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How do I recruit my workforce?

Recruitment is important to get right: it is an expense to the business in terms of cost and you want to ensure you hire people you can trust and are capable of doing their job. This guide will help you avoid some of the pitfalls and navigate the recruitment process successfully.


Where can I find employees?

The best place to look will often depend on the type of job you need filled and the availability of skills within the labour market.  Different approaches may be best in different circumstances. Let’s have a look at each in turn.

  • Tapping away on keyboard
    Recruitment websites

    There are different types of websites you can use. You can use general websites such as, Jobsite and jobs4u to name a few. The advantage of these websites is that they cover a wide range of candidates. The disadvantage is that you could be inundated with applications. If you use these websites, make sure you select all the tags and category options available when posting your vancany to ensure that you target your advert to the right people. 

  • Recruitment worker
    Recruitment agencies

    They usually require a percentage of the first years’ salary as their fee. It’s best to find an agency that specialises in the nature of the work you are looking to recruit into. Agencies will usually do pre-interviews to check all candidates out first and in some cases they can also do pre-interview tests for you. However, using an agency can be a costly option for a small business. 

  • Desk

    Very often small businesses start by recruiting people they know or people they have worked with in the past. Your own network can be source of good contacts and possible employees. The advantage is that these potential employees come with recommendations from people you know and trust, however if you recruit family or friends you need to be prepared to remain objective and ensure you recruit someone that can do the job rather than because you know them. 

  • Working on laptop
    Specific trade websites or publications

    One way of clearly targeting people with the right skills is through specific trade websites or publications. These are the places that people with the skills and experience you need will be looking for work. The advantage is that you will be directly targeting the right group of people. 

  • Circling job advert
    Advertising in local press

    Decide how far afield you want your recruitment advertisement to reach – ie local, regional or national. If you want to keep your expenditure down, advertising locally can be relatively cost effective.

Checklist: Recruiting staff

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How do I choose the right person?

Choosing the right person is all about knowing what the right person looks like in the first place, and that doesn’t mean what they physically look like, but rather what their professional or skills profile looks like.  If you set out clearly from the beginning what you are looking for and what you need then every other part of the selection process should fall into place nicely.

The following guidance will help you plan your recruitment process:

  • The best source for candidates is based on the nature of the skill that you are looking for
  • Selections methods only work if they enable you to actually test what it is you need to.  But they can be time consuming and expensive so you may need to strike a balance between the ideal selection method and an affordable one.
  • Job descriptions and role profiles are useful for structuring the interview questions around to make sure you’re asking the right thing.  They can also come in handy later on for staff performance reviews
  • One of the most important things when it comes to recruiting new staff is not to rush it just for the sake of getting somebody in. The individual not only needs the skills but culturally they need to fit with the organisations culture and values
  • Interviews and tests are not the only selection methods you might wish to use.  Think about what the candidate needs to evidence, i.e do they need to be good at presentations?  Do they need to do manual tasks that you need to test?
  • Think very hard about how much time, effort and money will be needed to train up these skills and whether it’s realistic to do so
  • Make sure you prepare different questions for the second interview that will enable you to explore their experience and expertise further. Or if you are carrying out tests you will need to design a test that will separate the candidates out with regards to their level of skills. You need to be able to differentiate between them
  • To try and differentiate between candidates look for extra experience and attitude towards their work. Try to identify anything outside of the job description that suggests this would be a good person to have in your business. Consider looking at any volunteer work that they might carry out or any responsibility they take for their own continuing skills development
  • Interview notes should be kept in case of any discrimination claims.

How do I check someone’s references?

The most common way of obtaining a reference is to ask the candidate to provide contact details of two referees and then email the contacts provided.

When requesting references be specific about what you want to know. Basic written references usually include:

  • Dates of employment
  • Job title and role
  • Attendance, timekeeping and number of sick days taken
  • Duties and any particular skills.

If candidates come to you with ready written references it’s best to give a quick call or email to the employer to check they are authentic.

It is customary to make any offer of employment ‘subject to satisfactory references’ to allow you to withdraw the offer if anything significant turns up that would make the appointment inappropriate.


What paperwork do I need to complete?

Most of the paperwork will come at the offer stage, this will be with regards to the offer letter, employment contract and written particulars

However it is good practice to keep a record of your interview notes in case you get accused of discrimination, in which case you need your notes as evidence that there was no discrimination. It therefore help to use a standard template for capturing notes at interview and keep the writing to a minimum using a selection table and tick boxes.

Is there any employment legislation that governs recruitment?

there is employment legislation that governs recruitment and you should be aware of what it is to avoid any risk of litigation. 

It’s important to note that an individual doesn’t have to be an employee of yours to make a claim against you.  Candidates that feel they didn’t get the job because you discriminated against them have every right to make a claim. This comes under the Equality Act 2010.

Podcast: Recruitment in SMEs (CIPD)

The CIPD is the professional body for HR and people development. This CIPD podcast explores the current recruitment landscape for SMEs, including innovative ways to attract, hire and retain the best talent. We’ve also included a free download of the CIPD’s guide to interview questions.  


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