Trends & Features

You can get the staff

In the first of a two-part series on recruiting and retaining employees, John Bensalhia looks at how to successfully recruit new members of staff

What’s the most important element of a business? The products on offer? The services available? The profits you make? Possibly, the most important part of a business is the people.

The people, the staff who run the ship, are the ones that sell the products, provide the service and make the profit. For a business, the choice of staff is crucial to its progress. Make the smallest error and the wrong staff member could prove to be an unnecessary and intrusive liability.

There are many ways to recruit staff. And, ironically, technological advances have made it easier. The internet contains many online recruitment sites to post adverts on. In particular, sites such as Gumtree and Monster have proven to be some of the best in their field.

It’s also possible to advertise in the old-fashioned way. Printed adverts still have their place. You can advertise in newspapers or magazines: Depending on the size of your business and also your budget, the type of magazine will differ accordingly. Smaller businesses will have to keep costs down, so opting for local magazines is a good idea.

Agencies are another possibility, although, speaking from experience, it’s debatable whether they’re totally reliable. The problem with agencies is that they deal with so many clients every day, that’s an awful lot of information to absorb and process.

In my experience, recruitment agencies tend to promise the world, but never really come up with the goods. Even some of the so-called big names in recruitment haven’t always delivered. If you want to take some of the heat off from finding the right candidate, recruitment agencies are a possibility – but be warned, they may not yield the best results.

So what of the job advert itself? Just like the reply, the key is to make it as simple and to the point as possible. Include the key details such as the type of post, the salary, brief information about the company, the location, working hours and, of course, the sort of person you are looking for.

In order to sort the wheat from the chaff, list the attributes you are looking for in terms of experience and qualifications. That way, you will have an easier task on your hands. Make the advert look as professional as possible, and also make it easily digestible for potential candidates.

Huge great lumps of text will not attract many people, so break the copy down into bite-sized paragraphs and when you come to list the main aspects of the job and its requirements, bullet points are normally a good method.

The wording of the advert is vital. On the one hand, you don’t want to blind your potential employee with science. Avoid jargon-heavy wording of the sort that will only make sense to those in the know. On the other hand, don’t make an ill-advised attempt to be trendy, with clichéd teen talk of the sort you might catch in the average episode of Hollyoaks.

It’s a hard balancing act: you want to attract the right candidate without sounding too patronising or boring, but you don’t want to sound too OTT or cool. Keep a professional, direct manner and you should get the replies you want.

Before you can start interviewing for the post, you have to narrow down the shortlist of candidates. Write down a comprehensive list of the ingredients that make your employee the right one. The key issues here are can they do the job, will they do the job and will they fit in?

You also need to weigh up the candidate’s experience in past jobs, as well as their qualifications. With each different job, these requirements will vary. Assess each candidate’s pros and cons for the available position, and also take into account important basics such as criminal records and driving qualifications.

When you have narrowed down the candidates to a manageable shortlist, the interviews can begin. Make the interviewee feel as relaxed as possible. I have been to various interviews where the interviewer has gone out of their way to make me feel as uncomfortable as possible. A bizarre tack to take, since the process is a two-way street. The candidate will be assessing you just as much as you are assessing them. So your best to make the interviewee feel as welcome as possible – that way, the real person can be seen, rather than a nervous wreck.

Nine times out of 10 the interviewee will be a bag of nerves. This may be the job that they have been waiting for. Or, given the fallout from the recession, they may desperately need the money, and so a job that is potentially for them will mean a big deal.

So naturally, the candidate may be nervous. But look at the bigger picture – do they look like they can do the job properly with their experience and qualifications?

Interviewers can learn a lot from the interviewee’s 30 minutes in the hotseat. Have they made an effort with their appearance? Men should be wearing a suit and polished shoes. Women should wear a business trouser suit or jacket, blouse and skirt with appropriate shoes.

Pay attention to their answers. Are they direct and to the point? Having said that, a little bit of waffle is another sign of nerves, but as long as they demonstrate intelligence and initiative, take this on board.

Interviewees must be able to demonstrate they have some knowledge of both the company and the industry they will be working for. This will be a good test of the candidate’s experience, and will prove that either they are the genuine article or trying to bluff their way into a job they don’t have the credentials for.

Make some notes about the impression you get from the person you have just interviewed. In some cases, you might follow your gut instinct as to whether they were the right person for the job. In other cases, a second interview may be necessary. If this proves to be the case, list each of the candidate’s main attributes and then assess how they perform in the second session. List your main requirements again and see how many of these boxes are ticked by the remaining candidates.

The worst-case scenario is that you don’t find the right candidate. It may be that someone has the right expertise and qualifications, but doesn’t quite fit the profile you had in mind. If that is the case, you need to go back to the drawing board and start the recruitment process again – perhaps with a fresh approach.

If, however, you get the candidate you want, you should contact them as soon as possible to confirm they have the job. Make sure they are willing to take it. If the candidate wants the job, arrange a start date.

The next stage is the induction, which I will be dealing with in the next article.

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