How to guide

How does an employer select the right employee?

STEP 1: Shortlisting of job applicants based on the documentation submitted


  • This is the process whereby the employer considers all applications based on the documentation submitted, and places those who best meet the criteria on a shortlist.
  • The shortlist selection should be based on objective factors such as the CV and relevant documents, relative to the job description. Short listing must not be based on assumptions, second hand knowledge, hearsay or potentially discriminatory criteria.
  • To encourage employment of historically excluded individuals, when shortlisting, the employer could include consideration of applicants from designated groups.


STEP 2: Shortlisting of job applicants based on additional screening (optional)


  • Additional screening can be used where a large number of applicants make the shortlist following screening based on the documentation.
  • Additional screening could take the form of a telephonic conversation, request for additional information or reference checking, for example.
  • Additional screening should apply to all shortlisted applicants and care should be taken to ensure that it is not directly or indirectly discriminatory.


STEP 3: Interviewing short listed applicants


  • An interview is a selection tool that enables the employer to meet directly with a job applicant and assess the individual’s suitability for the job. With new technology, this interview could be in person, or even over video conferencing or Skype, provided that the technology is not prohibitive.
  • Interviewers should be proficient in interviewing skills; the evaluation mechanism to be used; employment equity and affirmative action.
  • Employers should use a standard interview questionnaire and an approach that is relevant to the particular job. The interview questions should be prepared in advance based on the job description. Similar questions should be asked of each applicant.
  • The questions asked must be based on the job description and competency specifications i.e. qualifications, requirements, skills, knowledge, experience and attributes.
  • The interviewer must take care not to ask any questions that may be discriminatory, and should be careful not to unfairly discriminate against job applicants with disabilities.

Note: The employer is required to make reasonable accommodation for the needs of applicants with disabilities.

STEP 4: Reference checks


  • Reference checking is strongly recommended.
  • The purpose of a reference check is to verify information provided by an applicant.
  • Reference checks should not unfairly discriminate, and the process of reference checking must be conducted equitably in relation to all applicants.
  • Applicants must give written permission for reference checks to be undertaken and may also be requested to provide details of referees.


Testing as part of the selection process


Medical testing is prohibited unless legislation permits or requires testing, or it is justifiable in the light of medical facts, employment conditions, social policy, the fair distribution of employment benefits or the inherent requirements of a job. Some jobs may require medical or functional testing. Such testing may also be a condition for the employment of persons with, for example, low immune systems and who may be vulnerable to exposure to illnesses such as tuberculosis in certain work settings, or for a person with a particular disability in order to determine if the individual is capable of performing the job.


HIV testing is prohibited unless such testing is determined to be justifiable by the Labour Court.

Psychometric or psychological testing is prohibited unless the test or assessment being used has been scientifically shown to be valid and reliable; can be applied fairly to all employees; is not biased against any employee or group; and has been certified by the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

How to ensure that selection and recruitment practices are non-discriminatory

Numeracy and literacy testing, while not directly referred to in the Employment Equity Act, may only be done if the tests are fair, valid, applied to all applicants and directly relevant to the requirements of the job. These should be used to identify candidates with potential and persons who are suitably qualified.


Credit checks, criminal record checks, lie detector tests and other similar tests and checks may only be administered if required by legislation or with the express agreement of the job applicant and may only be carried out if they are directly relevant to the requirements of the job. In some instances, qualification checks (basic and post school education and training) are permitted if the qualification is a requirement of the job.

How to decide if the applicant is suitably qualified?


As per the Employment Equity Act, a suitably qualified person has the necessary qualifications, skills, knowledge and experience to perform the critical or essential functions of the job, with reference to:

  • Formal qualifications;
  • Prior learning;
  • Relevant experience; or
  • Capacity to acquire, within a reasonable time, the ability to do the job.


The employer must review all the factors and determine whether that person has the ability to do the job in terms of any one of, or any combination of those factors. An employer may not unfairly discriminate against a person solely on the grounds of that person’s lack of experience.


Once the relevant candidate has been selected, the contracting process will commence.

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