Exceptional, innovative, industry-leading employees won’t simply walk through your company’s front door, no matter how impressive the reception. Competition is too high at the moment to be complacent or passive…
Table of Contents
- Diversity in hiring
- Writing a job specification
- Writing a good job ad
- Creative candidate attraction strategies
- What to look for in a CV
- How to conduct an interview
- Tailoring interview questions
- The offer process and securing a candidate
- Best practice onboarding process
We have matched exceptional jobseekers with fantastic businesses since 2001 and, for those looking to recruit staff, the hiring process has changed drastically in that time. Even prior to the pandemic, we were already seeing the desires of both businesses and job seekers shift.
Now, we’re seeing another dramatic shift in hiring. Both the pandemic and the calls for increased diversity in the workplace in 2021 have forced many businesses to transform their recruitment processes. From the conversations we’re having with businesses in the wake of this, it’s clear there is a need for a simple, straightforward guide on the basics of hiring.
The following is a comprehensive article that breaks down each step of the hiring process, from job specifications to best induction practices.
Diversity in hiring
Diversity is about including, embracing and empowering a range of people by respecting and appreciating their age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation and education. Diversity is important because everyone deserves to have the same opportunities in the workplace. However, due to discrimination, prejudice and systemic racism, this is rarely the case. So, if a workplace promotes diversity and inclusion through actionable initiatives, it can help provide opportunities for those from underrepresented groups.
Everyone brings a unique perspective to the workplace and, if an office is diverse, these different perspectives can make organisations stronger and more successful. There have been many studies to support this, one being the McGregor-Smith Review, which found that the benefit of having a representative black and ethnic minority workforce would add an additional £24bn a year to the UK economy, which represents 1.3pc of GDP.
Protected characteristics under the Equality Act
Legally, unlawful discrimination is dealt with under the Equality Act 2010 (applicable in England, Scotland and Wales). There are nine protected characteristics under the Act:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
The Act states that unlawful discrimination includes:
- Direct: Someone is treated less favourably than someone else because of one of their protected characteristics
- Indirect: When an employer applies a criteria to all employees, where as a result, those with shared protected characteristics are discriminated against
- Harassment: Unwanted behaviour that relates directly to someone’s protected characteristic – could be in the form of intimidation, humiliation, hostility or offence
- Victimisation: When an employee is treated unfavourably because an employee has made a complaint, raised a grievance or given evidence in respect to a complaint about discrimination
The Act states that employers must not discriminate against those applying for employment during the recruitment process.
Effective tools in encouraging diversity include:
- Blind CVs
- Removing names, ages and genders from CVs before they are passed to the hiring manager
- These can be still read in a certain way, so should not be the only measure put in place to remove bias
- Skills testing
- Using skills tests as the first step in the recruitment process can help jobseekers progress through to the following stages in the recruitment process, based entirely on their skills
- This can help remove bias based on protected characteristics in the first stage of the recruitment process
- Creating a role-based scorecard for interviews
- Using a set scorecard for each interviewee which is weighted towards essential skills/ characteristics – this can make interviews more objective
- Diversity targets
- These can be based on the location of the office (reflecting the general population of that area)
- Communicate your diversity targets to your recruiter in the first instance
- Including a hiring metric based on diversity
- If an employee’s potential contribution to the diversity of a team is taken into account in the recruitment process, it will result in a more diverse talent pool
Find a more comprehensive guide to diversity in recruitment, read our diversity and inclusion in the workplace guide. If you’re looking for a diversity and inclusion or freelance HR consultant to help your business, get in touch today.
Writing a job specification
A job specification (job spec) or job description is a document created for candidates to understand the details of the job, before they apply for it. It’s an easy way for them to understand what the job will entail and conclude if it’s the right position for them.
Why is a job spec important?
- It will convey the company’s expectations for the position in a transparent way
- It helps the business stay competitive in the market, as well as prove its investment in employees through details about benefits and company culture
- It will help distinguish between suitable candidates and those who don’t have essential skills or requirements
- It makes the recruitment process easier from the very start, as the job spec clearly sets out expectations
- It gives the candidate a clear understanding of the role and what’s expected from them
- It can attract and entice candidates
- A good job spec comes across as professional and organised, helping to represent the employer brand in a positive light
- The more detailed the job spec, the easier it is for a recruiter to find the best possible person for the role
Format of a good job spec:
- Information about the company
- Day-to-day duties
- Requirements/skills/experience needed (this can be separated into essential and desired categories)
- Personal attributes
- Benefits for the role
Writing a good job ad
If you’re not using a recruiter, it’s likely you will also write a job advertisement for the role, in-house. The ultimate goal of a job ad is to attract the best talent, so it’s worth taking the time to write a fantastic ad.
