Recruitment policy

1. Introduction

The National Portrait Gallery is committed to equality of employment for all applicants and employees. As such it values its staff and recognises that the recruitment and selection process needs to follow a fair and clearly defined format. This policy lays out the structure, but additional guidance is available from the Personnel team. This policy is available to all staff and can be found on the Gallery's internal network as too can the Gallery’s Equality Policy.

2. Equality in Recruitment

The Gallery aims to recruit staff from a diverse range of backgrounds and therefore it is important to encourage applications from as wide a variety of suitable sources as possible. Where necessary, assistance must be provided to those who might otherwise not be able to be considered for appointment. All employees responsible for recruitment and selection will be coached on a regular basis to ensure that discrimination in its many forms is avoided.

Applicants are given the opportunity to notify Personnel (confidentially) if assistance at interview is needed (for example if they were deaf and needed a sign language interpreter). Where a suitable applicant is disabled, the Gallery will review possible alterations to the premises, or procedures to attempt to find ways in which reasonable alterations could be made to enable an appointment to be made.

3. General Principles

Well motivated staffing begins at the point of recruitment when the skills and ambitions of job applicants need to be carefully matched with the job requirements and prospects. Job vacancies and the identification of new staffing requirements offer the opportunity to review the staff structure of departments. Every manager is expected to ensure that the best use of resources is made and that, wherever possible, opportunities for the development of existing staff are provided. Line Managers will need to consider these issues at the outset of the recruitment process. 

  • Prior to writing or revising a job description, permission to recruit must be received from the Director, by completing a Recruitment Authorisation Form which can be obtained from Personnel. 
  • Completion (or revision) of a job description and person specification is the first step in the recruitment process (see Appendix 1 for guidelines). Once these are agreed, the Personnel department will draft the text of the advertisement.
  • All vacancies are advertised on the Gallery’s website, unless they are internal only opportunities. Internal only vacancies may be used in a variety of circumstances e.g. to provide career development opportunities, covering short term requirements. Vacancies are notified to staff through a general All Staff e-mail, a hard copy of which is made available to staff who do not regularly read e-mails.
  • Every applicant (including existing employees) must submit a completed application form. For internal only recruitment, there is an internal application form, which may be used on occasions. All applications and applicants will be treated equally so that recruitment decisions are made on the basis of skill, experience and aptitude only.
  • Application forms will initially be sifted by Personnel according to a set of criteria derived from the job description and person specification. Brief details of the reason for rejecting applications will be recorded on the application form. Applications meeting the initial sift criteria will be forwarded to the relevant manager with guidelines for conducting further sifts (see Appendix 2). Managers should aim to identify between four and eight candidates for interview.
  • Where a Manager identifies a candidate for interview that they know personally they must ensure that the Personnel Team are notified immediately.
  • Shortlisted applicants will be invited by Personnel to interview and will be seen by at least two interviewers including a representative from Personnel. Interviews should be structured as set out in the guidance at Appendix 3.
  • Successful and unsuccessful interviewees will be advised at the earliest opportunity by Personnel, who will also provide initial feedback to candidates if requested. Where more detailed feedback is requested or for internal applicants the Personnel team may also ask the manager to provide feedback.
  • An unconditional job offer will only be made on receipt of satisfactory references, security clearance, eligibility to work in the UK and health declaration.
  • Other than in exceptional cases, expenses are not offered for the cost of attending interview.

4. Breach of the Policy

The Gallery is committed to avoiding discrimination in any form. Accordingly, any action taken in contravention of this policy would be dealt with under the Gallery’s disciplinary procedures.

5. Review

The Recruitment Policy will be reviewed every five years as part of the cycle of reviewing Gallery policies and procedures. The next review will be in Spring 2016.

6. Date of approval

The Recruitment Policy was originally approved in 2004. It was reviewed by the Gallery’s Equality Steering Group and by the Board of Trustees at its 744th meeting on 5 May 2011.

Appendix 1

National Portrait Gallery Guidelines for drawing up a job description and person specification, using the Gallery’s pro-forma house style:

Job title: Exact title

Responsible to: The title of the post to whom the job holder reports

Responsible for: Does the job holder have responsibility for managing others, if so list numbers/ job titles or refer to structure chart

Purpose: Overall objective and relationship to the aims of the Gallery, as introductory sentences

Tasks: Describe the main duties and range of responsibilities, specify approximate % of time involved for each of the main tasks Focus on what the job is to accomplish – do not include unnecessary or marginal tasks Where possible list tasks in order of importance

Department: A Department organisation chart, showing how the post fits into the Department, will be added by Personnel

Person Specification

Only include requirements that are necessary and appropriate to the duties of the post. For all criteria identified indicate whether this is an essential, desirable or useful requirement.

