Staff are the backbone of any company – with the right talent on board a business can thrive and grow but with the wrong ones, progress will be sluggish and growth will be hindered.
Trouble is, recruitment is a huge area to cover, especially if you’re running a small business, trying to do 100 things at once and have little experience of finding someone who will not only do the job well, be loyal and grow with the business but will fit in with your company culture. If you don’t get the recruitment process right you could create even more work for yourself by taking on staff who simply aren’t good for your business, damage your brand and cost you money.
It’s why Breathe has put together a comprehensive recruitment guide to steer you through the process and make sure you get it right first time.
Recruitment is the process of finding the right person for the right role at the right time. You might already have staff members or this might be your first foray into hiring people as your business grows but either way, you want to make sure the people you are taking on are ideal for the role.
It is essential to get the best people on board to carry out the day-to-day functions of your business and who align with your organisational vision and objectives.
Recruitment also takes account of the development potential of future staff and whether they will be able to develop as your business does.
When going through the recruitment process, you also need to be careful not to discriminate against any candidates both directly and indirectly as well as be aware of equal opportunities legislation.
At some point every business leader will need to recruit staff and as a business grows the number of staff needed to help it run smoothly will grow with it. But how do you know it’s the right time and that the person or people will be right for your organisation? Hire too early and you could be creating cashflow problems for your business, leave it too late and you might buckle under the weight of excess work or fail to get your project off the ground in time.
As well as making sure it’s the right time, you need to work out what you actually need them to do. You might know you need another pair of hands on your team but if you don’t define what you want them to do you could be setting yourself up for disaster – any new hire will be ineffective, confused about their role and will quickly become disillusioned.
You’ll probably have a good feel for how your business is running and know instinctively to a degree whether it is time to bring on board someone new. However, it’s important not to rush the process and there are definitely times when you shouldn’t hire.
If you’re desperate and have more work than you can handle, making a snap decision to bring someone on board just because you need more bodies behind desks can be a disaster. Taking the first person who comes along is also never a good idea – if you’re lucky they’ll be amazing and a real boost to your business but in practice that almost never happens and you’ll be left counting the cost.
So, if you feel the time is right to expand your team, then you need to lay the groundwork first and do a bit of preparation to make sure your recruitment process runs smoothly.
Look at your current company structure and pinpoint where you need extra staff and how many. Do you actually need a new staff member, or could you develop existing staff by offering training and coaching?
Merely increasing headcount doesn’t mean your staffing woes will automatically be solved. Remember, there may be a shortage of suitable candidates when you begin to recruit and even if you do land someone who is perfect for a role, the recruitment process takes time as does the process of inducting the new staff member into your business and getting them up to full productivity. If you have staff who might fill the new role, your time and efforts could be better spent developing their existing skills. Consider training for your employees and assess who is ready to step up and take on more responsibility.
However, if you don’t have existing staff members that can take on a new position or you need specialist skills, then you’ll need to search externally. Before you do so, you need to consider what your business’ needs are.
Q. What will employing new staff bring to your business? Are they the next logical step in driving things forward? Can the business cope with a temporary drop in productivity while you find them, recruit them and induct them?
A. It can take up to two years to bring a new employee up to full productivity and you need to be sure your business can cope in the interim, that effectively, they’re worth the wait.
Q. Will the work be seasonal? Will you have enough work to occupy the new recruit(s) all the time?
A. It’s all too easy to make snap decisions because you’re going through a busy patch and need more bodies to sell, man the phones or make the goods. But what do you do if there is a slump afterwards or you only experience peaks at certain times of the year? You’ll need to look at whether taking someone on permanently is the best option or whether seasonal or shift workers might be a better option.
Q. What is happening in the job market? Is there a shortage of the type of staff member you need which will make it harder to recruit or is it a role which is easy to fill?
A. Even if you do decide the time is right to recruit, if it’s a highly specialised position you might find it takes longer to find a suitable candidate. Assessing how long you can survive without someone joining is important too.
Q. What are competing organisations looking for and what are they offering?
A. As well as considering the job situation internally, it is worth looking externally to other similar companies. Look at what they are paying and what benefits they’re offering. If your offering falls short of market value, you will struggle to attract the top talent into your business.
Once you’re certain you need to hire someone you need to write a comprehensive job description. This is important to ensure you’re attracting the right person for the role with the ideal qualifications and experience. It also helps you and any potential candidates to have a really good understanding of the scope of the role and will encourage the best individuals to apply if it is well defined.
When it comes to writing the job description it should be a joint effort with your HR department, employees in a similar function and any line managers who will be working directly with the new hire. It also needs to be a realistic assessment of the role rather than an outlandish wish list of your dream candidate.
You should avoid in-house company jargon – there may be internal computer systems or processes which all your employees are very familiar with but if you add them to your job description as a requirement you’ll be excluding 99.9% of prospects from ever applying. Instead, stick to general software/ work process requirements.
You also need to be mindful of the language you use to avoid discrimination or limiting the applicant pool. For example, using the phrase “highly experienced” should only
be used if it is an actual requirement of the job or you could be preventing young people from applying who don’t have huge amounts of experience but might be suitable for the role.
