Skip to main content

How to complain about unfair recruitment procedures

Written by: RICS Recruit
Published on: 21 May 2024

You have the right to a fair application process – and to complain if it isn’t

Some job applications and interviews go better than others. But what happens when you suspect you’re not getting a fair chance for the position?

It may be that you get asked illegal questions, or you are treated unfairly, discriminated against or not given a chance to show your expertise.

You have every right to complain if you feel there has been an unfair recruitment and selection process.

Legislation protects your rights during recruitment

All candidates are entitled to fair treatment under the Equality Act 2010 prohibiting discrimination based on protected characteristics such as age, disability, gender, race, religion and sexual orientation.

If you’re asked questions about any of these and don’t feel that they are directly relevant to the role, they are probably inappropriate – and potentially unlawful.

From start to finish, the interviewer must focus on your ability to do the job. Questions about qualifications, skills and experience are fine – but your marital status, racial origin, sexuality, children and health are off limits.

The only time that this isn’t the case may be if you’ve voluntarily disclosed something – such as a health condition or religious observance – that requires reasonable adjustments.

Flag up illegal or uncomfortable questions

If you think your interviewer has asked you an illegal question or one you feel uncomfortable about, it’s not too late.

Similarly, if you felt the behaviour of the interviewer was inappropriate or you weren’t asked questions pertinent to the role, you have every right to log your complaint, for example through the feedback process.

A lot of organisations will send out feedback requests as a matter of course, and most have a robust complaints policy.

You can also request copies of interview notes, because companies are legally obliged to provide feedback on how they reached their decision following an interview.

It is perfectly acceptable for you to take notes during the interview, including anything that made you feel uncomfortable. Otherwise, it is imperative to make notes as soon as possible afterwards, while the experience is still fresh in your mind.

How to make a complaint

Jot down your reasons for the complaint in the first instance, detailing any inappropriate questions and their context, and why they bore no relevance to the job.

Research the company’s complaint policy and always complain in writing, keeping an evidence trail in case you want to take legal action. The more detail you provide, the easier it is for the complaint to be investigated thoroughly. There is no obligation to send it to the individual who you felt treated you unfairly.

Raising a complaint with RICS

All individual RICS members and fellows as well as RICS-regulated firms must adhere to a strict set of standards. If this is the case for the individual or company who interviewed you, you can report your concerns by contacting us directly, preferably via an online form, or alternatively by email.

Once we have received your complaint, we will carry out some checks to establish whether the firm is regulated and also consider other regulatory information that we hold, including any previous concerns that have been reported.

If the complaint is against a member who works for a company that is not itself RICS-regulated, then allegations are considered against them individually in respect of their conduct rather than the company’s processes.

RICS will review the information to decide whether there is a potential breach of RICS Rules of Conduct or professional standards, and assess how serious a breach it might be. We’ll also consider what evidence there may be to support any allegations.

After this initial review, the next actions could include:

  • referral to the investigation team, who may decide to conduct a formal investigation
  • providing relevant guidance or support to the regulated firm or member to correct the matter of the complaint
  • closure of the matter if neither of the above are considered appropriate.

RICS will consider any information that is reported to us, but it may be that the issue falls outside our remit and more within that of another body such as ACAS. If that’s the case, this course of action will be recommended.

Even if RICS decides not to investigate and direct the complainant elsewhere, it is still useful for RICS to have the information to hold for regulatory purposes. This will help identify if and when a pattern of behaviour develops, for instance, should more than one candidate report something similar.

You can find out more about the process and how we decide whether to investigate further on the RICS website.

Complaining via Lionheart

LionHeart, the independent charity for RICS professionals, has a helpline – 0800 009 2960 – that offers initial advice on the best route for members to take. You can also email the organisation.

‘If you’re unsure where you stand or the experience felt wrong, it’s important to seek advice quickly,’ says LionHeart support services manager Bena Kansara.

‘Ideally you should challenge any illegal questions in the interview itself, but of course it can be very difficult to challenge someone at that stage. So, if you get home and think you experienced an unfair interview we can help, if relevant, to steer you towards suitable legal advice.’

Complaints can help improve the system

Processes must be fair to make jobs accessible to the widest possible demographic, but they – along with attitudes in businesses – will only change if companies learn from and act on the mistakes of poorly handled recruitment and interviews.

The onus should not fall on the candidate. Protected characteristics are set in stone to encourage a diverse range of people to apply easily for jobs without assumptions being made.

It’s not appropriate that you miss an opportunity that’s perfect for you because of an individual’s behaviour or the recruitment process itself.

Inclusive recruitment is increasingly at the heart of the talent search for 72% of employers – and this is especially important from the moment an applicant is contacted.

‘Only when every interview is fair and equitable and focuses solely on the strengths and skill sets of individual candidates will complaints diminish. Until then, we are here to offer objective, free and confidential guidance to RICS members,’ says Bena.

Recruitment agencies must also treat you fairly

When you’re chasing your dream job through a recruitment consultant, the remediation process if you suspect you have been treated unfairly is the same.

If the recruitment consultant has behaved in a discriminatory way towards you, you could complain to the HR department of the company you were hoping to apply to – and, if that company is an RICS-regulated firm, you can contact us to make the complaint.

It may be that the consultant asked a question they shouldn’t have, and you gave out more information than you feel comfortable with. If so, you should seek written assurances that your replies won’t be relayed to the employer.

Most recruitment consultants have strict policies in place to investigate such complaints, whether against themselves or their clients.

Legal options are available to escalate action

If the system isn’t working, LionHeart’s experts may suggest potential legal options for you to pursue, ending with a challenge to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Employment tribunals are also available for candidates who believe that they have been discriminated against in the recruitment process.

You have the right to call out processes and individuals who have not treated your application fairly. Don’t let discrimination or procedure stand in your path to success.