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Business Guides    /    How to successfully recruit and on-board

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Sourcing Potential Applicants

As soon as your business employs staff, even if it’s only one person, you need to ensure that you are aware of the legal obligations that are placed on you as an employer. This starts with the recruitment process and making sure that you find the best person to fit your business’s needs.

If you are replacing an employee who has left, do you still need someone to do the same tasks as before? Or if it’s a new post, are you clear on exactly what skills you need to support your business?

Start with a clear Job Description and Person Specification

Every post should have a clear job description, that details the purpose of the role and the key tasks required. Even if you are replacing an existing role, it’s always best to review the job description to check that it is still fit for purpose.

You should also think about the type of attributes that the successful candidate will need to have – this is known as the ‘Person Specification’. You should consider any attributes that would make them a good fit for the role, for example:

  • what experience they might need
  • any particular qualifications
  • personal qualities they should have
  • any physical attributes needed for the role

What are the most effective methods to recruit staff?

Once you have a clear Job Description and Person Specification, you need to consider the best way for you to recruit suitable candidates for your business. There are a range of methods to choose from, each having its pros and cons.

Have you considered your existing talent pool?


Looking within your existing staff group is a good place to start, as you may have talent there that you are not currently fully utilising. Is there someone who, with the right training and development, would have skills that you need? The advantage is that there will be less surprises with a current member of staff as you will know both their strengths and weaknesses.


By promoting from within you miss the opportunity to bring in new talent. Companies can become very inward looking if they don’t diversify by bringing in new ideas and talent and you may still need to recruit someone to backfill their original post.

Do recruitment agencies offer value for money?


Agencies often focus on specific industries and sectors so can offer specialist advice on recruiting staff in your industry. They may have access to a wide range of candidates and will usually undertake pre-screening so that you don’t waste time interviewing unsuitable applicants.


Agencies can be expensive with average fees ranging between 15% to 25% of the salary offered.  However, most will offer a rebate on permanent placements if the candidate doesn’t work out within an agreed timescale.

Are newspaper / journal recruitment adverts effective?


These generally work out cheaper than using an agency, but the price will depend on the publication. National papers tend to be very expensive, although their on-line packages can be much more reasonably priced. Local papers can offer a good method for recruiting candidates if you are looking for widely available skills, whilst trade or professional magazines may be a better if you are looking for specialist skills.


Readership levels for printed publications are generally falling, so make sure you choose a publication with an on-line presence too. Only active job seekers are likely to see your advert, so you may be missing out on a wider pool of potential talent.

Are on-line recruitment options the way forward?


On-line Jobs Boards allow you to post roles on-line and accept applications back directly from candidates. The easy accessibility will appeal to many candidates and can speed up the recruitment process. They can allow you to be more creative in content than traditional paper adverts and enable you to make amendments at any point.


The nature of Job Boards means that they may attract large numbers of unsuitable applicants, which will take you time to sift through. Costs vary greatly too, with some requiring you to sign up as a member to use their services.

What are the advantages of social media / professional networking platforms for recruiting new staff?


Posting roles on Social Media will mean that you can reach passive candidates who were not otherwise looking for a new role. You can also target your vacancies to specific groups, such as sector or interest groups within on-line communities. Some options are also free, such as sharing a post on your company page on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.


If you want to make full use of systems, such as LinkedIn, you will need a recruiter’s license which can be quite costly. Also passive job seekers are statistical not as likely to be as engaged as those actively seeking employment.

Are head hunters / search agencies worth the money?


These are specialist recruiters who will actively search the market for potential candidates to fit your requirements. They will approach people who are not actively looking for a new role, giving the advantage of a wider pool of applicants. They often specialise in particular sectors, meaning that they are more likely to find suitable high calibre candidates that you may not be able to reach via other methods.


Head Hunters tend to only recruit for higher level roles such as Senior Managers and Directors and their charges are usually high, often ranging from 15% to 40% of the first year’s salary.

A blended approach to recruitment may be best

You may find that your best approach is to try a mix of a number of avenues to help you find your perfect candidate. When considering which route is the best fit, you will need to factor in:

  • How much you are prepared to invest in your recruitment exercise, both in terms of time and money.
  • The impact on your business of carrying a vacancy. Is the lack of staff stopping you from expanding your business or fulfil existing orders / meeting customer needs?

