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Recruitment – 10 Key Steps To Getting The Right Person, First Time!

Given the current climate you would be forgiven for thinking I am a bit mad to be writing  about recruitment.  But the recent survey I conducted amongst SME owners suggests that there will be some shift upwards in the jobs market. Whether this transfers across larger companies remains to be seen but business – and the economy generally – is definitely showing some signs of recovery.  Anyhow given that positive vibe I thought it might be worthwhile writing something on how to improve your chances of getting the right person for the job and for your business.

And that really is very important.  Given the huge choice of candidates on the market at the moment it is easy to slip into mode of “oh well, if (s)he doesn’t work out I’ll just hire someone else”.  It is true that you can of course, but you might want to think about the cost of such a mistake.

  • Opinions vary on the actual cost (in monetary terms) of a bad recruitment decision but it is generally accepted that the cost ranges from around 50% to 300% of the annual salary.
  • So if you hire someone for say €20,000 – they may only last three months but the least it is likely to cost you is €10,000 but it will probably cost you more.
  • And that doesn’t include the cost of hiring someone else to do the job.  Nor – more importantly – does it take account of things like lost opportunity, damage to customer relationships, loss of productivity overall in your team that often result.
  • Or the effect it has on managers – this is particularly important if you are an SME who is centrally involved in both the hiring process and perhaps training, and dealing with the poor performance and other issues that arise.  So can you really afford to get it wrong?  I think not!

10 key steps to help ensure you get it right, first time

# Step 1: Understand your need – job analysis.

Ok so you have decided you need to take on more staff because you have got more business, need to spend more time on sales or whatever.  Great.  But do you really know what you need?

  • Critically evaluate your existing resources.  How does that measure up to what you need going forward.
  • This gap, which might be described in functional terms like tasks, responsibilities, skills is the basis of defining the role.
  • It is important to go one step further though and consider what would someone who is doing the job well look like.  Always aim for a high performance level not an average one.
  • Look at the existing team dynamics – how it works together, who fills what team role and is there anything missing.
  • It might be worth using some psychometric profiling like Myers Brigg or DISC to help in this process – both can also be used as part of the selection process to get a “fit”.

Related: 5 Tips On How To Give A Great Job Interview

 # Step 2:  Understand what you want

It isn’t just about what you need for the business but about the type of person you want, or more precisely the type of organisation you want to create or maintain.  Broadly speaking what I am talking about is culture – “the way we do things around here”.

  • It is about the values and ethos you want your business and the people in your business to promote.
  • It is about how you communicate with each other, the level of engagement and involvement, the way customers and suppliers are dealt with, the degree of flexibility and “we’re all in this together” that you need, the image your business portrays and so on.
  • It is a fundamental part of your brand.  It is important therefore that each person you bring into the business reflects and buys into that culture.

 # Step 3:  Write a job description

By now you should know the following:

  • Broadly what the role entails (definition)
  • The tasks, responsibilities and accountabilities involved
  • What a good performer looks like and what competencies i.e. skills, knowledge and attitudes are necessary to achieve that
  • What challenges and opportunities will be involved
  • What type of person will fit your organisation – the personal characteristics

These elements basically make up your Job Description or Job profile and shouldn’t just be used for the recruitment process, but form the basis of your selection criteria, your training plans, goal / target setting and performance review.

Related: Six Great Employee Hiring Ideas For The New Economy

# Step 4:  Decide on your selection process and criteria

Once you have decided what you need and want and have written your job description you should figure out how you are going to receive applications and assess and select candidates.  Applications are typically by CV and perhaps cover letter or by application form.  Some organisations opt for online processes.  It really depends on what you prefer.

Interviewing is the most common form of assessment, with competency-based interviewing being the most robust interview method (it is proven to be the best in terms of predicting or assessing future performance capability).

  • In addition you might want to consider shortlisting as a first step – this is a CV screening process and is usually based on some limited essential criteria. Given the high volumes of CVs being received currently this is a sensible addition to the process.
  • You should also consider aptitude tests and / or psychometric tests.  These should never be used as the only selection method but rather as an additional aid.

