How to recruit effectively

Job interview - hiring

A recent employee retention report has found that 43% of new hires leave within the first 90 days. To us, this sounds like the wrong hires. Follow these three steps to recruiting better staff for your business.

Draft a good job description

Key points

  • Identify the key objectives of the job
  • Draft a job description detailing title, salary, location and hours, reporting lines, role overview, functional responsibilities, competencies, deliverables, education, experience, skills and the person specification
  • Construct the job advertisement using the job description as a basis
  • Use the job description as a live tool, referring to it as an aid to evaluate performance
  • Review the job description as the role adapts, changes and grows


Creating a job description is a key step in the recruitment process. It is important to know what your requirements are, and potential candidates need the necessary information to determine whether they are suitably skilled to apply. It can also help you determine whether a full or part-time member of staff is required.

The number and type of applicants who respond to the vacancy will depend upon the quality of the job description. It is crucial for providing the platform from which the job is defined.

Ensure that the job description is explicit in its wording. Make it concise and targeted. Even if you need someone to be adaptable as the business grows, it still helps to be clear in the aims and those of the company.

Consider the following points when drawing up a job description:

  • Determine salary: consider the level of the job, relative seniority, skills and required experience. See National Statistics online at for latest earnings figures and read relevant trade press to benchmark salary levels and benefits in your industry.
  • Job title: ensure the job accurately reflects the role. Misleading titles can lead to the wrong kind of candidates and misperceptions of the position on offer.
  • Location and hours: determine the core working hours and outline whether any travelling will be required.
  • Hierarchy and reporting lines: how will the role fit into the current organisational structure and what will the reporting line be?
  • Role overview: summarise the key objectives of the job.
  • Functional responsibilities: detail the key responsibilities of the position, identifying the regular and occasional tasks.
  • Competencies: outline the key competencies required and any competencies that might be required in future as the role develops.
  • Deliverables: identify the key deliverables, detailing how performance will be measured and outlining specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound (SMART) objectives.
  • Education, experience, skills: define what is essential and desirable for the post.
  • Person specification: examine the styles and values of the current team and determine what qualities you are looking for in the new recruit and how these will compliment existing strengths.

A good job description can be used throughout the employee’s tenure, helping both employer and employee to determine development and growth.

Recruit great staff

Key points:

  • Use a job description as a selection tool from which the advertisement can be created and the advertising medium chosen
  • Select a member of staff to manage the recruitment process
  • It is important to ensure that the search is selective, in order to save unnecessary time and expense
  • Network and consider offering the post internally

Without employees’ abilities, effort and talents, a business cannot function. Therefore recruiting staff must be carefully carried out in order to select the right person. An unsuitable member of staff is analogous to a rotten tooth: they can compromise the function of the company and cause much pain and irritation, necessitating a difficult and often costly removal.

When deciding upon the appropriate method of hiring a new member of staff it is important to first define what constitutes a great employee. For example, if the member of staff is to work closely with clients and cooperate with colleagues it is essential that the potential employee has good communication skills and works well with people.

When broaching such an important task it is advisable to select a confident and trusted member of staff to front the recruitment drive. Each potential employee should be interviewed individually in order to gain a broad impression of their communication skills, relevant experience, and suitability.

The following are important considerations when recruiting new staff:

Method of advertising:

  • Local and regional newspapers – the employment sections of newspapers are useful in that people actively seeking employment will be targeted. Also, this is an effective and relatively inexpensive method of making people aware of the company’s situation
  • Specialist magazines – by advertising in magazines targeted at and read by those with skills relevant to the position, the recruitment drive can be made more selective, saving both time and money by eliminating those who may not be appropriate for the position
  • The internet – the internet is a far-reaching mode of advertising. Advertising a vacancy with an online recruitment agency can be cost-effective and give you access to candidates outside of your local area.
  • Social media – more than 55 million companies are listed on the site with 14 million open jobs, so it’s no surprise to find out that 87% of recruiters regularly use LinkedIn. Make sure you’re up there with them.
  • Who do you know? You may already know someone with the skills you require, but they may be working for another company. If you decide to approach them directly, you should be discreet and investigate their current situation thoroughly.