While you want to attract the best talent, it is essential that all role expectations are communicated clearly and understood by the employee before any type of commitment is made. If a role includes a large amount of administration or irregular hours, mention it – otherwise, a discrepancy between what an employee expects and what can you deliver could arise.
Other elements to consider when writing a job ad include spelling and grammar, tone of voice, a clear heading, simple language and enthusiasm. Writing the best possible job ad will also reflect positively on your employer brand, which ensures your opportunity is considered by the right candidates.
There are also common mistakes that we see many employers make when writing their own job ads. The following are some things to avoid:
- Exaggerating the position or company
- Ignore company culture
- Be evasive about salary
What’s the difference between a job ad and a job description?
Remember, a job ad and a job description are different: a job description describes what a candidate does for you, whereas an ad should focus on what you can for them.
If using a recruiter, it’s likely they will write the job ad for you, once you’ve provided them with a thorough job description or spec.
Creative candidate attraction strategies
Our MD, Rebecca Siciliano, hosted a webinar in March 2019 where she offered her expert insight to hiring managers around creative attraction strategies in times of uncertainty. She discussed:
- Going above and beyond what’s enshrined in law
- Creative attraction trends
- Streamlining your hiring process
- Remuneration and reward
- Work-life balance and flexible working
- Working initiatives and career progression
- Sending positive messages to candidates
Find the full session below:
When looking to attract talented candidates, it’s useful to think outside the box (and the traditional job ad). It could be as elaborate as a creative job ad or as simple as setting up a strong referral process. Looking for inspiration to get you started? Head over to our blog on creative ways to attract the best talent.
Remember, by 2025, millennials will make up three-quarters of the workforce, so it’s incredibly important you take them into account as part of your attraction strategy. You can do this by investing in your digital presence. They were the first generation to grow up surrounded by digital technologies, and as such, will rely on the internet for information about your employer brand. Invest in building a digital presence that’s attractive to the best talent, with consistent messaging and experiences across all sites. Don’t be afraid to use social media for sourcing – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Glassdoor can all be effective.
What to look for in a CV
When looking at candidates’ CVs, it’s important to know what to look out for with a quick scan of the document. Below, we outline what we look for in a great CV, along with common misconceptions we’ve heard along the way.
So, what should a CV look like? Look for:
- Consistent formatting
- Correct spelling/grammar
- No more than two-three pages in length
- Simple design and font use
Education is clearly important, but often employers will rule out candidates who don’t have a bachelor’s degree, even if they are clearly intelligent (e.g. strong A-levels but have chosen not to go to university). We see this quite often when hiring personal assistants and office managers. Remember, if you do rule out a candidate based on their university qualifications, you’re at risk of narrowing your pool of candidates and potentially excluding your dream hire!
These sections are a fantastic opportunity to learn more about a candidate on a personal level, behind the CV. This, in turn, gives you a better indication of their personality and if they are likely to be a good fit for your workplace. It’s also a good indication of the level of imagination and creativity a candidate possesses, as there isn’t a lot of room for individual expression on the rest of the CV. As recruiters, we actually use this information to help us do just that, so we would highly recommend more than a cursory glance at these sections.
It can be tempting to hire prospective employees based on specific skillsets, past experience, and referrals. Personality type and soft skills like patience and enthusiasm, however, factor into workers’ success just as much (if not more) than their ability to carry out the role. Unlike industry experience and technical skills, soft skills often cannot be taught, though they can make or break a successful onboarding process.
While CVs may outline the soft skills of a candidate, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to completely understand the breadth of these from this alone. Therefore, you should always try to go into soft skills in more detail in later stages of the process.
Movement on a CV
A number of employers find a CV with a little movement unusual, or an indication that the candidate won’t stay in one role for long. While this may have been the case in the past, it’s now very normal for a candidate to ‘hop’ from one role to the next, particularly millennials.