The criteria should be clear (and based on your Job description) and you should devise a marking system – this will make the selection process much easier, not to mention more reliable and transparent.

# Step 5: Identify sources and launch search

Now that you have all the ground work done think about where you can find suitably qualified candidates.

  • You can of course resort to newspaper adverts and recruitment agencies.
  • More likely though you will go the route of Jobs Boards / websites.
  • But please don’t forget your networks and contacts.
  • LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are all valid (and increasingly popular) sources.

The more targeted you can be, the better the outcome.  Networks are probably the most cost effective way of targeting new employees but may not always be the most efficient.

Related: 6 Ways Companies Can Motivate Smarter

# Step 6:  Shortlist candidates

Using the criteria you have already set and taking pen and paper sift through all of the CVs and identify those that meet the requirements.  You may want to have a marking system for particular criteria – this will make life easier if you have a large number who meet this first stage but only want to progress a small number to the next stage of the process.

# Step 7:  Make your selection – Interview, assessment, reference check, medical – dig deep

Once you have your shortlist of candidates you will move to the next stage.  We have already mentioned the value of psychometric testing.

  • In terms of interview you may decide to do one, two or several.
  • You can conduct telephone interviews, one-to-one or panel.

In any case what is most important is that you know in advance what you are going to ask, that it is based on assessing the extent to which the person meets the criteria and that you dig beyond the surface.

  • Lots of people are polished at interview and will give good “textbook” answers – you need to know that they can do what they say.  The best way of assessing this is by asking for examples of where they have done a similar thing before probing their answers.
  • Following on from the interview stage(s) when you have a preferred candidate or even two or three preferred candidates, conduct reference checks and a medical assessment.  These are really important and can save you an enormous amount of grief down the line.

A word of warning – make sure you know what questions you should not ask at interview and what checks you are allowed to do.

Related: Motivate Your Employees When Times Are Tough

# Step 8: Offer

You should now have a top preferred candidate so time to make an offer.  The offer should include:

  1. details of salary,
  2. job role
  3. and responsibilities etc.

You should never make an offer before completing Step 7 but if you do, please ensure it is conditional on a satisfactory outcome to checks and medical.  The offer should also be subject to the candidate having provided you with accurate and honest information.

# Step 9: Onboarding and Training

So the offer has been made and accepted and the person is ready to go.  What next?  All too often a new employee arrives to a “damp” welcome.  The manager / boss is too busy to meet with him / her or isn’t even on-site.  No one is quite sure what the “newbie” is supposed to be doing so they all just get on with their own work.  I know this sounds exaggerated but you get the point I’m sure.

So what should happen?

  • Well there should be some form of induction – rules, regulations, health and safety and other policies should be explained, introductions made, arrangements made to ensure the “newbie” has a buddy for lunch.
  • Expectations should be clearly outlined in terms of behaviors and performance.  Set and agree performance objectives – make sure you and they know what they will be measured on.
  • Any training plans should be explained and initiated as quickly as possible.

This is the onboarding period – getting the “newbie” settled in, ensuring they become part of the team as quickly as possible and that they become productive as quickly as possible.  A little time spent at this stage can reap huge rewards later.

Related: 12 Ways To Improve Productivity At The Workplace

# Step 10: Review

There are two elements of review needed.

Firstly look back over the recruitment and selection process.  Did it go as well as you had hoped?  What could have been improved upon.

More importantly is the review of the new employee’s performance.  You should always include a probationary period in your contract (and offer) – at least six months.

  • During that time you (or the line manager) should meet regularly with the employee to review performance and address any issues.
  • If there are problems you need to know and deal with them quickly.  If they don’t work out then it is much easier to terminate a contract during or at the end of the probationary period.
  • In my opinion the recruitment process does not end until the employee has satisfactorily completed this period.

