Recruitment Guidance

Planning image

Designing image

Sourcing image

Shortlisting image

People planning

Workforce or People Planning - Simple Steps

Workforce, or people planning, means identifying the strengths and skills you will need people to have, the work they will need to do, and when you will need them, to meet future objectives. Ideally you will be thinking and planning up to 5 years ahead.

Having a people plan, which is shared, understood and used by managers, will also help inform: succession planning for key roles; skills and leadership development; performance management; role design; vacancy management and talent attraction and selection.

As part of workforce planning, we can also begin to address workforce diversity deficits by considering the workforce needed; setting local targets for diversity which are linked to longer term strategic plans; and identifying opportunities to actively build diverse teams during attraction and selection, promotion and succession planning and development activities. Thus, people planning will, over time, help build teams of diverse, talented staff from different heritages and lifestyles, promoting inclusion of staff at all levels. You can learn more about this here [link to DbyD page].

The steps you can follow to plan your future workforce / people needs are summarised below.

Workforce planning stages

Workforce planning 1 July 17

Things you might want to look at:

  • What areas will grow?
  • What will slow / stop?
  • New areas of investment? (for example; research, teaching areas, partnerships, collaborations, etc)
  • What will need delivering differently?
  • Any external changes to respond to?
  • Are there any labour market shortages that need factoring?
  • Other?

Workforce planning 2 July 17

Things you might want to look at:

  • What are the critical roles for future (ideally put succession plans in place for these)?
  • What key skills / knowledge in can’t be lost?
    • If they sit with one person – what plan is needed to protect the department’s future vision (e.g. succession, development plans, etc)?
    • Who is likely to be leaving / retiring / moving roles in the future and what would be the impact?
    • Are there staff with potential to be developed? Plan?
    • What are the appropriate employment arrangements being used in all cases to sustain the department’s future?
  • What skills and contributions will be needed?
  • Will roles need redesigning, if so, where?
  • What does all this mean for management and leadership?

Workforce planning 3 July 17

Things you might consider:

  • What would the workforce look like if it reflected the diversity of students / wider community / other stakeholders? Are there diversity deficits or opportunities?

Consider the attributes of your existing team at each layer to assess your team strengths, diversity opportunities and gaps. Each individual team member will have different attributes at each layer. Taken collectively you can identify any gaps you wish to fill in future recruitment that will help you to diversify your team's overall skills, strengths and outlooks.

Power of Difference wheel

Workforce planning 4 July 17

Considering everything, what are the critical workforce issues you will address?

Things you might consider:

  • Develop a plan, with targets
  • Key actions to be taken; people responsible and timescales, e.g.:
    • All resourcing managers to review role definitions and person specifications to ensure that they take account of the skills needed / diversity gap (All).
    • Develop, with HR, a workshop to surface behaviours needed etc (HOD)
    • Establish new performance measures for department (Leadership team)
    • Create succession plan/development, build conversations into SRDS with staff, identify developmental needs (All Line Managers).
  • Communication, Support and Information for your managers
  • Mechanisms to regularly review progress / outcomes

How will you articulate and share the plan with your people managers so they understand the impact on future resourcing activity (e.g. role design; skills development; diversity of talent; attraction, recruitment and selection etc) and take necessary action?

Action points

The following should be taken into account when implementing workforce planning:

✓ It needs to start with the business plan, ‘future-focussed’, and sufficiently flexible to deal with constant change;
✓ It should be dynamic and reviewed regularly to ensure its still relevant;
✓ It’s not just about numbers. It is also about strengths, skills, potential and how these are deployed and organised. As such it links into development, succession planning , organisational and role design, and a number of other people management practices;
✓ The process should enable co-operation between managers and minimise any competition between departments for people resources;
✓ It brings together operational and the strategic planning processes. There’s a need to be able to think strategically whilst taking practical action;
✓ It’s as much art as science. There is no single formula to give a ‘correct’ workforce plan. However, with a wealth of data available, the art is about bringing this together and interpreting it in a meaningful way;
✓Your HR team will be able to help you support the people aspects of business planning.

Adapted from the CIPD, 2017

ATJ, criteria & recruitment plan

Recruitment plan and design

Planning the whole recruitment at an early stage will help inform decision making and could save you time in helping you find the best candidates for your vacancy. You will also improve your chances of creating a positive candidate experience, including for those who are unsuccessful. If candidates have a positive experience, they are more likely to recommend the University to others.

By the end of this stage you will have:

  • A recruitment plan in place and communicated to those involved, and added key dates in diaries.
  • Authorisations, including faculty approval of the business case, secured.
  • A clear picture of the main criteria of the person you need, which you will then use to attract and select the best candidate for your role.

Developing your plan:

  • What would be the ideal start date for your successful candidate (consider likely notice period)?
  • Factor in eRecruitment and faculty approvals, if not already in place
  • Working backwards from the ideal start date for your vacancy, set out how long selection will take, including advertising and sourcing periods
  • Factor in any requirements to advertise in line with UKVI requirements (see below)
  • If advertising externally, make sure you take into account deadlines for external advertisements
  • Identify your preferred closing date for applications
  • Identify other key dates and timings, e.g. shortlisting time, selection date(s), etc.
  • Establish who will be involved in shortlisting, add key dates to calendars early to avoid clashes
  • Establish who will be involved in interviews/selection, add key dates to calendars early to avoid clashes.
  • What package will be available (e.g. PhD students, start-up funds etc)?

ATJ and criteria

The ATJ is the University’s template for developing a person specification and job description.

By clearly identifying the criteria you will assess candidates on and including these in the person specification you will set the foundations for a fair and effective selection process.

Ideally you will be identifying the strengths, talents, skills and behaviours you need from an ideal candidate, not only to do the job, but also to bring difference and diversity to your team. This will help you to create a person specification that clearly describes the criteria you identified - i.e. the talents and strengths you will be assessing against during recruitment.


Why is the person specification so important?

✓ It will help you shape and create a selection process that will identify the best person for your role and the team.
✓ You will identify and then assess during selection the essential and desirable criteria.
✓ You reach a wider, more diverse but relevant talent pool.
✓ Candidates will self-select more accurately whether their skills, experience and strengths match well with the vacancy.
✓ Candidates will put an application forward that outlines how they match your criteria.
✓ It will help you give constructive feedback to candidates.
✓ It will help you make the best appointment possible.

