Recruitment and Selection
One of the biggest steps a business can take is recruiting its first employee. You suddenly have obligations - not least of which is ensuring your business generates sufficient income to pay the costs of that extra person. It is essential that you think carefully in advance - to ensure that you recruit someone with appropriate skills who fits well into the business and to get the best from them by providing effective training and development.
The aim of this section is to guide you through the employment process. It will enable you to:
- identify and analyse jobs;
- define your requirements;
- prepare a job description and person specification;
- advertise vacancies effectively; and,
- interview and hire personnel.
To make full use of the information in this section, we would recommend that you work through the numbered articles in order, and attempt the assignments.
The information in this section is intended as a starting point only. We would recommend that you contact your Business Adviser if you are in any doubt about the content.
Recruitment and selection can be seen as a two-stage process:
Recruitment attracts the optimum number of suitably qualified candidates to apply for the post; and,
Selection filters this potentially large group through a variety of criteria in order to determine their suitability to match the needs of the job and the business.
Recruitment and selection must be considered as two separate processes, otherwise one or both may fail. If you filter wrongly at recruitment, you may end up with a pool of poor candidates. If you attract wrongly at selection, you may end up with a poor fit between the job and the job-holder.
Job analysis is the process of breaking down a job into its component parts. It requires you to think carefully about all the tasks (eg book-keeping, selling, etc) undertaken by a defined job holder. Once you have considered all the tasks, think about the competencies, attributes and behaviours (eg imagination, initiative, ability to work under stress, etc) which you will be looking for in the person. You may find it helpful also to think about the importance of individual tasks, the frequency of tasks, the relative difficulty of tasks, and the consequences of error.
Once the job analysis is completed, you can prepare a job description (see link to example below). This is a broad statement that sets out the main purpose and scope of the job, the responsibilities and the tasks. It is normal also to include the job title, the line manager to whom the jobholder reports, the job titles of staff who report to the jobholder, and any functional relationships.
When drafting a person specification, you must be specific in the standards you describe. For example, it is not enough to state 'good communicator'. Instead, use terms such as 'clear and concise written communication' or 'able to express ideas logically and coherently'.
The emphasis should be on skills and abilities; for example, if you require a candidate to speak reasonable French, you might be better off with someone who is unqualified but goes to France regularly on holiday and converses in the language, than someone who passed a GCSE in the subject five years ago and hasn’t spoken a word of French since. Qualifications don’t necessarily prove skill.
Once you have taken into consideration the job analysis and person specification, you can then decide if it is necessary to take on another full-time member of staff. It may be that there is an alternative to this. Ask yourself the following questions:
Can you redistribute the tasks to your current workforce?
Take into account the welfare of your employees; will they be taking on too much? Remember, using this method may still mean extra cost in terms of overtime and may take away time from other projects.
Having defined the requirements of the job and communicated this to the people who need to know, you can consider how you are going to recruit. Effective recruitment involves knowing what it is that you want.
You will need to identify sources of potential recruits. These might include:
careers services and local schools;
professional recruitment agencies;
word of mouth; and,
It is a sad but indisputable fact that in any group of people who apply for a job, there will be a number who will not give accurate information about themselves. This may be because they do not understand what information it is that you need, or because they badly want the job, despite not being sufficiently qualified or experienced, and don’t consider the problems they may face should they get it. It is also true that businesses do not give accurate information for similar reasons.
This means that your information gathering and giving process needs to be as accurate as possible. In order to obtain accurate information about candidates, you should use more than one method, in the same way that you used more than one method when preparing the original job criteria; multiple methods give greater accuracy in matching the person to the job. The following list gives you a range of different selection methods, ranging from the most popular and least expensive to the least popular and most expensive. This is not to say that cost necessarily needs to be an important factor in choosing a selection method - expensive methods such as biodata or psychometric testing may be cost effective because of their perceived success rate in finding the right person for the job and because of the reduction in work required by the recruiter. However, selection effectiveness can be achieved without worrying about these issues.
