1. Introduction

Recruiting new staff for your business is one of the most expensive and crucial decisions you will make and getting the results you want takes good planning and implementation.

The information in this section will help you to:

  • recognise some of the common Recruitment pitfalls to avoid
  • follow a planned approach to drawing up job descriptions and person specifications
  • understand the advantages and disadvantages of different Recruitment methods
  • interview and select job applicants more effectively

2. Common Recruitment Pitfalls

Before looking at the routes to recruiting and the key activities involved, let’s look at some of the common pitfalls to avoid:

  • Recruiting people you get on well with, who look like you or who move in the same social circles as you.   ‘Word of mouth’ recruitment is a typical example which may lead to a homogenous workforce.  This may result in poor decision making or problem solving, a lack of creativity or absence of empathy with certain customers.
  • Recruiting in the image of the previous jobholder.  If the person that has just left the job was successful it is tempting to look for someone with the same skill set or competences.  Think about how the job many change over the next few months or years…. and recruit for the future, not the past.
  • Not preparing enough.  You need to have a clear idea of the job that needs to be done and the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to carry it out.  Unfortunately, some recruiters rely on ‘gut-feeling’ or adopt the “I’ll know the right person when I see them…” approach.
  • Recruiting in haste or ignoring the potential that exists within your own business.  Effective workforce planning can highlight future problems or skills gaps that may be overcome by multi-skilling, re-training or development.

Some of these pitfalls are the result of our ‘Unconscious Bias’ which may be unintended, but can affect the way we recruit, manage and develop people.

You can find more information on overcoming Unconscious Bias by visiting ACAS http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5433

3. Planning your Recruitment

Having identified a need to recruit taking a planned approach will help you carry out a fair and effective process.  Two key activities when planning are:

1. Drawing up a Job Description. A good Job Description is much more than a list of tasks and responsibilities.  If well written it:

  • gives the reader a sense of the priorities involved
  • provides a clear picture of the position for potential candidates
  • is a useful tool for measuring performance
  • can be a vital reference in the event of disputes or disciplinary issues

See our Job Description quick guide here and example template here

2. Writing a Person Specification. A Person Specification has a number of uses, it:

  • informs potential applicants about the level and complexity of the job and helps them to decide whether to apply for the job
  • establishes the criteria against which all candidates will be judged objectively
  • provides a template for transparent decision making during the selection process

See our Person Specification quick guide here and example template here

4. Methods of Recruitment

There are two ways you can recruit staff:

  • Internal recruitment, which is filling a vacancy with staff currently employed in the business.  This approach is typically used for promotions, however lateral transfers or position shifts can also be filled with existing staff.
  • External recruitment, where you search for new candidates from outside of the business to fill a position where no internal options are available.

5. Internal Recruitment Method


  • The selection process is much easier and quicker as there is likely to be a smaller pool of high calibre candidates to choose from.
  • It is more cost efficient as you do not need to pay recruiter fees or to advertise the job.
  • You already know the attributes, capabilities, and motivation of the candidates and have a better idea of how they will perform in this new role.
  • Promoting staff from within your company can be motivating for your employees who will recognise that their hard work is being rewarded.


  • Promoting from within may create an atmosphere in which employees feel promotion only happens when an employee in a more senior position leaves their role.
  • No new ideas, viewpoints or energy comes into the business.
  • It limits the potential number of candidates that you have to choose from.
  • It may create resentment between employees who feel they were overlooked for the promotion.

Methods include:

  • Internal advertisement.
  • Promoting a talented junior member of staff to a more senior role.
  • Transferring temporary employees into a permanent role.
  • Hiring employees from one department into a position in a different department.
  • Filling a freelance position with a retired employee.

6. External Recruitment Method


  • It brings new talent and ideas in to the business.
  • There is no limit to the number of candidates you can screen / interview.
  • Your business will have access to a more diverse set of skills and experiences.


  • It is typically a more expensive and lengthy process with costs for advertising the job and arranging interviews.
  • It is more difficult for your company to assess the candidate as you have no proven evidence of success to work on.
  • It is not clear whether or not the candidate will fit in with the work culture of your business.

Sources include:

  • Word of mouth.
  • Using Job Centre or a specialist recruitment agency.
  • Advertising the role on social media, your company website, in a newspaper or professional / trade magazine.
  • Listing the job on an internet jobs site.
  • Asking for referrals from existing employees.
  • Hiring a specialist search company (usually for senior roles).
  • Checking any records for previous speculative applications or unsuccessful candidates.

7. Getting the interview right

When conducting recruitment interviews there are three areas that need your attention:

  • Being prepared.  Planning and structuring your interviews will help you and the candidates get the most out of the opportunity and avoid unforeseen situations such as fire alarm testing.
  • Making decisions.  Keeping records of the evidence you are presented with will help ensure all areas are covered and decisions are made impartially within appropriate boundaries.
  • Lasting impressions.  Whatever view you are left with of the candidates they will equally make judgements on your organisation and behaving professionally will help showcase you as an employer of choice.

8. Prepare for the interview

  • Don’t interview too many or too few candidates - 5 or 6 is usually enough for one vacancy.
  • Think about whether you should create an interview panel so that you have a variety of viewpoints on each candidate.
  • Remind yourself of the essential and desirable criteria you are seeking to assess candidates against (in the Person Specification).
  • From the criteria draw up a list of standard questions to measure the candidate's skills, abilities and past work performance.
  • Schedule at least 30 minutes for each candidate interview, plus 15 minutes between each candidate for you to write up your notes of the interview.
  • Think about any methods you wish to use to supplement the interview e.g. presentation, personality tests, and give sufficient advance notice for the candidates to prepare.
  • When making the arrangements, find out whether the candidates will need reasonable adjustments made to the interview such as support with access and mobility, for hearing and visual disabilities.

9. Collect relevant information during the interview

  • Treat all candidates fairly and remember to allow for the fact that they will be nervous.
  • Past behaviour usually predicts future behaviour, so ask questions based on situations that the candidate has previously faced.
  • Ask for specific examples of past performance e.g. “Can you give me an example of a time when you……?” or “Describe an occasion when….?”
  • Avoid hypothetical questions such as “What would you do if….?” or “How would you…..?”
  • All questions must be performance based and not of a personal nature.  Don’t ask any questions which are not directly related to the job.
  • Don’t be afraid to probe vague or incomplete answers.
  • Don’t talk too much.  You should aim to let the candidate do at least 80% of the talking.
  • Make bullet points of the candidate’s responses to help inform your final decision.  These should be written up in more detail after each candidate interview.
  • On completion of all the interviews, evaluate each candidate objectively against the criteria.   Don’t assess candidates against each other as you could end up choosing the least poor rather than best overall.

10. Behaviour during the interview

Remember, the candidate is assessing whether they wish to work for you as well as you assessing him / her. Therefore, you also need to promote a professional image:

  • Conduct the interview in a private place away from distractions.
  • Be punctual.
  • Avoid appearing bored or fatigued.
  • Structure the interview and inform the candidate of the structure, for example what you will be focusing on such as past behaviours / results and that you will be taking notes.
  • Provide information on your business and the job to each candidate.
  • Give the candidate a chance to ask questions of you on completion of the interview.

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