Conduct a needs analysis before starting the recruitment process

If you are replacing an employee who has left, you will first need to decide whether the work being done in the position still needs to be done. You may wish to consider alternatives to appointing another employee, for example:

  • Transferring or promoting another staff member;
  • Changing the other employees’ jobs to incorporate the tasks from this position; or
  • Offering overtime to existing employees.

You will also need to decide whether the job is to be full time, part time, or casual.

Advertise the position

When you are writing the advertisement, you will need to be specific about the key selection criteria, the key skills and attributes.

You will also need to consider the effects of equal opportunity laws, and take care not to use language that may indicate discrimination on the basis of a protected attribute.

For example, don’t put an age-range in the advertisement, and don’t write “would suit mother with school-aged children”.

Interview suitable applicants

Decide how much time you will need for each interview and schedule interviews when you know you will have enough time to interview each candidate properly.

Ask questions that are directly relevant to the candidate’s ability to do the job – avoid asking questions that may be interpreted
as discriminatory, for example, asking whether a candidate has children breaches the State and Federal equal opportunity legislation laws.

Similarly, I strongly advise that you don’t ask if someone has ever made a workers’ compensation claim, how they plan to ensure their children are looked after, or when they plan to retire.

In order to ensure a fair process, ask each employee the same, or similar, questions.

Conduct selection tests if appropriate

You may wish to test a candidate’s written or computer skills, or you may wish to see the candidate perform a relevant task. The task needs to be directly relevant to the work the candidate may be asked to perform, to avoid any possibility that selection tests could discriminate unlawfully.

Sometimes employers wish to conduct pre-employment medical tests. This is certainly possible, but given the potential for an employee to claim discrimination on the basis of disability should he or she be denied a position because of a medical issue, it should be done carefully. It is best to seek professional advice if you wish to conduct pre-employment medicals.

Conduct reference and background checks

These are important, and should not be overlooked. Speaking to a former employer can tell you a lot about a candidate, particularly if you read between the lines.

Ask the candidate to give you the names and contact details of referees, ideally two or three. Bear in mind that some people have a policy of not giving references, and the candidate should only have given you the names of people willing to speak to you.

Contact the referees and ask them about aspects of the candidate’s likely performance in the role you want to fill, based on the previous employer’s experience with the employee.

You can check with previous employers (even those that are not named as referees) that the candidate actually worked for the employer for the stated time.

It is advisable to check any claimed qualifications with the issuing authority. You would be asking whether the certificate is genuine – it is amazing and rather shocking what can be done with a scanner and a colour printer these days!

You should also check that the candidate has the right to work in Australia. You can check an employee’s right to work at

Offer the position to the preferred candidate

The initial offer of employment can be verbal, but you should definitely follow it up with a written offer, including an explanation of the terms and conditions of employment. If the position is covered by an award or enterprise agreement, then the offer of employment must be consistent with the terms of that document.

Be aware that if you operate in the federal industrial relations system, you cannot make the offer of employment subject to the candidate making an Individual Flexibility Arrangement under an award or agreement.

This information is relevant for all private sector employers in Australia. However, terms and conditions of employment will vary between the WA State system, which covers sole traders and partnerships in WA, and the federal system, which covers all other private sector employers.


Emma Watt is an independent industrial relations consultant with almost 20 years’ experience in the timber industry.

Phone: 0411 708 073 or Email: