Four steps to avoid the recruitment blues *

Recruitment is a highly risky activity for any business, and especially so for smaller owner managed businesses where any new recruit is likely to have a significant effect on the running of the business.

So how do you protect yourself against the risk of getting the wrong person?

Large companies have a dedicated resource in the HR department to ensure best practice in recruiting, to maximise the chance of getting a good employee and to minimise the cost.  Within an owner managed business that responsibility lies with the owner himself, who is unlikely to be able to call on the experience and technical skills of a professional recruiter.

I’ve interviewed many candidates over the years, and made many mistakes – usually recruiting very nice people but not always up to the job! Therefore I have come up with the following process – it still isn’t perfect, but will surely help!

Job description

This should be detailed very carefully as follows:

·         define the responsibilities that the new employee will have – useful to have a summary which can be included in an advert, but a more detailed version for them to review when attending for interview,

·         define the output you expect from that position,

·         describe the environment in which the person will work – ie to whom they will report, how many people they might have reporting to them, etc.

Personal profile

Build a profile of the ideal person who will suit the job specification:

·         define the skills and qualifications you think are essential,

·         describe the further attributes which would be desirable, though not essential,

·         describe the character and experience of the ideal person to fulfil that role

Remember, people can learn additional technical skills on the job, but are unlikely to be able to change basic characteristics. If you’re very lucky you may get someone who fulfils nearly all of your criteria, but you would probably be foolish to hold out for the perfect person.

Finding your candidates

You now have to decide how to find the potential recruits; there are three main routes:

·         Word of mouth

·         Advertising

·         Recruitment agency

Each of these ways has its advantages and disadvantages:

·         you may find someone ideal through word of mouth and it will cost you nothing, but it is likely to mean that you don’t look at enough potential employees to get a clear view;  but it is a very good addition to the other two methods.

·         a well worded – and well placed – advert should get a good number to choose from, but the time commitment reviewing the responses can be substantial.  And if you haven’t written your advert very clearly you will get a lot of duds! Also, insist that the candidate provides a covering letter which demonstrates how they fulfil the requirements of the role which you have put in the advert.

·         A good recruitment agency will take much of the hassle out of the recruitment process but clearly can also be quite expensive.

Deciding on the right candidate

1.       Filter – If you are faced with tens – or even hundreds! – of CVs at the start of the exercise, the first job is to whittle those down to manageable proportions. You will quickly tire of reading all of them in detail, and this is where the covering letter ensures that you don’t have to; if a candidate can’t read the requirements properly – ie his covering letter or email doesn’t demonstrate the necessary experience, qualifications or skills – then why bother reading the CV?

2.       Divide into groups – after this first sweep you would hope to have a small number of people who you definitely want to see (your shortlist), a larger number who are borderline (your backup), and an even larger number who don’t make the cut at all.

3.       Filter further – try and design objective tests for the candidates to do – for example if you want someone who has Excel skills, design a simple test which shows what they can do – don’t just believe what they say! It’s a bit like our view of our own driving – we all think we are above average, and would happily tell others so, but none of us is right!

4.       The interview – have a checklist of issues which you need to satisfy yourself about, as without that you are likely to concentrate principally on the personality of the candidate, and the chemistry that there is – or isn’t! – between you. Personal chemistry may well be very important, but it is unlikely to outweigh the absence of basic skills.


It’s all in the preparation!


* — and for the musical amongst us, the blues are often in 4/4 time!

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