You should include the following:
The person specification is the list of qualifications, skills, experience and other attributes that an employee will need in order to be able to fulfil the role. It will be drawn from the job description and will be what you use to aid the shortlisting process. It will form the basis of the questions you ask at interview and any selection tests you wish to apply.
The criteria that you use should be specific and detailed. This helps to keep consistency when it comes to shortlisting and interviewing. For example, good communications skills is a bit vague but detailing what those communications skills are – excellent report-writing, counselling skills, the ability to draft complex technical correspondence – are better.
The skills you list must relate to the job being advertised and be necessary for that job. If not, and you list skills that aren’t justifiable, your advert could be discriminatory and prevent suitable candidates from applying.
When you decide upon the criteria you need you also need to consider how you will measure them against the candidates.
All criteria must be fair, non-discriminatory and relate directly to the job. They must avoid any statements concerning race, gender, marital status, age, religious belief, disability, ethnicity, nationality or colour.
Seamless recruitment for small businesses
Writing a fantastic job description is only half the battle, now you have to attract the right candidates for the role. Your job description may sound wonderful but if your company culture is known to be a bit lackluster and you’re not offering anything special but a similar business down the road is, you’ll struggle to attract the top talent.
Who pops into your mind when you think of the world’s most prominent brands? Apple? Microsoft, Coca Cola? McDonald’s? These brands all have phenomenal brand awareness because they are instantly recognisable. And if you think about big companies that are known to be good employers you might think of John Lewis or Virgin, for example – they have a reputation for being good to their staff. Essentially, that is employer brand – how your business is perceived by the outside world and what you’re like to work for. You need to put as much thought into your employer brand as you do your actual commercial brand.
You need to create an attractive employer brand if you want to attract the top candidates for the role on offer and there are a number of things you can do to make sure you’re the company they all want to work for:
Before you start paying a recruitment agency or advertising for your new staff members, consider whether internal recruitment might be a better option. It’s cheaper and quicker plus, the staff will already be familiar with the business and how it works. The fact you’re providing promotion opportunities for staff can also be very motivating.
The downside of internal recruiting, however, is that you limit the number of applicants and create another vacancy when the successful employee steps into a new role. They may not bring with them any fresh ideas because they’ve already worked for you for a while and it could breed resentment amongst staff who didn’t get the job.
External recruitment offers you a much wider talent pool to choose from than if you stick to internal recruitment and you will be able to get someone on board who can bring a new perspective to your business, who is enthusiastic and engaged. Applicants may also have a broader range of experience than your existing staff which can benefit your business.
However, it’s a much longer and more expensive process as you have to advertise, shortlist and run through interviews.
Outsourced recruitment is where you engage an external agency to handle your recruitment needs and it can be a good option for several reasons. It will save you time and the hassle of running the recruitment process yourself and the agencies will have expertise in recruiting in the areas you need staff. They will also have access to a database of potential candidates and their search can be much more targeted rather than you having to cast the net wide with lots of job adverts and hoping it will be seen by the right people.
The downside is it can feel expensive although outsourcing can be cost-effective because it does save you time and effort which could be better spent elsewhere. You also lose some control over the process and ultimately which candidates you get to interview. Like any service, there are good experiences and bad experiences so it’s important to make sure you pick an agency which is a good fit with your company and fully understands your business. If they don’t get your culture and ethics you could end up with a staff member who is a poor fit, causing low morale and tension in your business.
Once you’ve decided on the type of person, written your job description and sorted out how you’re going to advertise it, it’s time to actually post the advert and start the application process.
If you’re using a recruitment agency they will organise this part for you but if not you’ll want to advertise your job in the places where it will get seen by the people who you most wish to target for the role. Traditional adverts in newspapers or trade/specialist magazines still have a place but are not heavily targeted and increasingly jobs are advertised online.
There are large job search portals like Indeed or Monster as well as more specialised ones depending on what sector your business is in.
If you have a Facebook business page or a Twitter feed you can also advertise your job vacancy there. In addition, LinkedIn is a powerful tool for vacancies particularly because it is business-oriented, you can specifically search out individuals who would be ideal for your role and can even approach them directly to see if they would be interested in applying.
When advertising your vacancies online be sure to look at the key search words and phrases you use in your advert so people looking for that kind of role will come across your advert.
When you advertise your role you need to decide how you want the applicants to apply – job application form or CV.
There are advantages and disadvantages to using either one. If you choose to use a job application form that applicants need to download it gives you the power to specify exactly what questions you want answered and ensures you maintain consistency throughout the process. You’ll also be able to get much more specific information than you would on a CV.
However, you may get fewer applicants because of the effort required to fill out such forms over and over again. On the flip side of that, those that do take the time to fil it in are probably more serious about getting the job.
CVs, on the other hand, do speed up the process because candidates, provided they’ve got them ready, can upload them straight away. They also give an applicant a chance to show a bit of individuality rather than sticking to the rigidity of an application form. However, CVs will vary greatly from person to person and other people may have been involved in writing and embellishing them.