Interviews are the most popular method of assessing, and gaining information about, candidates. Handled properly, they can be extremely useful and beneficial. Handled badly, they can be a nightmare for all concerned. So how do you ensure that your interviews are successful? As always, the key is planning.
Perhaps the first question is to decide who should conduct the interviews. Gerard Lemos argues that one person alone should not conduct interviews, as the opportunities for bias are considerable and it is not the most effective way to get the best from the candidates.1 He suggests three or four people is the ideal number for an interview panel. If you are looking for your first member of staff and wish to use this approach, consider asking your business adviser, a trusted friend or suitably experienced family member(s) to interview with you.
Another approach is to have one person conduct first interviews and another final interviews. Larger organisations may have a representative from Personnel plus the supervisor of the vacant post conduct an interview.
The timetable for interviews needs to be carefully completed. You should be sure all interviewers are available and that sufficient time is allowed for each candidate. Bear in mind that despite your best intentions to keep each interview to one hour, it is possible for one to over-run by 10 or 15 minutes - perhaps due to a late start or because there are some interesting and directly relevant areas to explore further in the discussion.
Your letters inviting people for interview should go out in plenty of time and should be very clear. They should tell the candidate:
There are a number of things that should be prepared before the interview takes place, some well in advance, others just before. The following checklist should help:
prepare questions - you need to know what you want to ask each candidate and how you want to ask it;
book a room - make sure that you have somewhere suitable to conduct your interview. Consider the size of the room, the seating arrangements, the lighting and so on, bearing in mind at all times how the candidate is likely to feel in these surroundings. In addition, make sure that on the day of the interviews there will be no interruptions;
The questions you ask will be driven by the information contained in the job description and person specification. What are you looking for? How can you gain evidence?
It is said that past performance is the best indicator of future performance, and you should get a truer picture of likely events if you ask for actual examples of behaviour rather than for solutions to hypothetical problems. We all generally know how we should behave (hypothetical answer), the acid test is how we actually behave (actual examples).
Structure is a vital element of the interview for a number of reasons. Firstly, candidates expect you to take control and guide the proceedings. It looks professional and helps to use available time in the best possible way. Secondly, it lets you be confident that you have covered all relevant areas - you can hardly ring the candidate up afterwards and say 'Sorry, but I forgot to ask...'. Finally, it enables you to compare candidates. An unstructured approach may gather a wealth of information, but how can you accurately score it to compare people fairly?
The interview can be broken down into the following stages:
The interview is a time to be particularly alert for signs of your own bias. This can be either 'for' or 'against' the candidate, but either way it must be avoided. It can be described as the horns or halo effect; if someone says something, does something, or looks like something you don’t like, then you look upon everything they say in an unfavourable light. Alternatively, if the candidate says, does, or looks like something you particularly like, then you think they can do no wrong. Be alert to these impulses; at all times you must remain impartial and unbiased.
At all times during the recruitment process make sure you keep applicants informed. Many people have high hopes following an interview; or some might be holding on to another offer until they hear from you. Whatever their individual circumstances, people find the process stressful enough, without worrying how they have done, what stage things have reached, and so on. Let applicants know about your timescales. For example, at interview you could tell the candidate that you will call them by the end of the week if they have been successful.
Having conducted your interviews and gathered information, the time has come to make your decision and select the candidate to whom you will offer the job. If you have followed the procedure outlined in previous sections, this should be relatively easy. You will have listed and weighted the attributes considered essential and desirable, and questioned in such a way that examples of behaviour illustrate those qualities and their usage.
Now it is time to code the evidence. The coding procedure (for which you can read 'grading' or 'scoring') is best decided before the interviews are conducted. You should be confident that the process will help you to compare all candidates equally.
You will undoubtedly have to keep records of the process you have undertaken. Whether you keep a list of interviewees and copies of letters sent, or full interview notes and records of all communication will depend upon the policies set down by your company. Make sure that you are fully aware of what needs to be recorded and how, and complete your paperwork promptly. Knowledge of the Data Protection Act 1998 will be useful.
You will also need to consider who needs to be informed; payroll, for example, will need details of any starters. Be sure that you let everyone know who needs to know.