Recruiting the right staff

Key principles apply to finding the right people for your organisation's job vacancies, says Neville Stein

Image: Alamy
Image: Alamy

Peruse the job section on any regional newspaper and you will notice an abundance of recruitment companies offering their services to local employers.

In fact, over the past decade the recruitment industry seems to have leapt into hyperdrive because employers find the process of recruiting the right staff onerous, fraught with risks and costly.

The services of a professional recruiter can save management time, be more successful and actually save money.

Regardless of whether or not you choose to use a recruitment agency to fill perceived skills shortages in your organisation, the following key principles apply to find the right people.

Do you actually need anyone at all?

This is crucial to ask — it is harder to fire than to hire. Often when a key employee leaves the immediate reaction is to advertise for their replacement.

First, you need to analyse the role. Could it be given to someone else in the organisation or split between several employees?

By reconfiguring current roles and responsibilities you might not need to recruit another person and you might save money. You will also then have an opportunity to develop your existing employees’ skills. 

Has the role changed?

This is also vital. You have an opportunity now to review this role — has it or should it evolve to include new tasks and skills? An amicable "exit interview" can help establish these details.

What do you want from this role as your organisation changes, and what skills and training do you require? These might differ greatly from those of the last person in the post so do not automatically employ like for like.

Create a solid, detailed job description

Assuming the vacant role is vital to the success of your organisation and there is no suitable internal candidate, you will of course need to recruit.

Even if you use an agency, you will need a detailed and accurate job description, and the very act of doing this will help you clarify who you are looking for.

There is a tendency for employers to treat job descriptions too casually, including perhaps a list of general terms and tasks lacking detail and specifics.

Many job descriptions say "team work", without specifying the tasks of delegation, motivation and good communication this may involve. You might get an applicant who thinks that being part of the local darts team will suffice.

So be specific about the duties of the role, set specific skill requirements, and include the objectives for the role.

Create a profile of your ideal person

A "personnel specification" is a document that lists the essential skills, attributes and experience that you ideally require to fit into the role. The key word here is "ideal" because rarely do you get the full Monty arriving at your door.

Consider what type of organisation you have. Is it very systemised and processed orientated? Or do you work more through creativity and free thinking? What type of person will fit into your company culture? Do you need someone challenging?

All about you

Having produced a job description and personnel specification, you should also produce a brief biography of your company.

This helps you to take stock of where you are, but also allows applicants to decide whether they might want to work for you. Do not make it too detailed, however — give links encouraging applicants to research your company.


Advertising can be costly and if you are not using an agency it is crucial to get it right. To attract quality candidates you have to sell the idea of them working for you, and clearly portray the benefits and opportunities.

But do not exaggerate or over-promise. Disillusioned staff are demotivated and destructive.

With regards to style, wording and which advertising mediums to use, too many variations exist to cover effectively here. I would suggest researching styles and formats of adverts that catch your eye and working from there.

Filter the wheat from the chaff

So, hopefully you are getting enough responses. Suggesting that people can phone for a chat if interested is a good first step because many candidates self-select themselves out of the process.

You then need to cross reference remaining applications against the personnel specification and disregard any who do not meet your key criteria.

Your shortlist will then be those applicants who most closely match your requirements, though it has been known for organisations to select a "wild card" who just seems to offer something exciting or different although they lack the qualifications and experience for the post.

Interview your chosen few

It is wise to inform those not selected for interview as well as those who are. It shows respect and as a PR exercise alone it is good practice for your company. The same applies for those interviewed but not appointed.

The interview itself needs to be well thought out. Who will be on the interview panel? What questions will you ask? Will you ask the candidates to give a short presentation, with or without advance notice?

At the interview you are looking to appoint the person who closely matches the personnel specification — the best person for the job.

There are many questions you could ask at the interview but make sure they are open-style questions and not closed or leading. You can also judge a lot from the sort of questions a candidate asks — or fails to ask.

Do not be afraid of a negative outcome if no one seems suitable. Go back to the drawing board rather than appointing ‘second best’ as this is less costly or problematic in the long run.

You can also have a second round of interviews if the final choice is proving difficult, or you could appoint on the basis of a trial period if a few doubts remain.

Appoint, contract, induct

Having chosen the most suitable candidate, offer them the post subject to references, and then start filling in those forms.

Agree their remuneration package, formalise the employment contract and then plan the induction process — more about this the next feature.

All of this may look like a rather convoluted process, but remember that your staff are your greatest asset. A robust selection and recruitment process will ensure that you get the best people for the job and avoid every employer’s worst nightmare — getting rid of the wrong ones.

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