Questions to help you create your person specification

The answers to these questions will help to develop your person specification:

  • What are your main selection criteria; the essential strengths, skills or experience needed? (Top 5)
  • How will you assess these criteria in recruitment? What questions will you ask? Consider the application shortlisting, interviewing/selection methods you will use.
  • What are the desirable strengths, skills or experience? Can any of the essential skills be traded for any of these?
  • What is your current team like? Size, profile, strengths and diversity? What are the gaps? What characteristics would enhance the existing profile?
  • Who are the key stakeholders/relationships with?
  • What skills will they need in interacting with the stakeholders (e.g. leadership, listening, negotiation skills etc)? If they are essential or desirable criteria have you included them above?
  • What is the unique selling point of this role, i.e. what's in it for the ideal candidate (e.g. new challenge, career development, chance to work on ground-breaking research, or working with a world-leading academic, etc)?

Job description

Summarise as bullet points the main duties and responsibilities involved in the role in order of importance. Template generic jobs descriptions which can be used and amended are available for many roles

UKVI and Eligibility to Work – Advertising Requirements (Resident labour market test)

If you feel that your vacancy will attract non-EEA candidates than we would need to advertise the post for 4 weeks and 2 days. The 2 days are to account for taking 48 hours to put the post on their site.

We are required by the UKVI (formerly UKBA) to advertise it for that period on our own site, jobs centre and to meet what is called the resident labour market test and this is required to sponsor any candidate under Tier 2 which makes them eligible to work in the UK.

More information on eligibility to work

Considerations for this stage:

  • If you are uncertain about the appropriate contract, refer to the Contractual Relationships toolkit.
  • Could this role be done on a part-time or flexible basis for strong candidates?
  • Are there likely to be suitable internal candidates? (e.g. staff with potential; coming to end of a FTC elsewhere in the University)
  • Will the role attract overseas candidates (see Eligibility to Work)?
  • Consider responsibilities of the role when grading the job.


eRecruitment is the University's staff recruitment system. It provides an on-line solution covering the end-to-end recruitment process, from the requirement to recruit to the appointment of the successful candidate.


Eligibility to work

Eligibility to work

All UK employers have a duty to prevent illegal migrants working in the UK. Sections 15–25 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (the `2006 Act´) set out the law on the prevention of illegal working.

Therefore, it is our statutory duty to check that a prospective employee has the correct eligibility to work in the UK in place BEFORE (i) the appointee commences employment or (ii) an extension to an existing appointment is issued. Failure to do so can lead to civil and criminal penalties for non-compliance.

Guidance on Eligibility to Work

Advert & sourcing

Advert and sourcing your talent

Did you know?

The top places in 2016 where our applicants first saw the posts were:

Attracting the best talent is a priority.

There are different ways of finding a diverse pool of talented people, and your HR team can help you identify the best methods to use for each vacancy.

This includes advertising, marketing and social media and other methods. The most expensive and more traditional options are no longer necessarily the most effective approaches. Many of the best candidates won’t necessarily be actively searching for jobs online or in newspapers, journals etc.

Using a combination of approaches will help you to cast the net far and wide for key roles.

Do speak to the HR team for support; they can advise and help you blend the most appropriate approaches to help you find the best candidates for each vacancy.

Ideally combining approaches that can reach a good pool of talent who are actively searching and people who may not be searching but could be tempted for the right opportunity.

Method options


  • University of Sheffield jobs site (automatic)
  • (automatic standard advert, but there are enhanced options which may assist with visibility)
  • LinkedIn
  • Other social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat)
  • Times Higher
  • Guardian
  • Journals
  • Specialist passive candidate searches via internet
  • Employee referrals
  • University of Sheffield email alert (automatic)
  • Other jobs boards
  • Specialist sites
  • ResearchGate
  • Researcher, Agency or Retained Headhunt
  • Other events (conferences, networks, etc)
  • Email from VP/HoD encouraging them to apply


If you might attract or appoint overseas candidates, there are rules relating to the resident labour market test.

This is required so that if successful, we can sponsor successful candidates under Tier 2 to ensure they are eligible to work in the UK.

This means advertising the post for 4 weeks and 2 days on, on our own jobs site and in the job centre.


  • Agree your sourcing methods.
  • Write your advert wording and check it here to ensure it's gender-neutral and attractive to a range of candidates. See our top tips below for writing adverts, and
  • Consider all suggested redeployees fully for the post before moving on to advertise more widely.
  • If you wish to pursue external advertising, note details within the Job Requisition field and note the external advertising deadlines.
  • Liaise with your customary HR contact for all advertising action - refer any contact from external organisations directly to them. All advertisement is to be done through Human Resources.
  • Ensure to factor time for editing your adverts in your recruitment planning, especially external adverts which will require mock-ups etc.

Sourcing approaches

Writing Adverts – Tops Tips

Writing a compelling advert is a key aspect of this stage. The advert plays a major role in attracting the attention of potential applicants and motivating them to find out more about the opportunity.

In a short space you will need to persuade candidates to apply, stand out from our competition, and grab the interest of the reader in the opportunity and the University.

Guidance for writing a great advert is also provided in the template, downloadable below.

✓ Make sure you use a job title that is recognisable and searchable on the web – if in doubt seek advice from HR.

✓ Good adverts should attract the right candidates and deter the wrong ones.

✓ Keep the advert short and concise and use short sentences (aim for c.15 words max) – you have on average 7-10 seconds to grab the interest of the reader.

✓ Highlight what makes this a great opportunity.

✓ Be clear about the key essential criteria for the vacancy upon which you will make selection decisions (top 3 minimum).

✓ Describe any specific benefits linked to the role (e.g. support to study a professional qualification, being part of a research team) – aim for top 3.

✓ Speak directly to the reader – use you and your, rather than third person (and be consistent). Its more engaging to the reader.

✓ Be clear and succinct but brief in setting out the main job purpose and key responsibilities / duties.

✓ Use bullets to help break up blocks of text, but don’t use it to write a long wishlist!

✓ Use Textio to create compelling copy for your job ads, and to help you avoid jargon and gender-biased wording.

Tips for writing an effective online advert

It’s estimated that 70% of all vacancies begin on Google, so it’s important to write an effective advert for online channels to get the best possible reach.

