1. Summary

Small businesses can find the recruitment process a daunting prospect. They are concerned that it’s a complicated process, and that there are challenges at every stage. This section takes you through the key stages of the recruitment process and helps make sure your recruitment is efficient, effective and fair.

2. Key stages of the recruitment process

Selecting the right person depends on following a series of distinct steps. These steps provide you with a simple process that can be used no matter what type or level of position you want to fill. The process also ensures that your recruitment is efficient, effective and fair.

The steps are:

1.   define the role

2.   build a profile of the ideal person to fill this role

3.   attract applicants

4.   select the best candidate

5.   get ready for your new employee

This section looks at each of these steps in detail.

This BOSS course should help you to further consider what you need to do during the recruitment process.

(BOSS Digital courses created by Business Wales to support starting and running a business. Sign in/Registration is required).

3. Defining the role

You’ve made the decision that you need to take someone on and that the best option is to have someone directly employed in your business. Before you rush off to find someone, think carefully about what the role is, the actual requirements of the job and how it fits into the business and your future plans.

By writing a job description you are going to make clear the purpose, tasks and responsibilities of the job, not the person.

A good job description includes:

  • the main purpose of the job – ideally this should be just one sentence.
  • the main tasks of the job – use active verbs such as ‘writing’, ‘repairing’ or ‘calculating’ instead of vaguer terms such as ‘dealing with’ or ‘in charge of’.
  • the scope and responsibilities of the job – describe the dimensions and importance of the job, for example, the number of people to be supervised, the degree of precision required and the value of any materials and equipment used.
  • the reporting line for the job – where does the job fit in the business and who does the job holder report to.
  • practical details – include information about the wage level, hours, location and whether the job is full or part-time, fixed term or temporary.

Job Description

Use this framework to develop your own job descriptions:
1. Job Title
2. Main purpose of job
3. Key tasks / Main duties / Key results areas

  • a. Task 1
  • b. Task 2
  • c. Task 3
  • d. Task 4, etc

4. Responsible for: staff / equipment
5. Reporting to: who

Use this job description template (MS Word 11kb) as a guide to develop job descriptions in your business.

4. Building a person specification

Draw up a person specification based on the job requirements.

  • What are the skills, knowledge and aptitude necessary? Which of these skills are essential and which are desirable? Which skills can you teach and which must the candidate have already?
    • For a small business, practical skills and experience are often more valuable that formal qualifications. You need people with the right attitude who are reliable, flexible and willing to learn. As well as proven ability, you may also want to look at a person’s potential ability to gain the appropriate skills.
  • What sort of experience is required? What competencies are needed?
    • Be aware that experience may be gained from work-related situations, but also from volunteering or leisure activities.
  • What level of education and training should the person have?
    • Take care that this is only what is necessary for the job, not a personal preference. Experience can often be a better indicator of suitability than formal qualifications.
  • Are there any specific criteria that relate to the personal qualities or circumstances that are essential and directly related to the job? Remember, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of age, gender, race, nationality, religion or belief, or disability.
  • A person specification helps you undertake the selection and interview process in a systematic way.

Use this template to help you develop a person specification (MS Word 12kb).

Use this template to help you write a job description and person specification (MS Word 13kb) for the position you want to fill in your business.

5. Attracting applicants

Now you are starting the search for suitable candidates. Think about where you can advertise to attract a wide range of good quality applicants. You are aiming to get the best response at the least cost.

Here are some of the places to consider:

  • Direct recommendation and unsolicited applications – you may already have had people approach you with speculative enquiries or colleagues may have recommended people they think would suit your business.
  • JobCentre Plus – display vacancies and refer potential candidates free of charge. they can also help and advise you throughout the recruitment process. Contact your local JobCentre Plus office or visit the GOV.UK website for more information. They can also advise you on the various employment schemes available to help you recruit.
  • Recruitment websites, such as MonsterJobsinWalesGumtree and many others. These are very often the first place to look for suitable candidates and also to advertise job vacancies. Be aware that this may restrict your search to only those who are computer-literate.
  • Social media, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. This is a fast growing option, particularly for specialist skills, graduates and higher level candidates.
  • commercial recruitment agencies – some agencies specialise in particular types of work, for example, secretarial, office work, accountancy staff, construction, etc. Agencies may already have potential candidates registered with them and so can help to make the process faster.
  • Remember, commercial recruitment agencies charge a fee for their services – this is generally a percentage of the salary paid to the successful applicant and typically around 15%. 
  • Executive search organisations – these operate in a similar way to recruitment agencies, but generally work in higher management or specialist fields. They seek out suitable candidates working in other companies either by direct approach or through specialist advertising.
  • Local or national newspapers – traditionally this has been the first port-of-call for recruitment advertising. Be aware that this route may not produce the results you are looking for. Check out the publications you are considering and find out what response rates they have had for similar job adverts.
  • Specialist publications, for example trade or professional journals – these guarantee to reach the precise group of potential applicants and can produce a positive response.
  • Local schools, colleges and the Careers Service – make sure they are aware of the skills and abilities you require. It can also be useful to offer work experience or job shadowing to the benefit of both parties.

