Setting up a selection panel

Decide who will shortlist and interview job applicants. The panel should:

  • consist of at least two people to decrease bias. It’s also easier for one person to take notes while the other is asking questions.
  • include at least one person who has attended safer recruitment training within the last five years. To find out more about safer recruitment training email or see the Safeguarding Training page.

The panel must agree the shortlisting criteria from the job description.


  • Assess each application against the job’s essential and desirable criteria.
  • Use one of the short-listing grids below, to score and record your assessment objectively and methodically.
  • Identify applicants that meet the criteria to invite for interview and those that should be rejected.

Using the grid enables you to see a full picture of all the applicants and is more effective than making notes. It will also help give feedback and defend your decisions if challenged.

Important: Check all applications carefully for:

  • Incomplete or missing information
  • Unexplained gaps in employment
  • Repeated or frequent job changes
  • Anomalies or discrepancies in the information provided

Make a note of any gaps or anomalies that you want to explore with the candidate at interview.

Here are two template shortlisting grids to choose from:

Online checks at shortlisting stage

The Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance advises that, as part of the shortlisting process schools and colleges should consider carrying out an online search as part of their due diligence on the shortlisted candidates. This may help identify any incidents or issues that have happened, and are publicly available online, which the school or college might want to explore with the applicant at interview.

The search is purely about whether the individual is suitable to work with children.

Care must be taken to avoid unconscious bias and any risk of discrimination. In line with that approach, it may be sensible to have someone not on the appointment panel to conduct the search – only sharing info that is relevant and of concern.

See guidance issued by LGA - July 2022 (docx format, 48Kb)

Unsuccessful candidates at shortlisting stage

Inform unsuccessful candidates in writing within 10 working days of the vacancy closing date.

Template letter for unsuccessful applicant – shortlisting stage (doc format, 25Kb)

Candidates may ask for feedback to understand why they were unsuccessful. Give brief, clear reasons e.g.  you do not meet the essential criteria of having relevant experience.You don’t have to go into a lot of detail; a summary of the main reasons for not selecting will be sufficient.

Decide whether to give feedback by phone or whether it would be more suitable to write or email.

Invitations to interview

Invite shortlisted candidates to interview, here is a template letter - invite to interview (docx format, 39Kb).

The letter should include:

  • Names of panel members, length of interview and details of any selection activities you will be asking candidates to take part in e.g. presentations, testing, meeting pupils/governors, delivering a lesson or teaching session, preparing a lesson plan etc.
  • Date, time and location of interview.
  • Let candidates know about parking facilities and anything else they need to know about access arrangements such as reporting to reception, whether there is a lift or stairs only.
  • Remind candidates that the interview is assessing their suitability for the post itself as well as their suitability to work with children.
  • Ask the candidates to let you know if they need any adjustments so that they can fully participate in the selection process.
  • Remind them to bring all relevant documents, such as their last DBS certificate if they have one, qualification certificates, proof of identity and right to work in the UK. Send them the Pre-Interview Checklist (doc format 81Kb) to help them know what documents to bring.
  • Ask candidates to complete the self-declaration form (docx format, 54Kb) and return by email or bring with them in a sealed envelope to interview

Only original documents can be accepted. If copies are provided at interview, the successful candidate must provide the originals before being confirmed in post.  You must take photocopies of documents and keep them on the personnel file of the successful candidate.

Pre-interview references must also be requested at this stage (See below).

Checks to carry out before the interview

Request references

As soon as candidates have been invited for interview, write to the referees to request a reference. See template pre-interview reference request (doc format).

References are an essential part of the selection process to check the background and suitability of applicants and help you make good recruitment decisions.

Establishing fitness and health

It is unlawful for an employer to ask questions about an applicant’s health before they are shortlisted or offered a job This is intended to protect disabled people from discrimination during recruitment.

Therefore, health questions cannot be asked via a reference, as information disclosed may influence the panel’s decision and could be regarded as discrimination.

Health information should be requested after the job has been offered. See post-conditional offer reference request (doc format, 34Kb)

Preparing and conducting interviews

Face-to-face interviews must be carried out with all shortlisted candidates.

This is the stage at which it is easiest to make judgements about an applicant based on instant, subjective and sometimes wholly irrelevant impressions.

Assess candidates against the requirements of the job and the job criteria.

Follow this good practice:

  • Choose a quiet, comfortable setting e.g. temperature, refreshments, seating. Avoid interruptions.
  • Think about the room layout. A table may be needed for refreshments and papers but avoid creating a barrier. The layout should help put people at ease.
  • Be prepared, read each application and have all relevant paperwork.
  • Before the interviews, the panel should agree a core set of questions to ask all candidates and the key points they are looking for in model answers.
  • This doesn’t mean you can’t ask other probing questions, to explore areas further or points from their references or application form.
  • Avoid discriminatory questions. Prepare questions based on the person  specification and job description and the information in the application form; avoid questions that are not relevant to the requirements of the job.
  • Agree who will ask which questions, take notes, collect the candidates and keep an eye on timing.
  • Where possible, make any necessary adjustments for candidates who have requested them, or be prepared to make adjustments on the day.
  • Be professional, respect the candidate’s feelings, put them at ease but set a suitable level of formality from the start.
  • Make notes of the answers using a matrix interview planning and assessment pro forma (doc format).

Unsuccessful candidates after interview

Inform unsuccessful candidates as soon as you can, but usually after your preferred candidate has verbally accepted your offer.

It is good practice to phone candidates with the news and then follow up in writing.

Offer feedback and where this is requested, use the notes the notes made during interview and give feedback against the job/person specification.

Template letter for unsuccessful candidates – interview stage (doc format, 24Kb)