From the perspective of a search engine, the following three factors are the most important:

  • Relevant keywords in the job title
  • Frequency of keywords appearing in the main body
  • How recently the vacancy was uploaded to the internet

And don’t forget to use keywords that are most likely to be commonly searched by the candidates you are hoping to attract.

Make sure you also include the job title in the opening paragraph of your advert as well as this will help your vacancy appear higher in search results. Place the most interesting, relevant information in the opener. Some jobs boards and search engines show the first line or two of the main body of the advert in the search listings so don’t waste that space with generic University information – use it to grab the attention and then keep the interest of the reader.

More guidance on writing a great advert is available in the University advert template itself.

Promoting your vacancy

Tips on using social media

Social media has become extremely important in recruitment.

You can use social media to promote your department to potential candidates. We recommend that you use Facebook and Twitter to post a variety of information to your followers to promote the University as an employer and Sheffield as a city. This could include:

Information on any jobs which are live in your department.
Retweet any jobs posted on the @shefunijobs twitter account that are linked to your department.
Links to positive exposure in the media involving your department.
Interesting research findings from your department.
Images, videos and audio clips promoting your Department and/or Sheffield.

Tell candidates about Sheffield

People might not know much about Sheffield, but once they're here we know they'll love it.

Download a pocket guide to our friendly, hilly city and share some facts with candidates when you meet them to help sell them the city.

Download the pocket guide

10 facts about Sheffield

Email signatures

Have you thought of letting people know about vacancies you have through your email signatures.

Let the people you're talking to know you're recruiting.

Email signature suggestions

Our Sheffield Story

Our Sheffield Story is a fourteen-slide presentation designed to give audiences a snapshot of who we are and what we stand for, from information on our history and teaching to notable alumni and recent news headlines.

The purpose of these slides is to give you confidence that the messaging you are using in your presentations is current and consistent.

Download Our Sheffield Story



High quality selection means making appointments that will ensure our future excellence in teaching, research and operations. Exceptional new staff are key to a continually improving organisation.

Effective selection action for any appointment should include, at the minimum, an interview and a combination of exercises that assess the candidates against the criteria you identified as key to undertaking the role.

It is also important to include eligibility to work checks in the selection process planning to avoid illegal working. It is also important to establish when references are to be requested, (ie before the longlisting/shortlisting process of after the interview).

Key points for the using the key criteria in selection:

Assessing candidates against the key criteria identified in the person specification is a vital tool for a fair process, and will help to tackle unconscious bias in the selection process, allowing you to move past perceptions of a candidates character based on their appearance and manner and focus on their suitability for the job.

  • Once you have completed the application, plus any presentation, exercises, tests and interviews stages you should have measured candidates against all criteria.
  • Using a scoring system consistently to measure candidates against the criteria will help you reach fair decisions. It is also easily explainable with notes if a decision is challenged, preventing unreasonable accusations of discrimination from being levelled at the panel. You may choose in advance to apply a weighting to the most important essential criteria.
  • Remember the difference between Essential and Desirable items and assess candidates accordingly. Meeting Essential items is a must for the job, but Desirable items may not rule out candidates if they cannot meet them. Often promising candidates are turned down for not meeting a desirable person specification item despite showing the best potential. This is discussed further below.

Unconscious Bias and Debiasing Selection

Unconscious bias affects everyone, no matter how progressive we think we are. This is why it is called unconscious bias, because even if your conscious mind has a series of progressive beliefs, your unconscious mind may not. Unconscious bias leads you to make judgements about people based on their appearance and key characteristics. Tackling this is about recognising your inbuilt prejudices and challenging them. It is also about challenging those on the same panel as you if they are inclined to make a decision on the basis of unconscious (or conscious) bias.

  • Ensure anyone involved in selection activities, including longlisting/shortlisting or selection has undertaken Unconscious Bias training in MOLE within the last 12 months.
  • The Unconcious Bias webpages provide a wealth of information, including case studies relating to minimising bias in selection, and development and guidance.
  • If an external search agent is undertaking the longlisting stage for you, ensure you are reassured about their own unconscious bias awareness training.

Equality and diversity in selection

Candidate Experience

We want all candidates, whether successful or not, to be positive advocates for the University. Selection is one of many ways to show off what we do here, and we want people to walk away with a good perception of us. Selection is a two-way process and we want to ensure candidates are given the chance to decide whether they feel this organisation/opportunity would be a good fit for them. We also don't want internal candidates to become dissatisfied if unsuccessful. This can be achieved by making sure we are running a smooth and timely process, assessing fairly, giving meaningful and constructive feedback, and showing a genuine commitment to development.

Longlisting and Shortlisting

Both of these terms imply a process through which applications are assessed and a group of candidates you would like to invite to final assessment is compiled.

The key difference is that in the case of longlisting there will be the inclusion of a stage before final selection known as first selection.

Based on candidate performance in this, you will produce a shortlist of candidates you would like to see at final selection.

Alternatively, you may choose to go directly to shortlisting, in which you would assess all applications against the essential and desirable criteria identified in the person specification in order to create a shortlist for final selection. You would then inform any applicants who have not been successful in getting shortlisted.

With care and effort, you will find the high quality applicants you want for final selection. Scoring and assessment at the longlisting/shortlisting stage should continue to hold importance right up to the final selection of the successful candidate.

Deciding whether to create a longlist or shortlist

The first decision to make at this stage is whether your applicant pool warrants including an initial stage of assessment known as first assessment. This would require making a longlist, which would then be lessened into a shortlist after first assessment. When coming to this decision consider the following:

  • Senior appointments would generally benefit from a longlisting stage, even if the applicant pool is small. The investment that goes in to making a senior appointment warrants a thorough and careful process involving different stages.
  • Other posts may benefit, if there is a strong pool with a number of potentially suitable applicants, without a few standout applicants.