When you review a CV of a job-hopper, consider the following points:
- The calibre of the companies they have worked for
- Why they might have left their previous roles (ask your recruiter for more information about this if you’re unsure)
Essentially, hoppy CVs aren’t the necessarily a negative thing, so never exclude a candidate based on this reason alone.
How to conduct an interview
Effective interview techniques are essential to get the most out of the experience. If done well, you’ll better understand your employees’ motivations and be better equipped to nurture their desired career path for the benefit of your business.
As the interviewer, it’s your job to make the candidate feel at ease in the situation (as they are probably nervous) when conducting interviews. Remember: a calm, informative and honest interview will ensure the candidate performs at their best, allowing you to ultimately make the right decision. It’s also a good idea for hiring managers to prepare for an interview beforehand.
Set the scene for the interview
There are different types of interviews, mainly consisting of 1:1, panel and group assessments, with 1:1 being the most common. By explaining the format of the interview and what the candidate can expect, this will allow them to feel comfortable and will make for more effective interviewing.
Make interviewees feel at ease
If the candidate feels at ease, you will get the best out of them in the interview and have a more accurate representation of their character/ skill set. If working with a recruiter, brief them on what the interview will entail so that they can prepare the candidate on what to expect.
- Who will they be meeting?
- What is the interview type (i.e. panel, telephone, video)?
- Will there be a skills or psychometric test?
In the interview, you can make the candidate feel at ease by adopting friendly, open and warm body language. As mentioned above, start the interview by outlining what the candidate can expect. It’s also a good idea to give the candidate an overview of the company and the role as this will allow them to settle in and calm their nerves before answering questions.
There are topics you should avoid venturing into during the interview, as they have no bearing on the candidate’s ability to perform the role successfully. These include those topics to do with protected characteristics (as mentioned above), but also questions about social media accounts and leading questions.
Structure of interview
In the beginning, reiterate what structure the interview will follow and give the candidate an overview of the company and role. This is an effective interviewing technique as it will make the candidate feel at ease and give them time to tailor their answers and choose the best examples.
Next, talk through a candidate’s CV and experience. This, alongside targeted questioning, will take up most of the interview. The goal here is to find out about the candidate, their previous experience and what they’re looking for in a new role. Questions to ask at this stage may include:
- Their reasons for leaving
- Why they want to work for the company
- What can they bring to the role
After your questions, give the interviewee a chance to ask their own. This allows them to show an interest in the role and company, as well as proves they’ve done background research into the company.
End the interview by explaining what the next steps might be and when the candidate can expect to hear feedback. Regardless of how well the interview went, always thank a candidate for their time and finish on a positive note.
How long does a job interview take?
The length of the interview depends on the role, the level of experience and the number of stages in the interview process. We recommend a minimum of 20 minutes for a first-stage interview (if there are several stages). A single interview could take up to 45 minutes, but try not to keep the candidate too long, especially if they are meeting different people.
Tailoring interview questions
While it’s important to tailor interview questions depending on the specific role the candidates are applying for, there are a number of general questions employers should always ask in an interview. Below, we break down the specific types of questions that can be asked when assessing a candidate.
Different types of interview questions
There are different types of questions that an employer can ask when conducting interviews. These include:
- Open and closed questions – closed questions have a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response, whereas open interview questions are those which require further explanation from a candidate.
- Competency/behavioural questions – these are designed to test/ask questions about a candidate’s specific skills or behaviours
- Situational – focuses on a hypothetical circumstance and asks how the candidate would react in that situation
- Probing – often used to learn more about the candidate’s personal qualities, skills and experiences, based on their initial answers to questions
A combination of both competency and situational questions will provide you with a holistic view on a candidate’s thought process and problem-solving abilities. These are open questions and will therefore require the candidate to tell you a bit of a story and paint a complete picture of their experience and approach to work. These should be defined ahead of the interview with the desired competencies in mind.
Closed questions can be useful too. These are the ones that only need the one-word answers. They have their place, especially in an interview environment where you might be asking prospective permanent staff technical questions to test their understanding. Equally, if you’re rushed for time, closed questions can be a speedy way of generating easy conversation at the start or end of a meeting.
Competency-based interviews are becoming increasingly popular, with companies opting to ask broad questions that reveal a candidate’s skills and personality behind their CV.
What is a competency-based question?
Competency-based questions typically lead a candidate towards describing a situation and/or task.