What you choose to use ultimately depends on what sector you’re in and whether you are expecting a slew of applications or the role is a specialist one. If it is quite standard and formulaic with lots of people applying, a job application form might be best but if it is someone with specialist knowledge you require, then getting them to supply a CV might reveal more individuality and creativity.
Once you’ve got a pile of applications on your desk you need to keep track of where you are with all of your potential new employees. You can do this by creating an Excel sheet and inputting data and updating as you shortlist them, interview them and reduce the selection down. However, you need to be mindful of keeping the data safe and complying with GDPR whether that’s locking applicant information in a filing cabinet or using a password protected computer system. You must also only store it for as long as is necessary for the purpose for which it was intended.
The downside of this is it is heavily reliant on you or your HR department doing everything manually and remembering to do so. Investing in applicant tracking system or online HR software not only helps to keep that information secure but will allow you set reminders, filters and updates as and when necessary. It also means you can access it from anywhere you can get online.
The selection process can be just as tough as the initial job description process at times, particularly if you have a lot of applications to run through. How do you weed out the good from the bad? What should be your selection criteria?
It’s time to revisit that job description you created because this will be the benchmark for deciding who is and isn’t suitable. Your hiring criteria should be based on those specific factors that you originally listed. You should also get your hiring managers, line managers and any other stakeholders involved – they will often have a detailed knowledge of what is required for the job, especially if you’re a little removed from the day-to-day activities of the role.
Use the job description to narrow down your list of candidates for interview and formulate interview questions that will elicit responses which provide evidence of skills and qualities needed for the role that they have gained from past experiences. Look for evidence of challenges they’ve overcome which might make them a better candidate and focus on their achievements, how they reached them and how much of an impact they had on a previous employer.
Be wary of candidates who come across as charismatic – they may interview well but don’t allow yourself to be wooed by their smooth interview style as they may not be the right person for the job.
Wherever possible, try and incorporate tests into the screening process so you gain real data in how they will handle challenges within your company. And place emphasis on attitude, enthusiasm and motivation – you don’t want to take on anyone who may struggle to get on with managers or authority.
We’re not suggesting you disregard all the criteria you’ve carefully laid out or ignore the previous points but listening to your gut can often lead you to the right conclusion. It’s human nature to exaggerate our achievements and add a certain shine to our professional history. There’s also a lot of things a job application or CV can’t tell you about a person such as will you actually be able to work with them and are they a good fit with your existing staff and business. So don’t ignore your instinct and what it’s telling you about a person.
It can seem like a bit of a long-haul but finally, you’ve found your perfect candidate and it’s time to offer them a job but before you do there are some basic housekeeping rules you need to stick to.
It depends on the type of job you’re interviewing for but you may need to carry out screening checks. You’ll need to make sure the person has the right to work in the UK and has the relevant visas where necessary if they’re a non-national. For security- related roles it may be necessary to carry out background checks and for some financial services roles a credit check may be required.
Again, depending on the role, a health check might be necessary. For example, if you are recruiting a driver, they might need to pass an eye test. You might need to check they actually do hold the qualifications they say they do and in certain roles you’ll need to carry out criminal records checks, particularly if they will be working with children, coming into contact with vulnerable groups or working with controlled drugs.
References are also an important part of the checking process and following up on them can give you a good sense if they’re right for the role.
In addition, you might wish to carry out your own investigations such as looking at their social media profiles and what they say on them. A candidate may come across well at interview but have offensive material they have posted publicly which could impact on your business reputation if you employ them.
You can make pre-employment checks prior to making an offer or after. If you make it after you should make it clear the job offer will be conditional on the candidate passing those checks.
Once you’re satisfied and you’ve made your choice you make an offer of employment. You should give the candidate all the information they need so they can make an informed decision about whether to accept or not.
It should include their name, the full title of the job being offered, their salary, the date of commencement if known, the terms and conditions of the offer, any benefits and any probationary period if applicable. It should also lay out what is expected of them and it should match their expectations.
One you’ve made the offer the applicant can either accept, decline or negotiate. They might accept it outright or they may try to negotiate better terms and conditions or salary.
After all that hard work you finally have your new employee but the process doesn’t stop there. From the moment they accept the offer you need to do everything you can to welcome them into the fold and reinforce your company culture. This includes any correspondence you send to them and keeping in touch with them regularly prior to their start date. It also involves getting everything set up ready for their arrival – make sure emails, passwords, access to company systems, desk space and so on are all in place because there is nothing worse than having your new staff member arrive and not be ready for them. It’s unprofessional and doesn’t paint your business in a particularly great light for the new employee.
Make sure your induction process supports your company culture, reinforces your vision and message and gives them the training they need to hit the ground running. In the first few weeks, schedule regular catch ups with them to make sure they are settling in and encourage them to socialise outside of work to break the ice with their team. Consider assigning them a mentor to help them settle in and have senior team members conduct the induction so they feel welcome and able to speak to all levels of management.
Ultimately how you onboard them depends on your company but think outside the box. Some companies offer swag bags full of branded goodies on their first day, others take them out for a beer, let them start later for a few days or even give them a pre-start holiday before they join. Bottom line, make them feel valued, make them feel welcome and you’ll be well on your way to building loyal, motivated and enthusiastic teams.