How to…

  • Set a longlisting / shortlisting timeline linked to the entire selection process to ensure selection does not become delayed from an early stage.
  • If you decide to create a longlist and include a first assessment stage be clear with candidates on the methods to be used and the purpose of this stage in the process. Provide candidates with clear guidance that they are being invited to participate in first, not final, assessment and when they will be informed of the outcome.
  • You will be assessing each application against the essential criteria, and possibly the desirable criteria, as identified in the person specification.
  • Be consistent in your approach and do not introduce new criteria that don’t feature on the Person Specification.
  • You could ask candidates to answer a series of questions designed to assess them against essential criteria, which you could invite them to respond to in writing (e.g. using a google form or survey monkey) by a specific date.
  • Alternatively you could undertake telephone or video screening (e.g. using Skype or Face time) at this stage to avoid the potential of inviting unsuitable candidates to final selection stage.
  • This screening should be a structured activity rather than an informal conversation. Ideally it would last 15-30 minutes. This would include for each longlisted candidate:
  • Asking a series of open, probing, situational and behavioural questions (same for all candidates)
  • Selling the job opportunity and the University
  • Close on motivation, commitment, next steps and any other key information.
  • Some academic appointments include a presentation 'to the department' can be built in as part of the process. See the section on Presentations advance preparation for more information on this.
  • Ensure that all comments/marks on each candidates performance are retained, so they can be used to inform feedback if requested. This is important in general but necessary for UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) requirements if you are considering non-EEA applicants.
  • Ensure all scores are kept and are incorporated into your overall decision making process up to final selection, particularly Person Specification items that are not assessed again after shortlisting/longlisting.

Red Flags

There are some things to be aware of and scan for during shortlisting. These could either be immediate ‘deal breakers’ or simply areas to clarify at selection/interview. They typically include:

  • Eligibility to Work in the UK
  • Other key criteria
  • Unexplained gaps in employment
  • Excessive job hopping (unless contracting / temping )
  • Lack of progress over long periods / significant drops in responsibility

Blind Shortlisting

  • Can be used to minimise the potential of bias from the shortlisting stage, by removing any personal attributes that will help shortlisters to identify candidates by their characteristics.
  • If you wish to include blind shortlisting, please seek advice from your HR team who can assist with this.

Informing unsuccessful applicants

  • Once you have decided who to take forward to the selection assessment stage, inform those applicants who have been unsuccessful.
  • Use e-recruitment to notify applicants who have not been selected to participate in selection activity promptly after you have chosen who to see at selection. This should provide some contact details should an applicant want further feedback
  • Keep notes from the application assessment /shortlisting process and ensure you are clear on the essential or desirable criteria they did not meet in their application as feedback to unsuccessful candidates.
  • For candidates who have been involved in selection activity (for example, interviews, presentations or other exercises, either during shortlisting or later stages) initial feedback should be given over the telephone where preferred, or if given in writing, should include an invitation to discuss further.

Selection Methods

Different roles require different skills and therefore the methods of assessment you use should vary accordingly. Whilst all selection processes will involve an interview and taking of references, the rest of the format can be altered to suit the needs of the post. Aside from interviews, we tend to use two other types of assessment in selection, which will be discussed in turn: presentations, and exercises and tests. This will be followed by sections highlighting key considerations in the assessment process. The section on pre-selection guidance for candidates runs in tandem with this page, helping you to give candidates informative guidance before the day of final assessment.


It is important to plan out your interviewing process in advance of the day. When doing so consider how the interview, or interviews, fit in with the rest of the selection process.

The aim of an interview is to:

  • review each candidate's ability to meet the criteria required for the role, particularly to examine elements of the Person Specification that have not yet been assessed.
  • explore further elements of the candidate's CV/application, in order to gain a full assessment of the individual.
  • enable the candidate to ask questions and get a good understanding of the role, the University and other factors.

Preparing for the Interview

  • Each interview should be structured to ensure fairness in assessment. In others words the same questions should be asked of each candidate.
  • Agree interview questions that are linked to the personal specification to ensure the candidate’s suitability for the post is measured.
  • Records of assessment should be completed by interviewers and these should be retained as outlined in ‘Storage of Recruitment Documentation. The outcome of the decisions should be recorded in e-recruitment.
  • Once the assessments have been completed, interviews should meet to discuss each candidate and how they assessed them against the criteria, and to reach a decision.

The interview is also an interactive event and all interviewers should feel confident that it is appropriate to probe candidates further in response to any of their answers if the panel need further clarification or detail on any point.

Categories of questions

Question category



'Criteria questions' (should form the majority of questions) Assessing the interviewee against the Essential/Desirable criteria in the Person Specification [In the About the Job] Used consistently for all interviewees to ensure that all have a fair opportunity to discuss the same key areas.
'Candidate-specific questions' To clarify grey areas in each candidate's application Usually agreed in advance. No specific limit to the number of these that can be asked and should only be used where there is genuine confusion or a lack of information about a candidate. There is a chance these will become apparent during an interview.
Probing questions To follow up on either of the above type of questions. These are called probing as they seek to address vague or incomplete answers to help build a fuller picture. These may crop up at any time and therefore would not be agreed in advance. It is best to ask probing questions immediately after the answer it corresponds to.

Establishing an Interview panel or selection team

  • Where possible it is best to try and make sure the interview panel members are overseeing the other forms of assessment, allowing assessors to see a complete picture of each candidate.
  • Under no circumstances should you have a one person interview panel, regardless of grade or responsibilities. This includes all research posts and temporary appointments.
  • Consider the diversity of your panel, particularly- but not limited to- gender diversity. A more diverse panel will lead to better decisions and better confrontation of unconscious bias. This helps tackle unconscious bias and shows us as an organisation committed to diversity.
  • Joint appointments with external bodies will have different selection panel compositions to those recommended here. The most obvious example is in Clinical roles where additional members from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and the relevant Royal College/ Professional Body will be required.

Skype interviews and videoconferencing

In some circumstances it can prove extremely difficult to get a desired candidate to Sheffield for either the presentation or the interview stage of the process. In such an instance, and if no alternative date can be found, it may be necessary to use Skype to conduct a stage of the process. Skype should only be used as a last resort and at least one of the stages (ideally interview) must be conducted face-to-face.

No offer of appointment can be made to a candidate if they have not visited the University in person at some stage of the selection process.

Information on videoconferencing options


Which roles might benefit from a presentation?

The basic premise for whether to have a presentation or not is whether the post will require the skills tested in a presentation. Posts that involve tasks such as delivering lectures, presenting in meetings or speaking at events may benefit from a presentation during selection.