For example, you may start a question by saying:
- Tell me about a time when …
- Give an example of when …
- Describe a time when …
- Have you ever been in a situation where …
Competency-based interview questions always require an example of something a candidate has done in the past (to use as an example of their competency or behaviour in a certain situation).
Pros of competency-based interviews
Competency-based interviews allow you to use a set script or a score-based system for assessing candidates. This typically means that all candidates are asked the same questions, allowing there to be a fair interview process in place, where every candidate has an equal opportunity to shine. Competency questions force candidates to recall their personal experiences, which may then be elaborated on.
Finally, these questions allow candidates to show they have all the experience and capabilities to do the job well.
Cons of competency-based interviews
As with every type of interview, there are cons associated with using competency-based questions. In some cases, candidates spend so much time preparing polished answers that they unintentionally give the impression they have a robotic personality. Also, some may struggle with the open-ended nature of the questions and end up giving poorly constructed or unclear answers. Typically, these are the most challenging types of questions — some employers report that they find candidates will freeze if they feel they’re put on the spot with a competency-based question. Finally, if an interview focuses exclusively on competencies, a candidate might not get the opportunity to convey their emotions or motivations.
Examples of competency questions
Influencing or persuading others:
- Tell me about a time when you were able to change someone’s viewpoint significantly
- Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something that you disagreed with
Interpersonal and team skills:
- What experience have you had working with a team?
- Which skills and personal qualities have you contributed to the teams you have been a part of?
- Tell me about a time when you used tact and diplomacy
- Tell me about the last time you had a disagreement with someone
- Tell me about the most difficult person you have worked with
- What have you disliked in your past jobs?
- What kinds of people do you enjoy working with?
- What qualities do you admire most in others?
- Tell me about a time when you were successful in getting crucial information from another person
- Tell me about a time when someone misunderstood what you were attempting to communicate to them
Personal adaptability, energy and resilience:
- Tell me about a time when you felt under pressure
- Tell me about a time when your work or ideas were criticised
- Tell me about a time when you felt frustrated by your work
Self-management, self-motivation and self-knowledge:
- Tell me about a time when you acted over and above the expectations of your role
- What have you done that shows initiative and willingness to work?
- What are three major accomplishments from your last role?
- What does ‘success’ mean to you?
- What does ‘failure’ mean to you?
- What motivates you at work?
- What are your interests outside work?
- Tell me about a major problem you have encountered and how you dealt with it?
Problem solving and decision making:
- Tell me about a difficult decision that you have made
- Tell me about an unpopular decision you have made
- What significant problems have you faced in the last year?
- How do you work under pressure?
- How would you motivate an employee who was performing poorly?
Conflict management and ethics:
- How did you resolve conflict in the groups or teams that you were a member of?
- How would you resolve a dispute?
- Tell me about a time when you bent the rules. When is it okay to do so?
Personal and career objectives:
- What are your short- and long-term goals?
- What are the most important things you are seeking in a career?
- Who do you admire most and why?
- Why do you want this position?
Knowledge of the organisation and role:
- Why did you apply for this position?
- What skills and personal qualities are essential for success in this role?
- What would you like to know about this organisation?
- What do you believe you can contribute to this organisation?
- What do you know about our organisation?
- Why are you interested in working for our organisation?
- In what kind of work environment are you most comfortable?
- What qualities should a successful manager possess?
- Describe the relationship that should exist between a supervisor and those reporting to him or her
- Tell me about the best job you’ve ever had
- What did you enjoy most or least about your last job?
- What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
Ability, competence and achievement:
- What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?
- What do you feel qualifies you for this position?
- How do you react to criticism?
- Can you accept criticism for poor work?
- What causes you to lose your temper?
- Aren’t you overqualified for this role?
- How long would you expect to remain with this organisation?
Essentially, what you’re looking for is someone who can positively contribute to the business by using their pre-existing knowledge and any new skills they learn on the job. It’s important to establish that they possess the relevant skills for the advertised role, which can be conducted through a small skills-based task.
The offer process and securing a candidate
Congratulations! All your hard work throughout the interview process has paid off and you’ve found your dream hire! Below, we outline the next steps to take to ensure you win over your chosen candidate as quickly as possible.
The pre-offer stage
The offer process is an integral part of securing your dream candidate. Essentially, strong communication and acting quickly are key.
