact you have highlighted its importance can be relevant if any dispute about non-disclosure or misrepresentation arises later on).
- The form can include a section for the applicant to sign to authorise you to contact referees and, where it is a requirement of the job, to conduct a security check to ascertain whether the applicant has criminal convictions.
- The form can explain key features of the hiring process being followed, for example, that the terms of any offer of employment will be those recorded in the written job offer. This can help to avoid problems with applicants later stating that binding verbal assurances were given during the hiring process.
When using an application form, it is important that the information sought and the language skills required are at a literacy level appropriate to the position to be filled.
Confidentiality of applications received
Make arrangements to protect the security and privacy of applicants, as they can be placed in a very difficult position if confidentiality is not maintained. Disclosing details of an application without consent, even by accident, is likely to breach the privacy Act and may ruin the relationship with a potential employee.
Be careful to maintain this confidentiality. It is usually inappropriate to leave a message with a manager or workmate at an applicant’s current workplace. If you have decided to use an application form, it can be useful to ask how and when the applicants prefer to be contacted.
There are also legal requirements regarding the handling of material provided by applicants that is covered in the section on dealing with unsuccessful applicants. More detailed information is available on the Privacy Commissioner’s website: www.privacy.org.nz.
Letter on receipt
It is good practice to write confidentially to applicants confirming receipt of their application and advising what the next step in the process will be (for example, short-listing those to be interviewed).
Communicating clearly with applicants in writing avoids the risk of later misunderstandings.
Setting times and places for the interview
Conducting interviews can be both time consuming and costly. In setting up the interview, it is important to consider:
- how many interviews you should undertake
- the best time for you and the applicant (for example, if the job is likely to be appealing as an after-school job, you need to either hold interviews after school hours, at a time that also gives the applicant enough time to travel from school, or hold the interviews at the weekend)
- the length of time you need to interview the applicant and the break you might need between interviews
- respect for privacy and confidentiality, for example, you may need to schedule interviews in a way that ensures applicants do not learn each other’s identity
- providing enough notice to enable the applicant to arrange coverage for their existing job or childcare, if necessary
- travelling times, if you are recruiting from outside your local area
- selecting a place where you won’t be interrupted and both you and the applicant can talk comfortably.
When setting up interviews with applicants, be careful to maintain their privacy and follow any requests regarding contact that they have included in their application.
Also make clear to the interviewee any information, proof of experience or preparatory work that will be required at the interview, for example, a tradesperson’s certification or designer’s work portfolio.
Deciding what type of interview is best
It is important to apply consistent criteria for determining who and how you interview.
You first need to identify the best interview method to test against the criteria you established for the job.
Approaches may include:
- a one-on-one discussion
- an interview panel
- a written project or examination
- a workshop environment
- skills and/or attribute testing
- a mix of the above.
The approach you take should be applied uniformly to all applicants you interview to ensure consistency, and applicants should be advised of this when you set up the interview.
Deciding the information you need
To make sure that the key information you require is not overlooked in respect of any applicant, it is wise to write out in advance the questions that each applicant will be asked.
Ensure that questions are open ended. You will not gain a feel for the applicant if most questions can be answered “yes” or “No”, and they won’t have an opportunity to show their interest or knowledge.
Prepare in advance so you can follow the same procedure whether the interview is formal or more spontaneous, such as when a person rings up asking for work.
Understanding the information that the applicant may need
When you appoint someone to the job, your comments at the interview may be relied upon at a later time, so be clear and concise.
To avoid making unintended commitments or assurances, it is important to have developed answers on:
- the process to be used after the interview
- the likely range of employment conditions.
Think carefully before responding to any special requirements an applicant may raise, such as car parking needs or variations in normal hours. Often being flexible can allow you a greater choice of applicant.
If you reply in the negative, you should explain your reasons, particularly if the rejection could be seen as discrimination against a particular disadvantaged group.
If you make a positive commitment to meet the request and the applicant is successful, then reflect those arrangements accurately in the draft employment agreement when you offer the applicant the job.
It is sometimes appropriate to ask job applicants to perform tasks in order to assess whether they are suitable for a job. This can be helpful where the requirements of a job differ from the applicant’s previous work experience, or to help you to make comparisons between the skills of different applicants. If assessment tasks are to be used, they should be of limited duration and be a genuine assessment of the applicant’s capabilities to perform the key tasks of the job. You should let applicants know in advance the type of assessment that you will ask them to undertake.
