A Quick Introduction to Recruitment and Interviewing

With limited finance and resources, finding the right person to recruit can be tough. Read our guide to find out more about your options

A Quick Introduction to Recruitment and Interviewing

As the owner of a small business, you will often have to deal with a huge initial volume of work, and you may have already decided the time is right to take on a new employee.

Setting up a proper recruitment and selection process is a tricky and time-consuming process, but if you conduct the process in a structured way you maximise your chances of finding a truly excellent candidate.

This article is a quick introduction to the process of recruitment from a small business’s point of view.

For more in-depth guides on various aspects of the process, check out:

How do I work out whether I need an employee?

As a small business, hiring an employee will represent an important and significant expense that you could be tied into for many years to come, so it is essential to establish whether you actually need to hire someone.

You also need to work out exactly what the prospective job will involve, so you can conduct the recruitment process properly. Ask yourself these questions before starting the process:

Do I actually need to hire an employee?

Could you do the work yourself? Would you be better off hiring a temp or contractor to do the work (especially if it is seasonal or temporary)? Could you use software to automate the task?

What is the job?

Work out the major tasks the job will involve, the responsibility it will carry, any specialist training the new employee will need and who they will be working with.

What qualities am I looking for?

Academic qualifications can give you a good idea of a candidate’s intelligence and capacity for critical thinking, but will tell you less about how they will actually fare in your small business.

The previous jobs and experience a candidate has will tell you more about this. As a new business, you will want candidates to hit the ground running, so many entrepreneurs place a high value on experience.

Draw up a list of criteria you will measure candidates against.

How much do I want to spend?

The recruitment process will inevitably eat into your time, costing your business money. Work out how much you are prepared to spend on salary and other benefits – and whether this will be enough to attract the calibre of candidate you need.

How do I find employees?

There are various methods you can use to find potential candidates.

Most employers use some form of advertising when looking for recruits. However, recommendations can also be extremely useful and obviously cheap.

Ask your colleagues and business contacts whether they know anyone who would be suitable and keep a file of any unsolicited CVs you receive in case you need to quickly fill a position later on.

Specialist recruitment agencies can do the legwork for you and match you with excellent candidates quickly although the cost can be high (sometimes up to a quarter of the employee’s first year salary).

Some recruitment agencies, like Lovework , specialise in start-up recruitment – you should check for specialist recruitment agencies for your sector or the position you are looking to fill. To learn more about the recruitment agency process, click here.

Schools, colleges and universities can also be great places to spot young emerging talent. Read this article for an in-depth guide to graduate recruitment.

Finally, if you are looking to fill a position that pays £20,000 a year or less, the government-funded Jobcentre Plus scheme is a good option.

They can select candidates for you to interview, set up Work Trials to give you the opportunity to try out potential recruits, and more. The service is completely free – find out more here.

How do I use advertising to find employees?

Putting out an advertisement is the most common way employers find recruits.

Follow these steps:

1. Choose your medium.

There are a number of ways you could advertise vacancies.

Job classifieds websites like MonsterJobsite and Reed can reach a huge number of potential applicants, but it can be difficult to sift through applications.

Using the trade press by advertising in the recruitment section of a trade magazine is one of the best ways to find specialist, skilled staff.

National newspapers – again, will reach a huge number of potential candidates, but this method is likely to be expensive and unfocused.

2. Include the essential information.

Generally, a well-written job advertisement should contain:

    • A clear description of the job, its roles and responsibilities
    • Details of the employer
    • Salary and benefits (you can simply state the pay is ‘Competitive’ if you wish)
    • What qualifications, experience and skills are mandatory for the job, and which are valued
    • When interviews will be conducted
    • A deadline for applications

3. Make the job sound as attractive as possible.

Work out the major selling points of the job and emphasise them.

In particular, think about what makes the job interesting or different and the kind of projects the candidate would be involved in.

Including any opportunities for progression, holiday and other benefits and training and development opportunities within the advert should appeal to most.

Finally, include a small piece about the company’s culture so the candidate has a good feel for what your small business is about.

How do I draw up a shortlist of candidates?

Draw up a structured application process as if all candidates apply in the same way, it is vastly easier to sort through and rank applications.

Many businesses find a cover letter and CV is sufficient – you could also try drafting a standard application form, which will give you objective criteria to directly compare candidates.

Rank the candidates and draw up a shortlist for interview. Remember that you only have a limited amount of time to interview candidates, so decide how many you have time for.

Send polite rejections to unsuccessful candidates and thank them for their interest.

Set dates and times for interview. Ideally, you will want to interview candidates on the same day or in a short time period, as this gives you a better opportunity to compare them against each other.

How do I conduct the job interview?

The interview is the most crucial stage of the recruitment process.

You should make full use of the time you have to get a real feel for the candidate and to assess whether they are capable of doing the job and working with others in your company.

The below is only an overview – for a thorough guide to the interviewing process, click here.

Firstly, prepare the process.

Good preparation is essential – you need to draw up a list of questions for the candidate to answer based on the criteria for the job, and come up with a numbers-based scoring system so you can rank candidates later on.

Additionally, you need to do your own homework – the candidate is likely to ask questions about the job such as salary, responsibilities, promotion opportunity and benefits, so ensure you are well prepared to field such questions.

Ensure you conduct the interview in a structured way.

More information on this aspect can be found here. Broadly, though, you should:

    • Start by telling the candidate about your business and what the job will involve – jumping straight into questioning will just make them nervous
    • Use open questions that encourage the candidate to speak at length
    • If the candidate seems unwilling to explore a particular subject, ask why
    • Avoid illegal questions (for example questioning a candidate about their sexual orientation or marital status – for more on this subject click here)
    • Invite questions from the candidate at the end of the interview
    • Ask whether the candidate would take the job if offered it now
    • Reserve your judgement until after the interview is finished

Using criteria you have drawn up (click here for a guide on how to do this), objectively evaluate the candidates using a numbers-based scoring system.

Set aside time after each interview to make notes on a candidate, whilst matters are still fresh in your mind.

Be aware of the Data Protection Act. Notes you take on candidates qualify as ‘personal information’ under the meaning of the Data Protection Act, and candidates have a right to see the notes you took on them.

You are only allowed to keep interview notes for as long as you have a legitimate business reason for doing so (for example, retaining them for future recruitment processes).

What do I do when I have chosen a candidate?

The candidate should have provided details of at least two referees during the application process – generally, these should be academic referees or former employers.

Write to the referees asking them to confirm specific claims the candidate has made.

Send the successful candidate an offer letter. When this offer is accepted, it becomes a binding contract of employment, so draft it extremely carefully.

The offer letter should state:

  • The salary, holiday pay and other benefits
  • Whether the offer is conditional on anything (like satisfactory references or a trial period)
  • The deadline for a response
  • When the job will actually start

Inform the unsuccessful applicants. Send the others a courteous email or letter explaining that they were unsuccessful on this occasion.

It is standard practice to give some sort of feedback to unsuccessful candidates you have interviewed if they ask.

How should I welcome a candidate to the job?

Show them around your office and introduce them to any colleagues they will be working with.

Plan an office induction and make sure the new employee knows how to use all the equipment and office facilities. If not, arrange any training that is needed.

Schedule reviews on a periodic basis and keep tabs on them by scheduling regular meetings to appraise progress.

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