12 Top Tips To Recruiting Your Next Employee!

When you are recruiting, whether it’s your first employee or you are adding to your team, it’s really important that you get the right person.

Time and time again clients ring me for advice on how to deal with a recent new recruit who simply cannot do the job or just doesn’t fit in with the culture of the organisation and the rest of the team. The route of those problems is generally a rushed recruitment process!

When I’m talking about recruitment, I always recommend a little planning and a simple consistent process that can be followed each and every time you recruit.

Here are my 12 Top Tips to Recruiting New Employees in a small business

  1. Consider All Your Options

    Recruitment may not always be the most appropriate course of action. Take some time to review the status quo and consider your range of options. Ask yourself the following questions:

    • Consider your business structure and the staff you already have: is that right?
    • Can you re-organise the work and/ or the team?
    • Can you use overtime?
    • Would staggering working hours get more done?
    • Can you sub-contract the work?
    • Can you use an agency in the short term?

    If there is a hole to fill your next job is decide what shape and size it is and how much you can afford to pay.

  2. Job Description and Person Specification

    This really must be the very first task you do when recruiting. If you don’t have a clear idea of what you are looking for you will be looking for the needle in the haystack! The job description should cover the main tasks and responsibilities of the role. Whilst the person specification outlines the experience, know how, qualifications, skills and attributes necessary for the role. They don’t need to be complex forms, 2 hand written lists are fine.

  3. Sourcing Applicants

    The first place to search is through your network of contacts! If you know someone who would be ideal for the position send them the job description and person specification and ask them if they are interested or if they know someone with a similar background and experience you could approach.

    If you are looking for technical or academic qualifications then get in touch with your local college and university careers offices.

    Don’t forget to notify existing employees of your plans – someone might be interested in applying or may know your perfect candidate.


    Be creative and make people interested in your company. This is no different than your marketing campaign, your target audience is your perfect employee and you need to reach out to them. When describing the position be honest, emphasise the skills needed, and talk about your culture. If you exaggerate here you will limit your pool of candidates and if you are too vague you will end up searching through many hundreds of irrelevant CV’s!!!

    Where you place the advert will depend on the sort of person you need, give careful consideration to which publications and recruitment websites will reach the best audience. I avoid national newspapers or professional journals as they are extortionately expensive, many local papers are also extremely expensive. By far the most popular method of recruitment advertising these days are the online recruitment boards such as CV Library, Monster, Reed and Totaljobs.

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  4. Reviewing the Applications

    As soon as you have collated all the applications you will need to match the candidate’s skills and experience to the essential and desirable criteria on the person specification form/list. I find it helpful to attach a form to each application which lists the key requirements and then to rate each candidate against them. For example for possession of a mandatory qualification you may give two points where they have successfully completed the qualification, one point if they are working towards the qualification and zero if there is no mention of the qualification.

    Those applicants with the highest scores will form your initial shortlist. If you are left with a large shortlist revisit your job description and person specification and consider what other requirements you can add which will help you narrow the shortlist down to a manageable number (I always aim for a maximum of six candidates).

    In addition to your essential and desirable criteria look out for the following:-

    • Layout: is it tidy and accurate?
    • Spelling and Grammar: there is NO excuse for spelling and grammar mistakes on a CV produced on a computer these days. All computer software has built in spell checking. Errors show a lack of professionalism, attention to detail and all-round carelessness.
    • Dates: are there any gaps in employment?
    • Achievements: do they describe the role or the result?
    • Inconsistencies: do the job titles match the descriptions?
    • Interests: what do they say about the personality?

    Don’t disregard an applicant because they haven’t worked in your industry before, they may have some very transferable skills that you can use. Instead look at their accomplishments and skills.

  5. Telephone Interviews

    Telephone interviews are a great way to determine if your short-listed candidates meet the basic requirements of the position and if they will fit in with your team. They don’t have to be long, when I am doing telephone interviews for candidates, I schedule 15 minutes per candidate.

    The questions you ask will be more about the essentials a person must have, these are the items you consider non-negotiable.

  6. Interview Questions

    Look at your job description and person specification and pick out the questions you want to ask to gauge how each candidate matches your requirements. These will be the minimum questions you ask each candidate you interview and, since everyone is answering the same questions, will allow you to compare apples with apples.

    Do not ask candidates any questions about their personal circumstances or make assumptions about their personal circumstances as doing so could lead to claims of discrimination.

    Here are some factors to consider when you are interviewing candidates:

    • Skills – do they have the basic skills required to carry out the job functions. What soft skills, such as negotiating, persuading or emotional intelligence, do they have?
    • Job experience – what is their job experience? How has what they’ve done in the past going to benefit your business in the future? Can they hit the ground running or will they need some training?
    • Qualifications – do they have the qualifications that are necessary to perform the duties or are they working towards them?
    • Team relationship – can they work alongside others, if needed, to reach a common goal? How will they fit in with the current team?