Senior roles may include a presentation that explores a candidates vision for their department and/or team:

  • All academic posts. This would usually be in the longlisting or first selection stage. For more senior academic posts there may be a further presentation at final selection.
  • Research posts if presenting is required in the role.
  • Senior professional services and administrative posts.
  • Any posts that regularly require the staff member to use presentation skills.

Less likely to be appropriate:

If a role does not require presenting skills then it is fairer to not include a presentation, so you don't exclude candidates who may not be good at presenting but have all the skills required for the job:

  • Low and mid-grade administrative posts.
  • Technical posts that do not involve presentation skills.
  • Other posts that do not involve presentation skills.

Presentation content preparation

There are two clear types of presentations: academic and non-academic. The table below will explain what the content and format of each type might be.

Type Suggested content Format
Academic An initial academic presentation at the longlisting/first selection stage would normally be about a candidates research interests. They are designed to test both the quality of the research of each candidate and their ability to communicate it to a mixed audience who may not have in-depth knowledge of their field. For more senior academic roles it is common to ask candidates to present for a second time, usually on the topic of how they can improve the department they are joining. Academic presentations at first selection should be 'to the department'. We recommend that all academic staff and some postgraduate students (mainly those studying for PhDs) would be invited. Second presentations at final selection would be to the interview panel and follow a similar pattern to non-academic presentations. If researchers are asked to present it should be to the panel.
Non-academic The content of non-academic presentations is less rigid than academic presentations. Often the style of the presentation is just as important as the content. Suggested topics could include a vision for the future in the relevant department (for strategic and senior roles) or information on the University or a particular area of activity (for externally facing roles). You may wish to send a candidate a copy of strategies and other key documents that will support the development of a presentation. These presentations would normally be to the selection panel and set at an appropriate length. Presentations can be combined with the interview by taking place immediately before.

Presentation preparation essential actions:

  • Inform candidates of the topic and format of the presentation well in advance of the selection day. Provide candidates with any resources they will require and tell them the length of the presentation, as well as any expectation of delivery (such as with or without slides, if you wish to prescribe this choice).
  • Book the room used for the presentation and ensure all necessary equipment is in place such as computers and projectors. Try and book a room that is airy, with windows, a good temperature and if possible with a clock visible to the candidate. Print out presentation record sheets in advance (available from the right hand menu of this page).
  • For academic presentations ensure invites are sent out to staff and students. If possible confirm attendance to ensure a large crowd, and encourage the audience to prepare questions in advance, ideally with the presentation topic known to them before the presentations.

Once you have decided on the format and topic of presentations, shared this information with candidates, decided who should be in attendance and arranged facilities you are ready for the day.

Exercises and tests

Exercises and tests are increasingly being used in University selection processes, as they can assess a wide range of knowledge and skills. They are often useful for building a more accurate understanding of a candidate’s ability than an interview alone, as you are actually asking candidates to demonstrate a key skill. If you need any further guidance on developing an exercise or test then you can ask your Faculty Human Resources team for support. Once you have established your exercise or tests then you need to make sure that you organise the delivery of it. This includes ensuring the tests are developed and any papers or equipment needed are gathered, staff are allocated to support the exercise and rooms are booked and prepared.

Which roles would benefit from exercises and tests?

  • Appropriate tests can also be useful for 'sifting' at the shortlisting stage if you are anticipating a large number of applicants, particularly if they can be carried out remotely, saving applicants and the University time. These could be exercises that require a written response.
  • Technical roles would almost always benefit from a specific skills-based exercise/test, assessing if a candidate can carry out an essential task for their job.
  • Lower grade clerical and administrative roles, dependent on the specifics of the post.

Less likely to be appropriate:

  • Senior roles, although they may benefit from psychometric tests (such as a situational judgement test).

Exercise content preparation

The table below provides details of different types of tests and the possible roles they would be appropriate for. There are many opportunities to combine elements of different tests into one test, assessing multiple skills and required levels of experience at one time. When deciding whether to use a test ensure it is going to directly relate to at least one Essential Person Specification item and that performance will be assessed against the person specification item(s). In line with this, assessment should be fair to all candidates and easily measurable.

Type Description For which roles?
Written ability test This test would require asking a candidate to write a piece on a topic, a letter or briefing note, a press release, copy for marketing or social media posts including tweets. This test should be used if you want to solely test a candidates writing ability, or could be incorporated into most of the other tests below. This kind of test could also be carried out with a time limit, testing a candidates ability to work under pressure. Any role that requires candidates to have a strong English writing ability, such as admin roles and specifically those involving marketing or media work.
Summation exercise A summation exercise asks candidates to summarise a large or complex document such as a report or minutes from a meeting into a short and concise paper covering all the key points of the document. Any role that requires producing summaries of documents, including many administrative and clerical roles, especially those that require summarising minutes.
Error-check test An error check test presents candidates with a document and asks them to find and correct errors. This may be a numerical document such as a balance sheet, spreadsheet or forecasts, but could also be used to test ability to correct poor grammar and misspellings, for example by using a letter. For professional and administrative roles that require an ability to process numbers, particularly those that require financial knowledge, or where accuracy and attention to detail of written work is important.
Prioritisation exercise This type of exercise, often called an 'in-tray' exercise, examines a candidates ability to prioritise important tasks. It can also include a range of other tests. It tends to simulate a busy email inbox, asking candidates to respond to emails and carry out tasks related to them. It can be done with print outs and a notepad, but benefits from using a computer, which allows an assessor to send responses and new emails remotely. Busy administrative and clerical roles with a degree of self-management.
Telephone response exercise These simple tests assess a candidates manner on the phone, seeing their ability to deal with a query in a clear and courteous manner. Clerical and admin jobs that involve responding to telephone enquiries. Any customer facing role.
Job specific test Either a written or manual test that assesses a candidates ability to perform a specific and key part of their job, such as performing a maintenance task, cooking a dish or planning an event. These could cover a wide range of roles. Technical and service jobs would almost always benefit from this kind of exercise. Other jobs may depending on the detail of the job.
Group exercise These would often be used to assess how staff interact together, building a picture of candidates team-working ability. They usually require some form of problem solving or production of a report or presentation. This type of exercise could be useful when block recruiting multiple members of staff at the same time. It would generally be useful for project roles to see how candidates work in a team. They require a lot of effort develop, so consider the benefit versus the time required to develop a group exercise.
Numerical competency test A maths test or analysis test. This kind of test could be combined with a written test. Jobs that require candidates to work with numbers, finance or solve mathematical problems.
Psychometric test This type of test assesses a candidates behaviour and personality. Tests such as situational judgement tests assess how a candidate is likely to approach situations they will possibly encounter in their job. These are rarely used across the University and because of the complexity of developing and delivering them would almost certainly require external support. These would possibly be used in management roles and other senior positions requiring leadership. It can be costly to buy in a package so a discussion with your Faculty Human Resources team would be necessary.