Whilst an effective recruitment process will come at a cost, the benefit to your business of the right new talent should definitely outweigh this and result in a positive impact on your company’s bottom line.

Selecting the Best Candidate

Once you have identified a short list of candidates from your recruitment process, you will need to make your final selection of who to appoint.

A selection process will traditionally consist of an interview, but you can also add a range of other selection tools to help you make the right decision. You may want to consider using a mix of the following approaches:

Competency-based interviews

Competency based interview questions require candidates to give clear examples of their experience which demonstrates particular skills or attributes that you are looking for. For example, you could ask how they have delivered a project on time or handled a difficult situation. This is more effective than traditional interview questions and are generally accepted to be a better prediction of future performance.

Is psychometric testing effective?

This form of candidate testing can be very effective as it looks at a range of characteristics, behaviours and personality traits of the applicants. Psychometric tests can give a deeper understanding of an individual and can help you focus on their potential rather than just on past performance.

By comparing their personality profile to the job role required you can get a better understanding of whether the individual might be a good fit. For example, if you are recruiting a sales person you would look for a personality profile that showed that they had good negotiating skills and generally had an outgoing personality.

Tests must be administered by a trained individual, but there are many bureau companies that can arrange and administer these for you. Prices vary greatly, so it is worth shopping around. However, by using some form of testing at the screening stages you can reduce down the time and cost of interviewing unsuitable candidates.

Psychometric tests should only be used alongside other recruitment methods as it would be dangerous to base any decisions on the tests alone. However, they do offer a much broader picture of an applicant than interviews alone can achieved.

What other on-line testing is available?

Other types of selection tests are also available that can help you assess a candidate’s abilities and skills against job related criteria. For example, there are tests that can analyse management skills, which will show how well a candidate is likely to perform in different situations. Tests are available that fit with specific sectors so that you can look at their potential performance in a setting that is relevant to your business.

There are also a wide range of verbal and numerical skills tests which can be useful for some roles.

What are observation tests?

One very useful way to assess candidates is to see how they behave in practice, by arranging for them to undertake some of the types of tasks that the role will involve. For example, if the role requests them to have excellent customer service skills, then arrange to observe them in practice by setting up a mock phone call with a “customer”.

If the role requires technical expertise you may want to test their skills in a practical way rather than make a decision based on their qualifications alone.

Are work trials a good idea?

Similar to observations, a work trial gives you the opportunity to observe a candidate in action. However, unlike an observation, a work trial is usually for a longer period – possibly a day or more.

Whilst you may not have the time to undertake this with many candidates, it can be very effective to help you make a final decision in relation to your preferred candidate, allowing you to observe them in practice before making your final decision.

What are the common pitfalls to watch out for when making your selection?

What is unconscious bias?

Whilst most people would not intentionally discriminate when selecting an applicant, it is very easy to find that you favour someone with whom you feel you have something in common. For example, you may find that you favour a candidate who comes from a similar background to you or appears to share the same values.

This is known as unconscious bias and it can very easily affect the recruitment decisions that people make, meaning that they might overlook the better candidate. Whilst it is human nature to feel what is known as “affinity bias”, where there appear to be shared characteristics or experiences, the danger is that, if the bias is against what is referred to as a “protected characteristic”, this could be discriminatory.

By being aware of the existence of unconscious bias you can ensure that you make any recruitment decisions based on facts and evidence rather than “gut feeling” and avoid any potential claims of discrimination.

Are you rejecting “overqualified” candidates?

Sometimes you may receive an application from a candidate who appears to be overqualified for the role you are looking to fill. You may worry that if you were to appoint them they wouldn’t stay very long or would be bored by the role. However, there may be a number of reasons why they have applied, and it is worth exploring these with them.

Whilst they may not stay as long in post as someone who is still developing, the advantage is that whilst they are there you have the benefit of their skills and abilities that could really be of value to your company.

Similarly, you may find that you (possibly subconsciously) reject candidates who are better qualified than yourself. Rather than see them as a threat, again look at the advantages of having someone highly skilled within the company and what this could do for the business.

How to conduct an effective job interview

When it comes to the interview itself, there a few basic “dos and don’ts” to bear in mind:

DO make sure the candidate has been given clear instructions regarding the time and location of the interview – you won’t get the best out of them if they arrive flustered, having struggled to find you!