And a final word.  It might sound like a long and complicated process but it just takes a bit of effort.  And yes you might need the assistance of a professional to set up the process for you or even to implement it, but ultimately you will have gone a long way to avoiding those costs of a bad hire and to protecting your business. If you have any questions about job analysis, psychometric testing, or any aspect of this article please feel free to comment here or contact me directly. 

Image: “Inspecting Row of Figures/Shutterstock


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Jackie Prendergast is a dynamic and focused HR and business professional with over 15 years experience in both public and private sector environments. She is a firm believer in the concept of delivering excellence through, and with people and strongly supports an ethos of continuous learning and development in the achievement of goals. Jackie established her own HR & Management Consulting practice - Consulting Excellence - in 2007. Working primarily with SMEs and private clients Jackie provides a range of HR advice, support and services. She has written a number of articles on C.V. preparation and Interview Skills as well as a short Interview Guide (E-book). She is also a business mentor with Dublin City Enterprise Board’s Mentor Panel. In addition Jackie runs an online network for SMEs (and consultants / service providers operating in that space) on LinkedIn - SME Links Ireland.

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  • Good post Jackie. Brilliant check list for those about to hire!!
    I makes sense to wait until step seven to make the offer.. Jeez, I bet the average doesn’t get there at all…

  • What a detailed post Jackie :). You are absolutely right though – it is vital to follow a good solid process of research and selection or you will regret it in the long run (if things go bad). This happened to me once when I was under huge pressure to hire so I rushed the job and brought in the “wrong” person for the role. Between extra training, disciplinary processes etc, it cost far more than it would have done if I’d spent a bit more time on looking for the right person in the first place!

  • You have hit the nail on the head Barney – it really does cost a lot of time and effort if you get it wrong. Far better to but a little extra time in up front! BTW – is it too detailed?

  • Fred, thanks for your comments – and yes you are right – one of the biggest mistakes people make is making an offer (and having it accepted) before they do the medical and reference checks. It is a logical process really – it just needs to be implemented properly.

  • Hi Jackie – that would be a no. The subject needs the detail.

  • Anonymous

    Great post, Jackie. Very thorough. I could think of some good ones myself, but I’d be intrigued to know some of the questions you have identified that you should not ask at interviews.


  • I am sure more than one reading will pick a good few procedures from this post Jackie. I was thinking about the point tou made of relying on your network to find candidates. It can sometimes be tricky so I think steps 1 to 3 have to be very present not to make mistakes in the name of “referrals”.

  • Thanks Lewis. Well for the most part I was talking about questions that could be considered discriminatory within a particular jurisdiction. In Ireland there are nine grounds on which you may not discriminate and therefore generally should not ask questions. For example, asking about child rearing responsibilities and flexibility to travel could be considered discriminatory. Of course there are exceptions to this. It depends a lot on the nature of the job and how and to whom you ask the questions (some questions are acceptable once asked of both men and women, others are never acceptable).

    There are of course other question which I just consider a waste of time at an interview – but that is probably a discussion for another time.

  • Hi Jackie, As someone who just helped a client to hire for a key position within their organisation, I can compliment you on this “on the money” post. This is a wonderful example of the planning and steps that needs to be taken to ensure success when hiring. I would like to highlight two of the stages that you talk about. Step 3. Job description: this is a place where many in my experience get it wrong, either the wrong person is given the task or the description does not contain the right detail or language to attract qualified people. Step 4. Decide on your selection process and criteria: I personally like to use a weighted scoring system so as to negate the danger of “personality” type interviews. Well done Jackie! this is a wonderful and thorough resource. Thanks for sharing, Niall

  • You are right Facundo – there is definitely a danger of taking an employee through referral because someone else tells you they were good at another job. Not much good if you haven’t taken the time to understand what you want and need for the job and your business – they might be the right person….just not for you!!

  • Thanks for that….just checking!!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks again Jackie. You really know your stuff, don’t you!

    It’s posts like this that make me think: “now I know a good person in this field, and I am happy to pass their name on.”

  • Hi Jackie, Disqus ate my original comment 🙂 Firstly, can I say as someone who has just helped a client hire for a key role – this is a comprehensive and brilliant step by step guide to hiring. I would like to comment on two of your stages.