The potential employees

  • Checking references – once the number of applicants has been narrowed down to a select group, it is important to verify the potential employees’ credentials to ensure that their past experience is relevant to the post (see below)
  • Terms and conditions of employment – it is important that all applicants are fully aware of the nature of the position available, including pay, working hours and employee benefits
  • Commitment – it is advisable to ensure that all potential employees are trustworthy and willing to show commitment to the company

Check references for prospective employees

Key points

  • Check candidate references
  • Decide on an appropriate method for checking references
  • Consider outsourcing reference checking

Checking a prospective employee’s references is tremendously important: it ensures that the applicant has given correct details with respect to their skills, qualifications and previous employment. This will assure you that the experience the person has had is truly relevant to the position for which they have applied and can also give useful information as to their character, reliability and honesty.

The level of responsibility associated with the position determines the extent to which the references should be scrutinised: for example, if the job involves extensive interaction with customers and clients, it is advisable to ensure that the individual has good communication skills and a pleasant demeanour.

The following are important considerations when deciding how to check references for prospective employees:


  • Telephone: it is advisable to verify the telephone number and address of any previous employer before contacting them. It is also wise to speak with both the company manager and the previous employee’s direct superior if possible. Verifying the facts such as position held and qualifications should be relatively straightforward. It may also be useful to collect details on frequency and length of absences in a set period of time. This method can reveal extra information through the speaker’s tone and manner.
  • Personal visit: checking references in person would be an ideal option, however, time restraints and opportunity costs make this often impractical and unpopular.
  • Contracting out: there are a number of professional, well-established recruitment companies with years of experience in verifying references. Many consultancies will offer selection packages including assistance with interview screening and psychometric testing. Cost considerations will need to be evaluated.
  • Written confirmation: Supplying a pre-coded questionnaire will ensure that reference responses are consistent. Questions should be shaped around checking the facts. Providing a stamped addressed envelope may also encourage referees to return a reference promptly.

What can previous employers tell you?

  • Confirmation of key details: it is useful to verify the basic details of the applicant’s employment: the dates employed, the applicant’s position within the company and their main duties, numbers of days of sick leave, whether they received any disciplinary action, and the leaving salary.
  • Reason for leaving the job: did the employee leave of their own accord? Does their version tally with that given by the employer?
  • Relations with clients, customers, and colleagues: you will need to ascertain whether the applicant works well with their associates. This is especially important if they will be working within a team and/or joining in a client-facing role.

Qualitative information including strength of character and amiableness will need to be evaluated carefully and as a general rule it is best to stick to checking factual information to clarify any inconsistencies.

Don’t be surprised if you get a generic reference confirming few details in return – in an increasingly litigious world, this has become ever more common. For example:

Please note that it is our policy only to provide references containing information as to employees’ roles and dates of employment. This should not be seen as implying any comment about the candidate or their suitability for employment at [prospective company].

Employers aren’t actually obliged to give a reference at all, unless their business is regulated by the Financial Services Authority, although it is rarely a sensible option to decline.

You may also see disclaimers such as:

This reference is given to the addressee in confidence and only for the purposes for which it was requested. It is given in good faith, and on the basis of the information available to the employer at the time it is given, but neither the writer nor [Employer] accepts any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage caused to the addressee or any third party as a result of any reliance being placed on it.


References should ideally be part of the hiring process. However many applicants will not want you to contact their current employer before a conditional offer is made. The contract of employment or verbal job offer should be made subject to the receipt of satisfactory references.

Employers should always seek the permission of prospective employees to collect references prior to any approaches being made.

Dealing with inaccuracies

Employers must be careful not to rely solely on information collected from possibly unreliable sources. Where inaccuracies or negative information is revealed through reference requests, applicants should be given a chance to respond. If necessary, further information should be obtained to make a reasoned recruitment decision.

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