It’s my first foray into recruitment – help!

We run a small family business, and we’re doing really well, but the family is up to capacity. We need to advertise for staff, but are really nervous. Where do we start?


First of all congratulations for getting to where you are over such a tough few years. You have recognised that you cannot grow your business if you are bogged down with delivering all the operations and it’s time to recruit.

  1. Start with your business plan – be clear about what you want to achieve.
  2. Design an organisation chart that will deliver those objectives.
  3. For each role in the structure you need to create a brief job description. Keep it really flexible at this stage; whilst you are still small there’s likely to be lots of multi-skilling needed. The job description is not about handcuffing employees to certain tasks, but more about helping you structure the business so there’s no duplication or omission of activities.
  4. For each job description consider what knowledge/qualifications, skills, experience, (and behaviours if you like) are needed to perform the role. Consider essential and desirable qualities for each category. To help make this robust, think about how you will assess whether candidates have these attributes you are defining – can you assess it by, e.g. interview question, skills demonstration or a test. If you cannot assess the attribute, how will you know if the candidate has it?
    Defining these makes a Person Specification and forms your selection criteria. Ensure all the attributes you list link to the job (remember the Curry’s case where candidates were asked to dance?). Avoid age discrimination that comes with saying 5 years’ experience, and instead state the qualities you would expect to see with such experience.
  5. Now it’s time to write your advert. Say a little about the job, the company and who your ideal person is. Have a clear ‘call to action’ so interested applicants know who to contact and what to do. Whether you mention salary is your decision. It lets applicants know the level at which a job is pitched but may put off individuals that think it’s too high or too low. Ensure you comply with National Minimum Wage regulations and equal pay legislation.
    Where to advertise? That depends on the type of role it is. Social media is a great starting point. Use your networks on LinkedIn and Twitter. Your contacts will share the opportunity and spread the word. If you have a website, put details on there so that social media posts can refer people there. Email out to your contacts – customers make great employees as they know and love your product/service.
    You may also consider local press, trade journals or websites depending on the type of role. You could also consider recruitment agencies – traditionally they charge a percentage of salary or fixed fee recruiters – who enable you to access online job boards and pre-screen candidates for you.
  6. Once you receive your applicants it’s time to shortlist. Refer back to your person specification and your selection criteria. Shortlist those who meet your initial essential criteria and if there are too many use your desirable criteria to whittle the numbers down.
    If there are only a few applications, find the best fitting ones against your criteria. It’s really important to use your criteria to make selection decisions and make notes on your decision making. If an applicant is deselected, and wants some feedback, you will need to demonstrate objective, non-discriminatory reasons why they were not shortlisted.
  7. Decide how you will assess your shortlisted candidates. Typically, employers will conduct an interview. Consider other methods that enable candidates to demonstrate how well they will fit the role, e.g. presentations, simulations, work trials, psychometric tests. Ensure your methods are appropriate to the role, e.g. don’t make applicants for low-paid, unskilled roles sit through irrelevant tests. It will put them off and be costly for you.
    Invite the candidates as soon as possible. Don’t make the process too lengthy or good candidates will be snapped up elsewhere. Advise what the selection process will entail and ask if there are any accessibility arrangements you need to make, e.g. wheelchair access, extra time for tests or verbal rather than written tests for dyslexic candidates.
    Try to use competency-based interview questions rather than conducting a biographical interview (‘talk me through your CV’) and hypothetical questions (‘what would you do if…?’). Hypothetical questions only test a candidate’s knowledge and what they might do in certain situations. Competency-based questions ask about the candidate’s actual experience of situations and the results achieved.
  8. At the interview/other selection activities, ensure you keep notes of the candidate’s responses (note what they say rather than your opinion of what they say). This will then be used to assess how well they meet the selection criteria.
  9. Weigh up the applicants against the selection criteria and identify your preferred candidate, making notes of your decision making. Be prepared to provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates. If the candidate has training needs identified from the selection process, note these for addressing when they start with you.
  10. Offer the job as soon as possible, verbally, gaining acceptance before rejecting your second best candidate. Follow up the offer in writing, setting out a start date, salary and working hours.

Remember that you will be handling individuals’ personal information in a recruitment and selection process and will need to comply with Data Protection regulations, so ensure data is kept secure and disposed of securely at the end of the process. (Retain applications and notes for at least 6 months to enable you to defend any discrimination claims.)

This is a methodical process that will enable you to attract and select the best possible candidate for your business needs, whilst protecting you from claims of unfairness. Good luck!

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