Inviting to Interview/ Selection

Once you have decided which candidates you will be inviting to your selection day, you should prepare the information you wish to send them in advance and let them know what information we need from them.

Sending information in advance can help you see the best of the candidate, helping them prepare for the day and understand the process.

It will also improve the candidate experience, showcasing us as an organised place to work and allowing candidates to request meetings or tours that are important to them. You will also need to think about what you need from the candidate.

Information for candidates – Recommended Format

General Information

We would advise you to include the University welcome to candidates letter, as well as any additional information you would like to send about the department or the University, including current strategies, structures or research information. This will give candidates a bit more information about us, and will also provide them with an insight they can apply during selection.

Details about the day

As a minimum send a timetable of the selection day to candidates, detailing what activities will take place (both formal assessment and informal elements), with timings and the location clearly stated. Indicate to whom and where the candidate should report to upon arrival.

Giving candidates an idea of when the day will start and finish is important as it allows them to arrange their day to fit around their other commitments.

You may also choose to tell candidates who they will meet and who will assess them throughout the day, as well as opportunities for candidates to input into the day (see below).

If the day includes presentations then candidates should be made aware of the topic of this well in advance.

Details of assessment

You may wish to tell candidates about certain elements of the assessment. This could include giving them an idea of how many questions they will answer, what types of questions will come up and what skills you will be assessing in any tests. You should carefully consider what will enable candidates to showcase themselves at their best, whilst ensuring you are not lessening the challenge of the assessments.

As a minimum candidates should be told of any advanced preparation that is necessary, what equipment is available (i.e. 'there will be a computer and projector for your presentation and you will only have a pen and paper for the exercise') and the composition of the audience for the presentation so they know how to pitch it (i.e. 'it will be a mixture of staff and PhD students'). Candidates must also be told whether each element is assessed or not (if there are non-assessed stages such as a lunch or a tour).

Opportunities for candidates to input into the day

Some candidates, particularly academics, may wish to arrange meetings with staff working in their field or see specific facilities or equipment they would use, this is a good time to ask candidates if they have any specific requests and is an excellent opportunity to sell the job and the department/University to candidates.

Other candidates may want a tour of specific places such as University owned accommodation or Goodwin Sports Centre depending on their needs or interests. Candidates may also want some time set aside to talk about a particular item such as local schools. For senior appointments setting aside time to talk about the logistics of relocating shows a high level of care available to the candidate. A dedicated relocation service, with detailed knowledge of Sheffield schools, housing etc can be provided at a small cost to the recruiting department. For more information about this service contact a member of your Faculty HR Team.

Details of expenses

Candidates need to be sent our expenses guidance for candidates factsheet as well as a claims form in advance of the meeting, so they are aware of what is and isn’t covered and how to claim.

More information

Confirmation of attendance and receipt of information

Ensure that candidates send a confirmation of attendance to you. If this is not asked for and a candidate does not attend then valuable time is wasted and an opportunity to see another applicant is lost. You should also ask candidates to confirm that they have understood all of the details of the day and clarify any questions if asked, provided this does not give one candidate an advantage over others.

Information of the need for reasonable adjustments or additional assistance

Ask all candidates to confirm if they require any additional assistance or adjustments to the programme to undertake the selection process. See below for dealing with requests.

Proof of eligibility to work in the UK

Ask all candidates to provide evidence of their eligibility to work in the UK and make arrangements to check documents / take copies on the day.

Dealing with Reasonable Adjustment Requests for any disabled candidates

If a candidate states that they require adjustments then you may need to provide them with further details of the assessment day to help them decide if they need adjustments (particularly the accessibility of venues and format of exercises- i.e. written or typed).

Treat any requests for reasonable adjustments as a matter of priority. It is important that you do not ask a candidate what their disability is if you have a request for reasonable adjustments, rather what adjustments they require. If you need further advice, do speak to your HR contact.

Making sure that reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates have been agreed well in advance is vital in ensuring a smooth day for everyone involved. Remember to enact these adjustments as agreed on the day without the need to be prompted, and account for any knock-on effect on timings.

Some adjustments can be easily resolved, such as ensuring a wheelchair- accessible venue is chosen or computer voice recognition software is enabled for an exercise. Other adjustments may seem like a complex task. It is best to get in touch with your Faculty HR team for support in providing them if you are at all unsure about the correct course of action.

Build in opportunities for candidates to ask questions of you

Selection is a two-way process. Candidates will often be keen to find out information about the University and/or department they are applying to work in. This can be especially true for academic posts, where candidates may wish to talk to other academics working in their research area. Providing time for and assisting with establishing these meetings will give candidates a positive impression of the University.

Decision Making

After the final assessment, panel members should discuss their notes and compare scores.

Scoring and the decision

For almost all jobs at the university a scoring system can be used to assess candidates. The only possible exception to this is for joint appointments (particularly those in Medicine, Dentistry and Health) and in certain senior appointments, where ability to lead and inspire large staff groups may be harder to score. For other appointments every element of selection should correspond to the Person Specification and should therefore be scored accordingly.

Key points for scoring and the final decision:

  • Scoring should be carried out based on the candidates performance against each Person Specification criteria.
  • Decide at the outset how many 'marks' you would like to allocate against each Person Specification criteria. Some Essential criteria, such as educational level, may not warrant a mark as such as they are a minimum standard, although you may wish to allocate some extra marks for performance above what is required (if it is relevant to the job).
  • How you allocate marks is up to you (so long as it remains consistent throughout), and the weighting you give items should be allocated according to the requirements of the job. For example if a job extensively requires one particular ability such as knowledge of processing financial transactions then you may wish to give this a greater weighting than personal attributes.
  • An example scale for scoring could be:
Person specification item doesn't meet criteria at all meets criteria partially meets criteria in full

exceeds criteria

Standard item 0pts 1pt 2pts 3pts
'key' item 0pts  2pts 4pts 6pts

The scores in this scale could be adapted to need and the categories could be changed for desirable criteria to represent the role of potential as well as experience. Whatever scoring system you choose you should record your method alongside the notes taken about candidates, to ensure the process is transparent.