People entitled to work in New Zealand are those who:
- are New Zealand or Australian citizens (including people born in the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau), or
- have a New Zealand residence visa, or
- have a New Zealand work visa or a condition on their New Zealand temporary visa showing they are allowed to work here.
Work visa conditions should be checked. Some visas allow only certain types of work, or work for specified employers. An employee is not entitled to work here just because they have a tax number.
The Department’s VisaView tool allows employers to confirm an employees’ work entitlement. See www.immigration.govt.nz/visaview
You can contact the Department of Labour’s immigration service on 0508 55 88 55 (outside Auckland) or 914 4100 (from the Auckland area) for more details, or visit www.immigration.govt.nz.
It is often crucial to follow up referees. Such inquiries can provide invaluable information and can also be used to test your assessment of an applicant.
The time for contacting referees can be:
- when finalising a short list
- when considering the performance of applicants at the interview
- when a preferred applicant has been selected, but before any offer is made.
These checks should also be consistently applied in light of the decision you have made on checking references. The following suggestions can help to avoid common pitfalls:
- Consider how many applicants’ references you need to check. For example, you may decide that reference checks are needed only for short-listed applicants.
- Under the Privacy Act, it is advisable to specifically obtain the applicant’s consent, preferably in writing, to your obtaining information from referees or other sources, and the uses to which the information will be put. A straightforward way to obtain this consent is to include it in an application form that each applicant can fill out and sign.
- Other requirements of the Privacy Act that also need to be complied with include ensuring that the collection of the information does not intrude unreasonably on the applicant’s personal affairs.
- Care needs to be taken with any pre-employment health screening. For instance, the collection of this information for the purposes of discriminating against applicants with a disability, where the relevant exception in the Human rights Act does not apply, would be unlawful. Seeking information that is not relevant to the proper and safe performance of a job could also be in breach of the Privacy Act.
When obtaining a reference, ask yourself what information is important and relevant. prepare in advance for each referee and, as with interviews, ask concise but open-ended questions that require the referee to exercise judgement, rather than say “yes” or “No”.
You may also wish to consider the procedures and timescales of industry registration bodies, where certification or registration is a requirement of the position, and whether this is a job where checking prior convictions is appropriate.
Before the interview, it is worthwhile considering the employment agreement that you would be willing to offer the applicant if you end up making them an offer of employment.
Three situations can arise:
- There is a collective agreement in your workplace covering the job you are offering, and the person you hire is a member of the union that negotiated the collective agreement with you.
- There is a collective agreement in the workplace covering the job you are offering, and the person you hire is not a member of the union.
- employees in the position advertised or all positions in your workplace are employed on individual employment agreements.
If the first situation applies, the base agreement that you offer the employee is clear – they must be offered the conditions in the collective agreement.
If the second situation applies, the employee must receive the conditions in the collective agreement for the first 30 days of employment. If, during or at the end of the 30 days, they join the union, they become covered by that agreement. If they choose not to join the union, you can negotiate a new individual employment agreement with them, varying the terms and conditions as agreed.
In either circumstance, you can both agree to additional conditions that are not inconsistent with the collective agreement, such as specific school holiday arrangements, or agreed start or finishing times that meet special transport or childcare needs.
If there isn’t a collective agreement that covers the position, you will need to consider the total wages and conditions that you believe are appropriate for the job.
There are minimum legal rights that apply, which neither you nor your employee can agree to reduce.
Once you have met those requirements, the range of payment or conditions you are willing to offer is likely to be driven by:
- the profitability of your business
- the provisions other similar employers are offering
- the special circumstances in your region or area
- the availability of the skills in the industry
- your policy on retention and development of employees.
At the job interview, you may be asked about simple issues (the hourly rate) or more complex issues (your willingness to provide leave for the employee to undertake further training).
The Department of Labour’s Employment Agreement Builder can help you consider the broad range and cost of an individual employment agreement before the interview, and can help you develop an agreement that forms the basis of your offer of employment to the successful applicant.
Whatever arrangement applies in your workplace, your offer of employment must be made in good faith.
You must give the employee the opportunity to seek advice, and consider and reply to your offer, and you must consider and reply to any response they may make to the offer.