    Step 3 Write a job description: this is an area where many get it wrong by either entrusting the wrong person to write the spec or/and using the wrong language or description. I think people underestimate how important getting this right is, as it is key to attracting the right people to apply for the role in the first instance.

    Step 4 Decide on your selection process and criteria : I like to use a weighed scoring system for interviewing as it negates the possibility of doing personality based interviews.

    This is a truly thorough guide to best practice, minimising risk and cost and ultimately getting the right person for the role. Recruitment is a key key task for businesses, many would do well to read and then re-read your post. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Must have done the same with Fred’s earlier comment – I could see it on my email but not here. Anyhow thanks for the very positive comments. With regard to weighted scoring – it depends on the criteria and the relative importance of each – sometimes they will be equal and sometimes not. Personally I believe very strongly in competency based interviewing which removes a lot of the danger around personal biases and “personality” based interviews. Notwithstanding that I wouldn’t like people to get the impression that it is all about the skills – personal traits are important particularly when considering team and organisational fit. The biggest pitfall though is that people regularly believe that hiring people like themselves will work. But it is a bit like that old adage “two many cooks spoil the broth”!!

  • Thanks for that Lewis…always nice to be appreciated!

  • Hi Jackie. Excellent post as always. Just to reinforce one of your points. I’ve known many employers to offer positions subject to either medical exam, reference checking or both. It’s a common mistake. Applying these provisos to your final selected candidate can get the employer into very hot water – even if the candidate doesn’t know at the time. Don’t forget about freedom of information – they can check what you are holding about them on file. Jackie, you are absolutely right to advise prospective employers to do these checks before a job offer is made.

  • You are right Miriam – adding it as a proviso isn’t ideal – although it is better to do that than not carry out any medical or reference check at all. And you are correct the Data Protection legislation (Freedom of Information relates primarily to public sector / publicly funded organisations – a full list is included in the amended act) does give entitlements in terms of personal information being held. It is always advisable to make it clear up front that both are a part of the selection process and that by applying a person is giving his/her consent (or this agreement can be got when you look for referees). It isn’t advisable to conduct checks without the candidate’s agreement.

  • Great article, Jackie! I’d like to add that the assessments can really add value to the process. We work with our clients to build a behavioral benchmark for the position before we even go to market. That way, when they’ve chosen their finalist(s), we can compare their assessment results against the “benchmark”, along with all of the other criteria. If they don’t match in all aspects, we know where to delve deeper in our lines of questioning!

  • i liked the article …,

  • Hi Dave,u00a0because hiring a collections agency isu00a0not something you are going to have do very often, I likeu00a0your advice around seeking referrals – seems to me to be the first placeu00a0you shouldu00a0look.

  • One very important aspect for small businesses is ~ “If you do not ask, you might not get” Certainly it is not a given, that when you bill a client with “30 days Credit” stamped on the invoice, that the money just magically appears in your bank account in 31 days.nnSmall businesses must be VERY pro-active in getting paid, ever before they consider hiring in the heavies, but once every channel has been used, it is imperative to hire the right people – thanks for sharing some great tips there Dave.

  • Barjesh Syal

    thanks. it helped me a lot

  • jagsad

    blah blah blah

  • Dave Grundy

    Congratulations Jackie – a common sense, easy to follow guide for every leader, manager to work to. This gives everyone a fair chance to make an informed decision that works for everyone. After all, the candidate is choosing the organisation too.

  • Shahir

    can i have a question for you….can anybody explain to me the way to deal with transparency issues in employment recruitment and selection practise that take place in the public agencies

  • Jim

    Nice, just copied it all for my business controlled assessment. Very happy now

    Thanks Jim

  • Hey! We, at CallHippo, have taken a note of all the points stated in your article. We being a start up were a little confused on whom to appoint from the numerous candidates who came for interview. Your article have helped us pave our way to a strong team appointing the right person for right job. Thanks for the valuable information.

  • Nice Post!
    it’s very helpful to me.

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