  • Remember that marks should not just correspond to the interview. They should cover all stages of assessment including shortlisting. If aspects of a particular item are assessed in two separate interview questions, for example, then ensure you are dividing up the marks allocated to this item between both responses.
  • Incorporate potential into scoring. If a candidate does not have a desirable skill but demonstrates they have the potential to gain it then they can still be given a high mark.
  • Your final decision should be to appoint the candidate who has scored highest overall. If you have created an accurate Person Specification and scored properly then you will never feel that the best candidate is not the one with the top marks.
  • You should also agree a second and possibly third choice candidate (so long as they are considered appointable) in case your preferred candidate does not accept the position.

Decisions must be fair, objective and transparent. Decisions must not be made on the basis of:

  • Snap judgements
  • Prejudice
  • Stereotyping and presumption
  • Halo or horns effects
  • Mirroring (selecting candidates "in their own image")
  • Personalities rather than abilities
  • Over-reliance on a single element in the selection process
  • Information provided informally
  • If you have candidates that tie or score extremely closely, then you will have to make a judgement. Please ensure that you are aware of the possible role of unconscious bias in this decision and consider the matter in an objective manner. Make sure time is taken to make the decision. Performance in all elements of the process should be reviewed. Where a panel is tied and agreement can't be reached, the Chair of the panel has the deciding vote, though panels should always aim for a consensus decision.
  • If nobody is appointable then it is better to reopen the recruitment process than to employ someone who is not up to the requisite standard. Hiring the wrong person could create problems in the long run, so it is better to spend a bit more time find the right person.
  • Agree constructive feedback for unsuccessful candidates based on their performance against the Person Specification. See the section on feedback for unsuccessful candidates for more information on this.
  • Once you have decided who you want to appoint, keep all your scoring notes from the entire process. This is to ensure that the fair process through which a decision is made can be demonstrated if the outcome of your deliberations is challenged. See the section on retention and disposal of documentation in recruitment and selection for more information. The outcome of the selection process should be recorded in e-Recruitment. This information will be held on the system.
Appointment & induction

Making the Offer

Following the assessment process, the interview/selection panel may approach the successful candidate and inform them that the panel will be recommending them for appointment to the role (subject to the completion of any pre-employment checks)

Selection panels do not have the authority to make an offer of appointment. Only the Director of Human Resources has the authority to appoint individuals to University posts and confirm their salaries, including externally funded posts. When communicating with your preferred candidate, make clear to them that your recommendation is subject to formal confirmation by Human Resources.

Suggested format for discussion of the offer:

  • Seek feedback on what the candidate thought about the role / opportunity.
  • Explore whether they would accept an offer of appointment.
  • If there are any potential barriers, explore these – eg starting salary, family also needs to relocate, etc. (nb you may wish to offer other benefits such as relocation support).
  • Give feedback on the panel’s reason for wishing to appoint.
  • When offering the job to the candidate consider pay and additional benefits. Your aim should always to be to pay at the lower end of the advertised spine, but you may wish to offer a greater amount due to the candidate's experience or potential. Do not exceed the higher end of the advertised spine unless in exceptional circumstances after agreement from your Faculty Human Resources team.
  • Check candidate's initial response, and clarify next steps.

Download the pre-RTA checklist

Starting Salary

All salary decisions should be fair, transparent and mindful of equal pay legislation.

  • When agreeing a starting salary, consider: salary range approved and advertised for the post*, candidate’s current salary, candidate’s job-related experience, internal consistency; the salary levels of colleagues performing roles of similar responsibility, particularly with relation to Equal Pay legislation, potential salary progression and the offerings of the total rewards package.
  • Offers should normally be made at the starting point of the approved scale. Any request beyond this must be supported by an objective, transparent case which justifies the request.
  • Panels should not offer a firm salary or contract at this stage. It must be made clear to candidates that any salary suggested to them must be ratified by HR.

* The recommended salary level must be within the range of funding confirmed for the required period provided by the Department of Finance, as specified within e-Recruitment prior to advertisement.

Academic probation

The University operates a formal probation system of up to 3 years for all open-ended appointments to Clinical and non-Clinical Lecturers. Probation does not apply to direct appointments into senior posts.

The panel must agree a probationary period reflecting the appointee’s experience and a probationary advisor. Ideally this should be the line manager of the appointee or someone in a position to assess the individual's progress and development on an ongoing basis.

Academic Probation Toolkit

Pre-employment Checks

All appointments at the University are subject to candidates passing all relevant pre-employment checks.

All University posts will be subject to:

  • Satisfactory references
  • Eligibility to Work check
  • Other additional checks (if required)

Further information

Work Health Assessments

All new employees undertake a Health Assessment Questionnaire. The questionnaire is to assess the individual’s fitness for the job role which they have been offered and ensures appropriate health advice and guidance can be provided.

Detailed guidance

Relocation support for new staff, partners and families

The University of Sheffield recognises the importance of supporting its new staff by making the move to take up a position at the University as straightforward as possible. As well as our generous relocation packages to assist with removal costs and practicalities (see Guidance on reimbursement of costs of relocation), we recognise that changing work location is both a practical matter and also a major life change, often affecting partners and families too.


Changing work location and relocating homes is both a practical matter and also a major life change, often affecting partners and families too so it is important to be able to offer information to candidates about local services.


Candidates may request information about accommodation in Sheffield. The Accommodation Services team is there to help new staff find the right accommodation to meet their needs. They can be contacted at or on 0114 222 4488 (select option 2).

The University also keeps up to date lists to help staff find private rental properties locally; please see Smart Move Sheffield. (Requires a password therefore only of use once the candidates have been enrolled as staff).

Schools and Nurseries

Candidates with children may request information about transferring their children to Sheffield. Information regarding this is available on the city council website. There is also a list of nurseries and childcare providers on the council website.

Relocate to Sheffield

For eligible staff, a personalised service can be offered.