The recruitment advert

As well as where to advertise, you have to consider the advert itself. An effective job advert sells the position and the business – this is particularly important for small and new businesses, where the company name may not be particularly well known.

Include the key elements of the job description and person specification, as well as a brief description of your business. Make sure you include details about how to apply and by when.

Keep the advert short and to the point. Make sure it is clear, easy to understand and tailored to your target audience. Avoid gender or culturally specific language and make sure it is non-discriminatory. To broaden the appeal of the advert and potentially increase the number of applicants, you may consider including an equality clause, as well as details of other information, such as flexible working patterns etc.

Application forms

It can be helpful to use an application form when recruiting, rather than rely on each candidate responding in his or her own way. First, this means you can be sure the candidates provide all the information that is necessary and relevant to the job. It also makes it easier to compare like with like and to make your initial assessment.

Finally, the way the application form is completed, can be a guide to the candidate’s suitability – however, be aware of the possibility of disability discrimination and make sure all candidates have equal access to the mode of application.

Remember, information such as marital status, ethnic origin or date of birth should be requested for monitoring purposes only and should be kept separate from the main application form. You must also explain to applicants the purpose for gathering this information and that the information they provide on this form will not be used as part of the selection process.

6. Selecting the best candidate

There are a number of steps to take in selecting the best candidate.

  • First, draw up your selection criteria. Create a checklist based on the essential or desirable skills and experience required. Use your checklist to assess how closely candidates match up to the job and person specification.
  • Decide who is making the decision. Ask your Business Wales business adviser, one of your professional advisers or a business colleague to assist you with the selection and interview process. This helps to make sure there is no personal bias in the process. It can also help if at least one person on the selection panel has been trained in Equality and Diversity issues.
  • Sift through the applications, using your selection criteria checklist, to create a short-list of people to interview. You should only select those applicants who meet all the essential criteria.
  • Send a letter inviting candidates to an interview. Make sure you ask if there are any particular arrangements needed to accommodate them during the interview  - for example, ramp access or clear lighting levels. Also make it clear if you are paying the candidate reasonable travel expenses to the interview.

The interview process

Most jobs use an interview process. This enables you to find out if the candidate is suitable for the job and also enables you to give the candidate information about the job and your business.

Make sure every candidate has the same opportunities to give the best presentation of themselves, to demonstrate their suitability and to ask questions of the interviewer.

It is recommended that you use a consistent structure for the interview – using a standard set of questions for every candidate and give them the same amount of time. Include open questions (that is questions that can’t be answered by Yes or No) to encourage candidates to speak freely.

Make sure all interviewers are well prepared and have read the application form, job and person specifications beforehand. Know which areas require further exploration or clarification and plan the questions you want to ask. Be careful not to ask potentially discriminatory questions, such as “are you planning to have children in the next few years?” Also be ready to answer candidates’ questions.

Although it is an interview situation, encourage the candidate to relax. Make sure there are no interruptions during the interview.

At the end of each interview, tell the candidate what happens next and when they can expect to hear from you.

After the interview

When you’ve made your decision, write to all applicants to thank them and tell them whether they’ve been successful or not. Do this as soon as possible after the interview.

If possible, give positive feedback to unsuccessful candidates on aspects they could reasonably improve for future success. You want to leave all candidates with a favourable impression of your company – although they were not successful for this position, they may be suitable for future positions.  You may want to keep their applications or CVs on file for future matching.

The next section of this module looks at what to do when you’ve selected the right candidate.


Next: Getting ready for your new employee