DO ensure you follow a consistent pattern with each candidate, so that they all have the same experience and opportunity to impress. You will then also be able to make fair comparisons between candidates.

DO prepare - It is always better to have at least 2 interviewers if possible, as this will make the process more objective. You will also have a witness should there be any dispute in relation to the interview process. Make sure everyone knows who is going to do the introductions etc and who will be asking which questions.

DO be professional but friendly – again people perform better in a welcoming environment.  However, avoid jokes which appear both unprofessional and could unintentionally be offensive.

DO start the interview by outlining the role and why you are recruiting to it, e.g. is it a new post due to growth of the business or is it an existing role that you are looking to fill.

DO clarify any key points from their CV – e.g. what their previous roles and responsibilities have involved. Make sure you explore any gaps on their CV – there could be a valid reason such as time off related to childcare, but it could be that there is a previous employer they don’t want you to know about for some reason.

DO use competency-based questions that ask the candidate to describe real examples from their own experience.

DO take notes during the interview so that you have an accurate record of your discussions.

DO record the reasons for your final selection – this will be helpful when giving feedback to unsuccessful candidates and can support you to defend any allegations of discrimination.

DO allow adequate time for the interview – usually around an hour to allow for questions from the candidate at the end. If you finish sooner, then you will have some time to complete your notes before the next interview. Running behind and keeping candidates waiting always looks poor.

DON’T ask irrelevant or personal questions such as age, marital status or whether they have children. You potentially leave yourself open to allegations of discrimination if you then subsequently reject the candidate. If it is not relevant to the job, then don’t ask it.

DON’T give away too much information about the Company as you want to see what research they have done first. Have they used their initiative and found out about the company and its sector? As a minimum, no candidate should be attending an interview without at least a look at the company’s website.

DON’T make decisions on an ad hoc basis – make sure you review the notes from the interview, along with any other test results or observation scores, to reach a fully considered final decision.

What needs to happen after the job Interview?

Once you have selected your favoured candidate there are a few further checks to make to ensure you definitely have the right person:

Check their identity - ask to see an original copy of their birth certificate, passport or driving licence.  Also ask for a utility bill to show their name and home address.

Check that they have the legal right to work in the UK - If they have a UK passport and are a British Citizen, then you do not need to do any further checks. However, if not they will need to show proof of their permission to work in the UK. The GOV.UK website can provide you with further guidance in relation to this. With the potential of a 5-year jail sentence and unlimited fines for knowingly employing someone who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK, it’s essential that you get this right!

Take up references - ideally two, one of which should be from the applicant’s last employer. Where this is not possible, such as for a school leaver, then suitable character references should be sought, e.g. from a Head Teacher.

DBS check - In certain sectors you may be required to undertake a DBS check (Disclosure and Barring Service Check). This replaced the CRB check and is a check of an individual’s criminal record, looking at what convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings they may have received. There are different levels of checks:

Basic Level Disclosure - is available to anyone who requires certification and only provides information of “unspent” convictions or cautions.

Standard Level Disclosure - a more in-depth check for careers such as accountants or solicitors. This level of check is only available where the job meets certain legal criteria and includes “spent” and “unspent” convictions etc.

Enhanced Level Disclosure - this level of check is for those working with vulnerable individuals such as in care services and again is only available where the job meets certain legal criteria. This also includes “spent” and “unspent” convictions etc.

How to successfully make a job offer

Once you have made all the relevant checks you’re ready to offer the post. However, at this stage there are a few key things to remember to ensure you able to appoint your chosen applicant:

Don’t waste time - Good candidates may have been to several interviews and potentially have a number of offers. Therefore, you need to make your offer promptly to avoid losing your chosen applicant

Always speak to them to make the offer - Don’t send an email as it’s too impersonal. If you can’t reach them by phone, then email and ask them to call you back as soon as they are able to.

When you speak to them be upbeat and enthusiastic - They need to know that you are really pleased to be offering them the job and that they stood out from the other candidates. This is particularly important if they have other offers to consider as you want them to choose you, so give them a reason to do so.

