Some students may have mitigating or extenuating circumstances for certain levels of performance at school or at university. Students may feel that the exam results that they are asked to list do not fully reflect their abilities and that this can be explained by events or circumstances that happened at that time.

These may include, but are not limited to:

- Serious or significant health problems
- Exceptional personal circumstances (e.g. a serious illness or death of a family member or loved one; family break-up; being the victim of a serious crime; a serious car accident etc)
- Ongoing caring responsibilities

Many organisations now build in a mitigating or extenuating circumstances box into their application forms.

Many students perceive that these boxes are not taken seriously by employers and are there to tick certain boxes. We also know that in some instances the mitigating circumstance may be exceptionally painful or something that the student does not want to share with a future employer (e.g. if they were a victim of certain crimes or if they had been in the care system etc). It may be wise to limit the word count here to stop students feeling as though they need to pour their personal history. At the same time, employers do need some reassurance that the applicant is telling the truth and to ensure fairness to other candidates. Therefore, they may require to do some level of investigation. 

If a candidate fills in the mitigating circumstances box then evidence may be required to be sought. Evidence could be a letter from a tutor at university, a doctor’s note from the time of the illness etc. If a candidate meets your academic criteria and fills in the mitigating circumstances box then no further investigation is needed.

Recommendation 17

We would recommend:

- Using a mitigating circumstances box
- Limiting the word count (and making it clear that you only need an overview)
- Placing the mitigating circumstances box directly after your educational requirements
- Not asking for specific details until later in the recruitment process (potentially directly prior to offer stage).