Further information

Maintaining Momentum with your selected candidate

Once the interview process has concluded and candidates have been informed that they are being recommended for employment it is extremely important to ensure that momentum in the process is not lost.

Candidates often need some time to consider the offer; maintaining contact demonstrates that we are keen to conclude the offer and ensures that we provide any additional support or information they may require to confirm their decision. They may wish to talk to someone or be sent more information on the department, the University, the city or aspects of the role itself. Departments should liaise regularly with candidates to ensure the relationship with them stays warm and continues to develop positively.

Ensure your HR contact is kept up to date at all times and that you communicate to them the specifics of the offer agreed at the negotiation stage.

Informing and giving feedback to unsuccessful candidates

Offering feedback to unsuccessful candidates is an essential part of selection. It is important that applicants feel respected and their efforts recognised. We also want to encourage strong unsuccessful candidates to re-apply and improve their performances with the feedback they receive.

Not all candidates will contact you for feedback but you should encourage it as an important part of learning and development.

Key points for giving feedback

  • You can provide the initial response in two ways, either via a phone call, where you offer feedback either immediately or once the news has sunk in, or through an email that explains to the candidate that they haven't been successful and offers a telephone call for further feedback.
  • Keep extensive notes during the selection process, this will help you when it comes to giving feedback.
  • Feedback, including the key reasons for the decision should be agreed by all interviewers before the outcome is communicated, so that panel members are not giving out conflicting feedback. This is especially pertinent for internal candidates.
  • Feedback, like assessment more generally, must be directly linked to a candidate’s performance against the Person Specification and not on any judgements of character.
  • Feedback should be constructive. Being truthful with candidates about where they weren't so good is much more useful for them in the long run than avoiding faults and talking about the strength of the field.
  • Where possible, try and give feedback on all parts of the selection process and not just the interview. Following a chronological order will ensure that all areas of selection are addressed.

Why is it important?

Giving good feedback to unsuccessful candidates is an essential part of selection. There are different ways to achieve this and recruiting managers will often offer feedback in different ways. As an organisation with lots of internal and repeat applicants it is vital that we support unsuccessful candidates well, as they are invested into our organisation and its future. We want to encourage strong unsuccessful candidates to re-apply and improve their performances with the feedback they receive.

Deciding how to give feedback

When you decide who you would like to recommend for appointment and that candidate has accepted subject to final checks, you should start the process of providing feedback to unsuccessful candidates. You can provide the initial response in two ways, either via a phone call, where you offer feedback either immediately or once the news has sunk in, or through an email that explains to the candidate that they haven't been successful and offers a telephone call for further feedback. Not all candidates will contact you for feedback but you should encourage it as an important part of learning and development. The following key points should be considered before giving feedback.

Key points for feedback

  • Keeping clear notes during the selection process will help you when it comes to giving feedback.
  • Feedback should be agreed by all panel members before the outcome is communicated and all panel members must remember the key reasons for the decision, so that panel members are not giving out conflicting feedback. This is especially pertinent for internal candidates.
  • It is best to give feedback over the phone.
  • Feedback, like assessment more generally, must be directly linked to a candidate's performance against the criteria outlined in the Person Specification and not on any judgements of character.
  • Feedback should be constructive. Being truthful with candidates about where they weren't so good is much more useful for them in the long run than avoiding faults and talking about the strength of the field.
  • Where possible, try and give feedback on all parts of the selection process and not just the interview. Following a chronological order will ensure that all areas of selection are addressed.

International Workers

Retaining and Disposal of Recruitment Documents


Supporting a colleague fully as they commences a new role with the University of Sheffield is a key element of the recruitment process. Investing in the development and delivery of a relevant and informative induction programme is an extremely positive starting point for the working relationship.

Make sure staff know what their role is in your new starter's induction process.

Staff induction within each department is normally co-ordinated by the Recruiter in conjunction with the line manager/HoD. It’s important to plan an individual programme to suit the needs of the appointee and the post in question. A manager’s induction toolkit is available online with guidance about what needs to be included in the programme as well as useful templates for welcome letters etc. The following should be included in the programme as a minimum starting point:

  •  Early Induction: keep in touch with the appointee in the period between the appointment and start date-ensure the appointee is aware of the Induction Portal (see below).
  • Provide a departmental Welcome and Induction Pack-including a checklist of actions. (Consider how you can make your appointee feel welcome, which may include a welcome message from their manager or the Head of Department, links to departmental newsletters and twitter feeds, as well as invitations to socialising activities.)
  • Introductions - introduce key members of staff, particularly immediate work colleagues.
  • Arrange for a more experienced staff member to act as a mentor or guide.
  • If an appointee with a disability requires any additional support or adjustments to facilitate her/him within the workplace, ensure that these are fully in place and fit for purpose during the induction period.
  • Ensure that workspace and equipment are ready.
  • Encourage all new staff to attend the Welcome to the University event.
  • SRDS - all new starters should be made aware of this scheme and have an initial SRDS meeting upon starting to discuss and set objectives.
  • Certain academic appointments are subject to a probation period. Ensure the induction programme is devised to support this.
  • For international appointees, please ensure that the appointee is aware of the HR webpages for new international staff.
  • Existing staff, moving to new jobs within their current department or elsewhere within the University, should also receive an induction programme tailored to suit their needs.
  • Ensure that the planned induction programme is adhered to and completed during the initial period following appointment in order to maximise its benefits.

The Induction Portal

The portal brings together information about the University and the city of Sheffield for new staff along with key information and activities by timescale to provide a clear induction path for them to follow. New starters will automatically be sent a welcome email including a link and password to the portal three months before their start date (or later if applicable), so all that is required of the recruiting coordinator is to continue to focus on providing an excellent local departmental/faculty induction programme for your new staff.

Staff Induction Portal

Roles & responsibilities

Recruitment roles

Recruitment is one of the most important tasks the University undertakes. Recruiting high-quality staff is essential to ensuring we remain a highly competitive and diverse university.

Overview of roles

List of trained recruiters by department

List of trained Chairs by faculty

The Power of Difference: Recruitment at Sheffield

We are making changes in how we attract, recruit and select to help us create greater diversity in our teams.

Find out more here

If you are interested in taking part in these early trials that will help shape the University's approach to creating diverse teams, please do speak to your HR Manager.