    Topics you may want to consider covering in the interview process:

    • Adaptability – how they resolve a tough situation or how they handle change.
    • Customer service – how do they handle difficult customers?
    • Dependability – are they committed with a sense of responsibility.
    • Initiative – are they willing to take an opportunity when it’s presented?
    • Interpersonal skills – how they handle conflict with others and their work demeanour.
    • Judgement – how they make difficult decisions.
  7. Interview a Selection of Candidates

    Sometimes I come across a client who has been so desperate to fill a role they offer the job to the first person who walks through the door. No matter how desperate you are I always recommend arranging interviews with at least two candidates, so you’ve got a comparison. Keep notes! Again, nothing formal is needed but if you are interviewing several people over a week, it’s easy to forget what someone told you or even looked like.

  8. Don’t Discriminate

    If a candidate shows they have the skills and experience you are looking for and you rejected them simply because of their sex, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability, age, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy or maternity you would put your organisation at risk of a tribunal claim!

    It is good practice to show some flexibility around interview times i.e. avoiding significant religious times such as Friday afternoons. Care should also be taken were the recruitment process includes a social gathering, as these may disadvantage anyone to whom association with alcohol is prohibited on the grounds of religion or belief. If food will be served at some point during the recruitment process consideration should be given to the menu, you do not have to provide specific food such as Halal or Kosher but it would be good practice to offer a vegetarian option.

    Whilst you should be sensitive to the needs of the applicants, the individuals invited to attend a selection process should ensure that they make their needs known to you in good time so that you have the opportunity to take them into account. The invite to interview letter should therefore invite each applicant to make their special needs known. See the appendices within this section for an example letter.

  9. Keep Candidates Informed

    One of the hardest things about being a candidate for a position is not knowing where you stand. If someone is not right for the position – call or write to them. If the process is going to be delayed for whatever reason – tell them. This communication will not only reassure candidates, it will eliminate the calls to you checking in on their application and it will work as PR for your company as they will speak positively about you. This doesn’t have to be an expensive and time-consuming task. If you advertised your vacancy on-line there will probably be a facility to bulk respond to candidates. If not send an email to all those who have included an email on their CV, remember if you send a bulk email to protect everyone’s identities by putting your own email address in the ‘To’ box and adding all the candidates email addresses to the ‘BCC’ box.

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  10. Making the Offer

    Where most people fall short here is not following up with a letter to confirm the offer. Too many times there is a misunderstanding about the hours, pay, start date or benefits. Put it in writing and send it to them straight away, it’s a lot easier to correct any misunderstands before they start working for you. This is the time to be clear about any conditions associated with the offer such as proof of qualifications, receipt of satisfactory references etc. Your offer letter should include the following:

    • The time limit for acceptance
    • Whether acceptance should be in writing
    • That the offer is subject to the candidate providing the following information:
      • Proof of permission to work in the UK
      • Satisfactory references – you should ask the candidates to give their permission for you to approach their referees when they confirm their acceptance of the job.
      • Any other factors relevant to the job (for example proof of relevant qualifications, criminal records bureau check, etc).
      • You may also wish to remind the candidate not to resign from their existing job until the requirements for accepting the job have been satisfied.
    • Details of any probationary period relevant to the job.

    When the offer has been accepted follow up with a full contract of employment – remember some candidates will be reluctant to hand in their notice until they receive this so if you want to speed the process up send the contract with the offer letter – not instead of it.

  11. Request references from previous employer(s)

    Regardless of how much you like someone and want to offer the position – check their references. This is important if only to confirm that what they have told you in the recruitment process is true in terms of when, where and what. But what you really want are comments relating to the skills and attitude you are interested in.

  12. Settling In Your New Employee

    Once the employee has accepted your offer agree with them a start date and confirm what time, where and to whom they should report on their first day. Also remind them to bring their P45 and bank details for payment. When your new employee starts work you will need to spend some time with them to ensure they understand your business for instance your business goals, objectives and rules. They also need to know how you expect them to conduct themselves, the standards you expect them to attain and the ‘rules’ of your business. The employee handbook provides a perfect format to communicate this and act as an on-going reference. The sooner your new employee picks up “this is how things are done around here” the quicker your culture will become second nature to them.

    If the employee will serve a probationary period explain how their performance will be assessed and how their position will be confirmed if they are successful. Explain when the probationary period may be extended and set a meeting in your diary to review the employee’s performance at the end of the probationary period. During the first few weeks of the employee’s employment, ensure that they receive all the relevant training, are aware of any performance objectives and are given full details of any policies and procedures which apply to them.

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If you found this helpful and you would like to learn more about how I work with owners of small business who want to improve their HR management, please go here.

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12 Top Tips To Recruiting Your Next Employee


Kathryn is a highly experienced HR Manager with a wealth of skills and knowledge acquired across a variety of industries including manufacturing, health and social care and financial services. She has worked in small localised business and larger multi sited organisations and is comfortable liaising with senior managers and union officials as well as answering queries from team members. Connect with Kathryn on:

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