Attracting the Right Candidates for your Small Businesses

Filling a position can be a lengthy process, but attracting the right calibre of applicants is a great way to start

Attracting the Right Candidates for your Small Businesses

In the last instalment, we looked at how important it is to define the ideal employee for a role. Hopefully, as an output from that exercise, you now have a clear idea of who you’re looking to employ. The question now is: how do you attract the right candidates to fit this definition?

The first step is to create your job description. You’ll use your candidate definition as an input to this description. On top of that, you need to consider that this is being written for someone who knows, most likely, little or nothing about your company, your industry or the role. Be as descriptive as possible, and take care not to exaggerate any points – there’s nothing to be gained by bending the truth to attract a higher calibre of candidate only for them to leave the job after three months because it doesn’t meet their expectations. The job spec should contain information about the industry, the company, the role and the culture. It should contain information about everyday tasks and the skills required to perform the role. You should also include brief instructions on how to apply. Once you’ve written your job spec, it’s time to go about sourcing candidates.

Broadly speaking, there are three main methods to use when attracting the right candidates: direct advertising, using a web service such as Monster to source CVs, or outsourcing to a recruitment consultant. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each…

Direct Advertising of the Role

Probably the most labour-intensive of these three methods, yet that which allows the employer to retain most control over the process, is that of directly advertising the position. This involves finding suitable media in which to advertise, receiving CVs yourself, and screening these CVs in-house to decide on the most suitable candidates. Typical media through which to advertise include job websites, trade press, “commuter” papers (such as Metro), or job centres. When using this method, a detailed and accurate job description is vital to save you time screening unsuitable CVs. Your main challenge here is to get the right number of CVs – too few and you have a very limited choice, too many and you spend many hours screening a huge number of CVs. Having a detailed and descriptive job spec is the best way to limit the number of CVs you receive.

As an additional step, you could ask that candidates call in before sending a CV, either to a live phone line or to a voicemail. You can then use the messages or calls you receive as the first part of the screening process – a strong confident voicemail speaks volumes about a candidate’s calibre compared to a CV which could have been written with the assistance of another person.

Once you have the CVs, you can move onto the next stage of the recruitment process, that of screening the CVs. We’ll look at this in the next instalment.

Sourcing CVs from a Web Service

Many employers like to retain a high degree of control over the recruitment process, yet prefer to select CVs themselves rather than receiving them from candidates. For these people, using a web service is a good option. The costs are slightly higher (although you may save time using this method), but it allows employers to select CVs based on various search criteria, such as experience level, salary requirements and location. A main benefit here is that as the employer, you can select as many or as few CVs as you like from which to select, and this is a very attractive proposition. A drawback, is that it’s also up to the employer to “sell” the job to the candidates. Perhaps this will be easy, but if the candidate is looking at a number of attractive roles at the time, then it can be a challenge for an inexperienced recruiter. It involves working through a real sale with each candidate at interview stage: finding their drivers, appealing to their hot buttons, and persuading them that your job is better than others they might be looking at… all without bending the truth about the position (we want them to stay for a long time remember!)

Using a Recruitment Consultant

The third method, and that which I find the most effective when I recruit, is to outsource the process to a recruitment consultant. The costs are higher (think 15-20% of basic salary for a junior position, and considerably more for senior roles), but the time saving and quality of candidates are very attractive. You’re not outsourcing the whole recruitment process, remember – you’re outsourcing the screening and selection of CVs, and an initial interview to assess the candidate’s skills and requirements to match the candidate to the job. An advantage here for both employer and job-seeker, is that the consultant will have a huge number of candidates and jobs on their books. A skilled recruiter will know the jobs and candidates personally and be able to match the right candidates to the right jobs before any interviewing is required by the employer. The employer then takes over the interviewing process, gives detailed feedback to the consultant after each stage, and the consultant then manages the candidates’ expectations until the job is filled.

This sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Except not all recruitments are created equal, and there is a huge gulf between the best and worst on the market.

Finding the Right Consultant for You

At the poor end, we have those consultants who “throw mud at the wall and hope some of it sticks” – that is, one who sends you a huge number of CVs in the hope that you’ll decide to interview some. These are consultants to avoid, because you’re paying them a fee for something which you could do yourself. At the other end of the scale, you have those consultants who spend a long time on the phone with you (and probably visit you in person) to really understand the role, the company culture, the team environment, the management style… everything which a candidate would want to know before taking a job. By finding this out at the beginning, it means that they only send you candidates who they think really match your company. A recruitment consultant is just a salesperson who sells candidates to employers and jobs to job-seekers. If they have good sales skills, they’ll be a good consultant, so speak to a number of recruiters and go with those who actually consult with you. Most consultants will work on a pay-on-placement basis, so you can use a number at the same time to keep them on their toes. I recommend using 3 for junior positions and up to 5 for more senior positions.

Which Method to Choose

A deciding factor when choosing the recruitment method should be who you’re hoping to recruit – are the candidates you’re hoping to attract likely to respond to the method you choose? For junior jobs, an ad in the local press might be best, but in general, the more senior you get, the more clued-up your potential employees are likely to be, so you should consider paying for a web service or recruitment consultant to maximise your chances of finding the best person for your role.

Neil Shorney is director of Naturally Sales Ltd

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