A Small Business Guide to Recruitment

How to create a seamless recruitment process to ensure you employ the right candidate for your company...

A Small Business Guide to Recruitment

It is a fact of working life that, more often than not, searching for a job is time-consuming and difficult.

But for employers, the challenge of recruiting the right employee can seem even more so – the result of which can be a protracted and tiresome recruitment process.

Finding an applicant who suits the role will always require a bit of good fortune, but by knowing what information to look for, and having a proper procedure in place, you can vastly improve your chances.

This guide aims to help you with planning your recruitment, locating suitable candidates – and how to select the strongest candidate amongst them.

When planning when to recruit, think hard about what needs your business has and what problems it is facing.

Consult your business plan and consider what future your business will have.

Furthermore, consider how a potential employee could meet future needs. (E.g. consider any new markets you are breaking into and what relevant skills and experiences an employee might have that could help with this).

On deciding when you need to recruit, work out your likely staff turnover to see when you’re likely to need to fill positions, as well as the seasonal variation in your business level, to see when you need greater/fewer amounts of staff.

Striking the right number of full-time and part-time employees will save you from being overstretched or inefficient so make sure you decide what balance of employees will best suit you.

Consider the problem areas your business struggles with, and how recruitments can help overcome them.

Rank your current employees by performance. Do the lower-ranking ones need additional support, or just retraining? Or do they even need replacing?

If required, consider hiring a qualified recruitment consultant for a comprehensive, expert analysis.

Establish a standard, suitable recruitment procedure and benchmark salaries in your line of business. You can check recruitment websites, business support organisations, and relevant trade publications to establish these.

It’s essential you brief everyone involved in the recruitment procedure.

Establish that you have the same ideas about what you’re looking for, and how the process should work.

Above all else, counteract discrimination.

Make sure you are not discriminating on the basis of race, gender, class, religion, age, marital status, or sexual orientation.

How can I find suitable candidates?

Finding candidates internally

Before looking externally, you should see if you can use your internal resources to recruit for a position – this can be much cheaper and easier than an external search. The simplest way you can do this is to promote or train existing employees. However, make sure you actually have training and development programmes in place.

Similarly, you could incentivise current employees to aid the search. Offering bonuses to those who ‘refer’ successful candidates is a common practice. Even if the referrals don’t work out, make sure to file all applications as you may find a use for them further down the line.

Finding candidates externally

Advertise on job websites, e.g. Monster or fish4jobs. Use industry business portals to find websites specific to your industry and/or geographical area. You can also advertise on your company’s website as this is the cheapest way of recruiting employees.

Similarly, advertise in relevant publications, i.e. trade publications (for specific business areas) and local newspapers (for specific geographical areas).

Use employment agencies to make the most of external organisations that can help you recruit suitable candidates. Choosing one with experience of your business area can ensure your search is more targeted.

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.

Finally, use local universities, colleges and schools as they can help you reach young people with the relevant skills directly.

How should I establish what I’m looking for?

When advertising for a position, you should craft the advertisement to ensure candidate knows exactly what you’re looking for in an employee as this will ensure you attract only those applicants suited to the position.

Write a detailed job description which includes the main responsibilities and tasks of the job, as well as the secondary/occasional ones. Detail how the employees would be expected to fit into the current workforce/team.

Describe your business in good detail and give a sense of the atmosphere of the workforce and the values you hold.

Make sure you set out a required skill set, this should include the skills you need the employee to have to do their job effectively, as well as those required to work within the current workforce/team. This will hopefully ensure you’ll have the right type of candidates from the off.

State the wage you are offering including training and promotional opportunities and link this to the pay structures in place or what values you expect from them in return.

Asking for CVs and cover letters are standard for most jobs, and will help you assess applicants, but you can also ask applicants to complete additional tasks. Just be sure to list what is expected clearly. Include closing dates for recruitment windows.

If you have the resources, consider developing your own application form – this will allow you to get specific information and compare candidates more easily.

The applications are in – how do I narrow down my pool of candidates?

After your initial assessment of the candidates, you should narrow them down by preparing a shortlist.

Invite successful candidates to interview and send them an interview pack with relevant information about the job/company, and let them know about times, locations, and special arrangements (for those with disabilities, etc.).

Make sure you send letters/emails to unsuccessful candidates as failure to do this promptly can earn your company a bad reputation.

Finally, identify ‘reserve’ candidates if preferred candidates become unavailable.

How should I interview candidates?

You should plan for interviews as carefully as possible. A structured interview process will vastly improve your ability to select the best candidate.

When beginning to start planning, use your identified requirements to establish a list of questions. Prepare a performance checklist and mark the candidate’s performance against this – though remember that, under the Data Protection Act, they can request to see any notes you take.

Devise exercises/tests tailored to establish the skills required. These should be specific enough to test for relevant skills/experience, and broad enough to allow the candidate room to be interpretative and unique.

Gather a team of interviewers that includes the most relevant and senior members of your team.

When conducting the interviews, ensure that you strike a balance between being welcoming and professional – avoid being either too familiar/informal, or too daunting, since neither will help the candidate establish their suitability.

Arrange second interviews, if required and request written references from the top candidates. Check for crucial details about their performances – note that what is left out can be as telling as what is included.

Tell candidates when they will hear from you and stick to this date/time. Only make verbal offers if you are 100% sure about them – they are legally binding.

If you don’t find a suitable candidate, go back and assess your recruitment procedure. Identify any problems and start again.

I’ve selected my preferred candidate – what now?

Now that you’ve chosen a candidate, it’s up to you to ensure their introduction into the organisation is as smooth as possible.

Send them an official offer letter which includes all the relevant details about the job – salary, start dates, hours, conditions, etc. Include written terms and conditions.

Prepare a welcome for them and introduce them to their colleagues while showing them around the premises. An after-work drink or lunch can be a great way of establishing healthy working relationships.

To complete their induction, supply any relevant training/training materials, and support them through the probation period.

Finally, make sure you fulfil employer obligations. Supply all the forms required and complete relevant tax procedures.

Can I be doing anything else to ensure I maintain a good recruitment procedure?

You should periodically review your recruitment process to ensure its effectiveness – you will likely need to adapt it to suit changes in your business.

There are several key elements to keep track of:

1. Monitor recruitment channels.

Where are your applications coming from? Consider investing more in those that provide greater amounts of applicants/less in those that yield fewer.

2. Monitor the numbers of unsuccessful applicants.

If this number is large, consider changing your advertising information to save you the expended time/effort.

3. Finally, monitor your employee turnover.

Why are employees leaving? Is this anything you can rectify?

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