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People, Skills & Talent

Recruiting the right staff for your business

Employees are one of the most important factors in determining whether a business succeeds or fails, so hiring the right staff is crucial.

But competition to recruit the best candidates has never been tougher. Between Sept – Nov last year, 750,000 vacancies were advertised across the UK, compared to 500,000 in the same period in 2012. Add to this a decreasing pool of candidates, and the recruitment process is something that no business can afford to get wrong.

Career opportunities

Candidates are rejecting more traditional corporate pathways. Instead, they’re favouring opportunities to manage their own careers, taking into consideration their values, interests and aspirations and targeting companies that have opportunities which support these goals.

What companies want and what candidates expect are often very different (see infographic below, or download it here), and in the age of the candidate experience, it has never been more important to align the two. With 20% of employees expected to move roles within the next 12 months, it’s critical to business success that employers have a recruitment plan in place to fill these future positions.

Make recruitment a positive process

A quarter of candidates report that they have had a bad experience when applying for jobs, with 42% saying they would not apply for another position with that company as a result,  shrinking the pool of potential candidates even further.

As an employer, there are some basic questions you should consider before starting the recruitment process:

  • What is the most efficient and cost-effective way of recruiting the right person?
  • What sort of contract should you use to fill this job role - temporary, fixed-term contract, or permanent?
  • Does your current recruitment process meet the needs of your business? Historically, have you attracted a high level of suitable applicants, and have these individuals performed well within the roles they’ve been offered?
  • What should you be looking for in a CV or application?
  • What are your legal obligations when recruiting staff?

Time to ring changes?

The cost of making a poor recruitment decision is often more than just the candidate’s salary and the biggest mistake you can make when you're recruiting is to rely on the same methods that you’ve been using for years. You also need to consider the following:

  • Business operations and structures have become much slicker. Gone are the days when you could minimise the consequences of a bad recruitment decision by "finding a place" for a new employee who isn't fitting in, or who isn’t as capable as first thought.
  • The qualifications for jobs that were once considered routine are escalating. With fewer layers of management in most small businesses, employees must do their jobs with less supervision than in the past. Not every employee can flourish in this kind of environment.
  • Technology is having a huge impact on work processes. Just about every task in business has to be done faster than ever and businesses are relying on technological advances to streamline day-to-day operations.  Few small businesses can afford to have employees who struggle to adjust to a more rapid pace and increasing demands.

Candidate feedback

It’s important to remember that the candidate experience starts the moment they first interact with you, not when the interview begins.

The Candidate Strikes Back, a recent survey from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation uses candidate feedback to offer some stark facts about what does and doesn’t work for potential candidates.

  • 54% of candidates use social media to find jobs, so you need to use the same networks to maximise the audience for your company’s opportunity
  • 72% of candidates initially use a mobile device to visit company websites to find out about potential opportunities, so you need to ensure the careers section on your site is accessible via a mobile device
  • 91% of candidates believe employer brand plays a key role in whether or not to consider working with a company, so you need to project the culture of your business and your brand through your actions and through your interface with all internal and external customers
  • 20% of people withdrew from the recruitment process because they felt it took too long, so you need to be clear on timescales.


Be prepared

It’s important that the interviewer, as well as the interviewee, is prepared, as poor planning can lead to poor decisions around selection, and put forward an unprofessional image. It pays to remember that attracting talent to your business is a 50/50 process; if the candidate feels you are not the right company for them, they’re likely to withdraw or accept any role with a view to moving on once a better opportunity becomes available.

Hitting the target

Deciding on where to advertise your opportunity is also important; it’s a way of showcasing your business and you need to target your efforts and find the right audience. If you're searching for apprentices, our Apprenticeship Growth Service can help. Alternatively, school and college careers event will give you access to a large pool of suitable candidates; for a specific role, an industry website or periodical may be most suitable. Flooding all potential avenues will often attract individuals who are unsuited to the role and waste both your time and money.

Also, make sure the advert is clear and list any minimum qualifications or experience so that you only attract suitable candidates. Where possible, include a closing date for applications too, and information about when interviews will take place. This portrays a transparent recruitment process and is a key factor in keeping applicants in the loop.

Make job descriptions relevant and reflective of a typical day in the role. This is key to ensuring that the position is in line with applicant expectations. If the applicant is offered a position that is different to what they expected, then it may make it hard to retain them.

Scoring system

Before applications or CVs are received, it's essential to establish a method for evaluating them. Devising a system where essential skills are the minimum criteria for hitting the shortlisting pile is key to speeding the process up, benefitting your business and the applicants.

Once you have decided which applications are to be shortlisted, it’s important to devise a process for scoring or weighting these applications, and that you keep notes on their suitability for interview.

Candidates who meet the essential skills or experience criteria but aren’t selected for interview may seek feedback. You should see this as an opportunity because by offering feedback you are giving the candidate the chance to develop, and in these times of lower unemployment and increasing opportunities, an interested individual who perceives your company to be professional and fair may be of interest to you in the future for different roles.

Ensure that any scoring system you introduce is relevant. Think about the key tasks the individual will be expected to undertake and ensure that scores are reflective of these. If an applicant indicates that they have experience of all of the key job roles but maybe not all of the other tasks that are required from time to time, they may still be worthy of an interview, as training may be an option.

Keep people informed

Once a shortlist has been agreed, it is important to inform both successful and unsuccessful candidates as quickly as possible. This is another opportunity to portray a professional image and is also key in keeping the interest of successful applicants. It may be that an applicant that you wish to take forward to interview is going through a similar process with another company, and giving timely feedback may ensure they decide to stay with you.

Prior to interviewing shortlisted candidates, devise a set of open and relevant questions that will give you more information about the individual and their suitability. Questions that are asked consistently across all interviews should enable you to clearly see which candidates perform well and fit better with your business.

If after the interview stage you are still unclear about which candidate to select, you can hold second interviews, whether face-to-face interview or by telephone to clarify certain areas. If you intend doing this, then let candidates know as soon as possible.

It’s important to ensure that you are selecting someone who can do the role, will be a good fit for your company and who appears to have career goals and aspirations that meet with your offer, at least for the short to medium term.

Once selected, ensure that you communicate with both the successful and unsuccessful candidates in a timely manner. Someone who just misses out on a position with you may be interested in future roles if they think that you conducted a fair and transparent recruitment process.

Constructive feedback, if requested, is a great opportunity to further develop your company image among candidates. It shows that you fairly evaluated applications and took a genuine interest in the interviewee. You want unsuccessful candidates to have gone through a slick process with your company, ending if not in a job offer, then with feedback that is useful for them in future applications. Word of mouth is a great way to promote how great your business is.

If you would like to find out more about recruiting the right people for your business or are looking for support to do so then

Get in touch through Enquire & Grow

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Karen Dudley

Karen Dudley, Workforce Development Advisor

Karen has over 25 years’ experience engaging with businesses across Greater Manchester and helping them to access a wide range of workforce development initiatives. She has also run her own business, supporting senior managers and business owners with a range of management development training.

She has a broad knowledge of the business support landscape across the region and has developed excellent networks enabling her to draw in support for businesses across a wide range of areas. She is a member of the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) and has a diploma Level 5 in Business Support and Level 4 Certificate Training & Development.

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