Running a successful business: Recruitment

Jgenge-BWJohn Genge looks at how to go about recruiting the right people for your job, and make sure your investment pays dividends.

Any manager is only as good as their team. If you want your business to succeed, then you must ensure that you recruit, retain and appraise the right employees.

People will leave from time to time so what you do in the recruitment process is vital to make sure that you don’t employ unsuitable people that later leave or have to be removed. This is easier said than done, however, and many mistakes are often made. So where to begin?

My first suggestion is to consider how many employees have left you in the last 12 months, and how many employees are in your organisation. Divide one by the other for your staff turnover, so if five people leave and your total staff is 25, the turnover is 20 percent and average length of service is five years.

Ask yourself how satisfied you are with these numbers. I would suggest a staff turnover of 10 -15 percent should be the main target.

  1. Why has the vacancy arisen? If the previous incumbent failed, ask yourself why? If it was poor supervision or lack of training, the next one could fail too. If it was the wrong skill set, define what the necessary skills need to be. If it is a new position, identify what the role covers and what defines success or failure. Ask plenty of open questions, have someone who is not that person’s manager conduct an exit interview with the person leaving and be prepared to listen to the answers you get.
  2. Prepare a detailed job description or, if you already have one, emphasise the key points that the role must cover.
  3. Define the person specification. What sort of person are you looking for? Be specific. To do any job well you need knowledge, skills and attitude. Detail the knowledge that the applicant will need to have or be taught, the skill set necessary to properly use that knowledge and how you can measure the attitude that you will look for in the applicant.
  4. Whether you advertise or use an agency, always use key words that are clearly identifiable by applicants. Try not to be too generic unless you are uncertain of your exact needs and want to cast the net wider.
  5. When you receive applications you want to pursue, send a printed application form. Don’t rely on a CV that may have been written for them. Get them to answer the questions that you have posed and the information you have required. Get specific dates of employment history and not just for example “2006 – 2007” which could be two days or two years.
  6. Test your applicants. You wouldn’t spend £20,000 on a piece of equipment that you hadn’t thoroughly tested and appraised, so why would you on someone without similar testing? Simple numeracy and literacy tests are inexpensive and many are available on the internet. Personality profiling is an excellent tool that I thoroughly recommend. Again, many types are available such as Discus and McQuaig. Use them, especially for higher positions.
  7. Interview style is important. After welcoming and relaxing the interviewee, have them talk through their career history. Ask open questions, probe for detail, find out why they left their last position. Applicants may say “I was asked to join…”, but I still insist on “why did you leave?” – in truth head-hunting is pretty rare. When applicants detail their tasks, ask for examples and avoid asking for greatest achievements. I prefer to ask what parts of the job they enjoyed best and what parts least. You will get a better idea of what motivates and demotivates them.
  8. Always second interview shortlisted applicants. Get another person to sit in and look for inconsistencies, probe deeper into specific areas. Get the applicant to comment about your organisation and its activities. Ask them to put you in touch with someone who can give them a reference.
  9. Telephone that person and make the innocuous statement: “I was talking with Fred Blogs recently about a position we have and he told me that he had worked with you.” Let them describe the person to you. Ask for further detail, but offer no comment yourself. Just probe, listen and thank them for their observations.
  10. Finally, when you do make the offer, ensure that you obtain and validate evidence of identity and qualifications including driving licence. Criminal record checks and proof of eligibility to work in this country may be appropriate. My recommendation would be a medical. I do appreciate that it is a considerable cost, but it may save a messy insurance claim down the road.

This is a vast subject, and I have only skimmed the surface. Many laws relate to employee recruitment and I recommend that you familiarise yourself with them. Innocent remarks can land you in big trouble so always be careful about what you ask and what you say. With care you can employ excellent people suited to your organisation’s needs.

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