Ask them if they accept the offer - Some may say yes immediately whilst others will want time to consider things first. If that is the case then agree a reasonable timescale, probably no more than 24 hours, as you will need to keep any back up candidates on hold during that time.

Once the offer is accepted, get a written offer letter out to them the same day. You can send the letter by email for speed. This should include:

  • Confirmation of the offer
  • Start date
  • Job title
  • Starting salary
  • Details of any other benefits
  • Details of who to report to on their first day

How to effectively onboard the successful job candidate

Onboarding – that means settling the new recruit into their role, is the final part of the recruitment process and is key to making the appointment a success.

If their initial experiences with the company are positive this will really help to set things off on the right track. That way you are also more likely to keep them and avoid the costly exercise of having to re-recruit in 6 months’ time.

What are the key points for successfully onboarding new staff?

Don’t rush things – whilst you will be keen to have them up and running and contributing to the Company as soon as possible, it is really important not to bombard new staff with too much information too quickly. Ensure that you allow adequate time for a really thorough induction and focus on the key elements first.

Accept that it may take up to 6 months to a year for a new member of staff to be fully inducted into their new role. However, good planning can help reduce this time and support the individual to settle in more quickly. Think about what they really need to know straight away and what can be left for now. What are the key tasks that they need to get to grips with quickly and which will have the greatest impact?

Some items do need to be addressed on the first day, such as fire procedures and basic housekeeping elements e.g. where are the loos and where to make coffee! Don’t overlook these elements as they are important when it comes to helping a new staff member to settle in.

How to tailor your induction to fit the individual

Think about ways that you can integrate the new employee into the organisation and help them to become familiar with your products, services and customers.

Whilst you will want to have some standard elements to your induction to ensure consistency, you may also want to think about how you can adjust to fit with an individual’s learning style. Some people are better at grasping things through diagrams and graphs, others prefer to read and absorb information that way.

Alternatively, they may prefer to observe and will pick things up better by watching others and learning that way.

Why does company culture matter?

Culture is best described as “the way we do things around here”. In other words, it is the unwritten rules and practices that are unique to your company and the way it operates.

For a new member of staff this is often the most difficult part of joining an organisation, as they try to work out how they fit into the current set up. Some companies have a very clear culture, which is reinforced by senior management downwards, whilst in other organisations the culture is less clearly defined.

Either way you can help a new member of staff feel at home much sooner if they are given opportunities to see how the culture works in practice. By giving new staff early exposure to the wider company, they should be able to gain a better understanding of how the company actually operates on a day-to-day basis.

What recruitment paperwork do you need when starting a new member of staff?

It is always important to make sure any relevant paperwork gets completed. Key items include:

Written Statement of Particulars of Employment

It’s a legal requirement to issue new staff with a written Statement of Particulars of Employment within 8 weeks of their starting date.  This must cover:

  • The name of the business
  • The employee’s name and job title
  • Location of job – if over multiple sites, where these are
  • Start date (plus any continuous service if this is applicable)
  • How long the job will last if it is a temporary role
  • What they will be paid and how often
  • Their hours of work
  • Holiday entitlement
  • Notice periods
  • Details of any collective agreements affecting conditions of employment

You should also provide staff with details in relation to sick pay entitlements, pensions, what to do in a dispute and information on appeals procedures.

Whilst a Written Statement of Particulars of Employment is the legal minimum that must be supplied to staff, a full contract is often a better option as it contains more details about the terms and conditions of employment and will include information on your expectations of the employee.  Therefore, it is advisable to provide all the information required in one contract document.

What you need to cover in relation to Health and Safety

If you have more than 5 staff, you need a Health and Safety policy and must either display a copy of the HSE Health and safety law poster or give all staff a copy of the pocket card version of this. These can be obtained from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.

Don’t forget payroll!

Make sure you obtain the new starter’s bank details in order to pay them and a P45 or P60 as appropriate, so that you can ensure they are taxed correctly. Problems with their first pay-packet won’t make a new member of staff feel valued by the company.

Cover key policies and procedures first

Depending upon how your company operates, you may have a range of policies and procedure that staff need to be familiar with. However, concentrate on the key ones in the early days so that new staff aren’t bombarded with too much information. Consider which items are essential and cover those first, adding in additional items over the coming weeks.

If you follow the various stages set out above you should now have a new, productive member of your team, ready to help take your business forward.


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