Qualifications: List academic and or professional attainment necessary but only if this is relevant to the job

Knowledge: Outline previous experience necessary in other similar positions or organisations, together with any experience within the job/profession regarded as necessary, use words like “demonstrable” rather than the number of years’ experience required

Skills: These are the practical abilities gained through study or practice required e.g. familiarity with computer packages; previous experience of managing budgets, staff or projects; researching, writing or cataloguing skills

Attributes: e.g. ability to prioritise demands, interest in museums and galleries sector; able to use initiative etc

Other e.g. whether regular unsocial hours or regular overtime required

Appendix 2

Guidelines for shortlisting application forms following initial Personnel sift

All Gallery staff and managers need to guard against unfair and discriminatory practice. It is especially important in selecting candidates for interview that they are considered against sift criteria which fairly state what the post requires. Sift criteria should flow from the job description and person specification. It is good practice to keep a written record of these criteria and the scoring of each application, as candidates may ask for feedback on reasons they were not shortlisted for interview.

The following is an example, but use of actual essential requirements from the Person Specification should be made to form the basis of the criteria used to shortlist candidates.

Education, training and membership of professional bodies
Areas such as academic and technical education can be considered, but only when relevant to the post, as can demonstration of possession of certain IT skills, or a certain level of professional qualification

Experience relevant to this post
Voluntary, as well as paid, employment should be considered. When short listing, look for applicability of experience such as:

  • duration of most relevant experience
  • nature and size of previous employers
  • specialist knowledge
  • team-working/staff management/ project management experience
  • budgetary responsibilities

Look for skills which might be needed in a successful candidate, such as team management, and again use these as relevant criteria against which to sift candidates

It is always relevant to consider whether the applicant has met all the essential requirements of the role.
On occasion it is relevant to consider the quality of the application in terms of accuracy of spelling and correct use of grammar, if these skills would be essential to the job. Other areas such as evidence of career progression or of interest in this sector can on occasion form relevant criteria.

Appendix 3

National Portrait Gallery Interview Guidelines

These guidelines have been drawn up to ensure that those involved in the interview process are clear about their responsibilities.

The Gallery seeks to eliminate discrimination and provide equality of opportunity prior to and at all stages during employment; this means that no person will be treated less favourably on grounds of gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, marital or civil partnership status, colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origins, religion or belief, age, pregnancy or maternity leave or trade union membership.

The Gallery usually has panel interviews that as a minimum will comprise the line manager and a representative from Personnel. In certain situations an independent external ‘expert’ may also be part of the panel. Wherever possible, panels should consist of both male and female participants.

Prior to the interview, the panel should agree the interview structure, review the person specification and set out core questions that will be asked of all candidates. This does not preclude the use of further questions – it is perfectly acceptable to seek further information or clarification as different candidates present themselves differently. An effective interview plan will cover:

  • Introductions
  • Qualifications
  • Experience and skills
  • Knowledge of and interest in the job
  • Interpersonal and communications skills
  • Opportunity for candidate to ask questions

At the opening of the interview candidates should be welcomed, introduced to all the panel members, thanked for making time to attend the interview and told how the interview will be structured. Interviewers need to create an appropriate climate from the beginning so that the candidate will be willing to talk about themselves and exchange ideas freely.

After the ‘opening’ the next stage of the interview is to acquire information from the candidate. Bear in mind the following:

  • concentrate on acquiring evidence of ability to do the job, based on the facts of past experience and achievements
  • simple open ended question that do not imply an answer, make assumptions or influence the candidate (why, what, where, when, how) are generally considered the best for eliciting information
  • Allow the candidate time to think and answer questions. Don’t be tempted to fill gaps – short silences are okay
  • Be ready to probe answers and ask the same question in a slightly different way
  • Listen to, observe and think about what the candidate is saying
  • Place information in perspective e.g. The fact that a candidate was in charge of a project will be of little value unless the details are also ascertained such as: the work objectives, whether they were achieved or not; if not achieved what the reasons were; what further actions were taken; other problems and how they were handled; responsibilities for staff.
  • Use body language to encourage the candidate (smiling, nodding) or appropriate interruptions to stop a candidate talking too much (‘Thank you, that was interesting. We now want to explore …’)

Before the interview is closed the candidate should be given time to ask their questions. For quieter candidates it can help if interviewers encourage candidates to explore topics by asking questions such as ‘Would you like to know more about what a typical working day here is like?’

Candidates should be advised how and when they will be told of any decision following the interview.

At the end of the interview all candidates should feel that they:

  • have had an adequate chance to demonstrate their suitability for the job
  • have been treated with respect and dignity
  • have had the opportunity to find out what they need to know about the job, the Gallery and the context in which they would be working
  • are clear about what will happen next

During the interview it is appropriate to make notes on the interview plan for each question with additional notes on interpersonal skills displayed at interview. This form should be completed before the next interview starts. All papers must be returned to Personnel at the end of the interview process.

Once all of the interviews have been completed the panel should consider each candidate individually concentrating on information gathered during the interview as well as any references received. The discussion should aim to:

  • discount unsuitable candidates
  • pool observations about the remaining candidates in relation to: the person specification, ability to perform the job and how well they would integrate within the department and the Gallery
  • reach a consensus on the person to be appointed or shortlisted for further interview

Should none of the candidates be suitable, it would be possible to re-advertise, which is always the Gallery’s preferred option rather than rather than appointing a candidate who does not satisfactorily meet the criteria. The period of notice a candidate may be required to give should never influence the final decision.

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