This process begins before interviews start, as communicating timings and setting expectations around the interview process are absolutely essential. If working with a recruiter, talk to them to learn important information, such as where the candidates might be in recruitment processes for other positions and salary expectations.
Offer and acceptance
When making an offer to a candidate, this usually begins with a verbal conversation. During this talk, you may mention salary, benefits, an expected start date and reference requirements.
In some cases, there may be some negotiation and working around a counter-offer from the existing employer.
Once the candidate accepts, you will be able to get in contact with them directly (if you’ve been using a recruitment agency up to this point). At this stage, the contract and offer letter is sent to the candidate.
Elements to include in the contract/offer letter
There are a few key points to include in a contract or job offer letter. These include:
- The job title and key duties
- Compensation, benefits and terms i.e. start date, working hours, notice period, probation period
- The name of their direct line manager
You will also need to carry out any background and reference checks and talk to the candidate about when they will hand in notice with their current employer (if applicable).
Finally, communicate any final information pre-starting with the candidate. This could include the start date/time, who to ask for on arrival and how the onboarding process will go ahead.
Best-practice onboarding process
The hiring process doesn’t end at the candidate’s acceptance of the job. Without a smooth introduction to the organisation in the days following their acceptance, you are in danger of alienating your new recruits and impacting their motivation and productivity.
Effective inductions are timely, organised and engaging. The aim is to inspire and excite new starters while giving a good first impression of the company. They should set out an organisation’s mission and vision for them, while educating them about the company’s history, culture and values.
Your employee onboarding process could take up to three months, depending on the level and scope of the role. HR staff, line managers or the office manager can help onboard new staff. We’ve outlines the best practice for onboarding below:
Planning the onboarding in advance
A successful onboarding process doesn’t begin from the new employee’s start date. As soon as the individual accepts the role, you should be managing your new recruit’s perception of the organisation’s brand and the team they’re about to join.
How to structure a new starter’s first day
On a new starter’s first day:
- Welcome them in and show them around the office, all the facilities and their desk
- Introduce them to their line manager, colleagues and senior managers
- Put in place a well-planned timetable
- Make sure they’re aware of any soft benefits that they can take advantage of on a daily basis (casual Fridays, free lunches etc.)
- Tailor the induction to suit the new employee — for example, a graduate’s onboarding is likely to be different to a new employee who has extensive experience with other companies, or someone returning to work after a long absence
- Provide them with a training manual that they can refer to which includes all company procedures, including health and safety and company information
A new starter’s first weeks
It’s a good idea for HR to organise catch-ups with individual managers once they’ve started the role. Communicate to managers that this is an important step in the new starter’s onboarding process, as it will also help them to feel as though senior staff are taking a genuine interest in them and their skills.
The first few weeks are the most important time for any new starter. In this time, they’ll form an opinion of your company which will be hard to change if it isn’t a positive one.
Send around an email asking their colleagues to introduce themselves so that they have informal introductions over a few days. Introducing them to everyone at once will be overwhelming and the new recruit is unlikely to remember any names. Organising a buddy who can take them for lunch and show them around the local area is also a good way to relax and orientate them.
Continue holding regular catch-ups and check-ins, and allow different team members to take part in the induction process to draw on their own skill sets and give them some responsibility when training the new starter.
Planning a new starter’s initial workload
Recognise that a new employee will take some time to be able to work at their full capacity. If you enforce deadlines too quickly, you could get the wrong impression of their capabilities as they may be tempted to rush tasks in order to deliver them on time. Small mistakes are likely be made while the new recruit is taking in all this new information, so try to set them small tasks and evaluate their performance after each is completed, ensuring that you give constructive feedback.
If onboarding remotely, it’s important that:
- Any necessary hardware is sent to a new starter’s home office
- They have scheduled video calls with their team, their line manager and the person leading their induction
- They have a new-starter guide which outlines all of the systems used for communication e.g. Skype, Slack, Zoom
- They are provided an e-version of their induction schedule
- They are included in any virtual social events with the company
- Their buddy contacts them regularly about work or otherwise
Remember, the onboarding process can be overwhelming for a new starter. It’s important that everyone in the office reaches out and makes them feel welcome.
If you’d like any additional guidance on recruiting new staff, get in touch with us today and we’ll be able to guide you through the process. If you’d like to request the PDF version of our Interview and Selection guide please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.