I need to recruit a member of staff, how should I approach it?

Last month we started to look at the topic of staff recruitment. This month we look at the recruitment process, the interview itself and the induction.

So where do I look for possible recruits?

The most common sources are:

Advertising: local, regional press, free press, specialist journals etc. This is a wide area and needs careful thought regarding the cost effectiveness and suitability of the particular media. Advertising can range from an ad in the national press at one extreme to a card in the local newsagent's window at the other. It seems self-evident, but the key point is: that to be effective the ad needs to be placed where potential applicants are most likely to see it so research is needed.

You want to be seen by as many people as possible so ensure you avoid holiday periods.

Internet job searches are increasingly popular so consider placing your vacancy with a suitable online recruitment site and on your own site. Also consider advertising outside your own premises if there is sufficient traffic or footfall.

Agencies: Jobcentre Plus is a good source of recruits and may even offer a job subsidy, but use the service intelligently. Discuss your vacancy with them and take along your Person Specification and Job Description - ensure they are clear about the person you are looking for. Recruitment agencies and consultants carry a cost, but are very effective for many kinds of jobs.

Government Schemes: such as National Apprenticeships, Pathways to Work. Jobcentre Plus will advise on these.

Other sources include:

  • colleges and schools
  • notice boards
  • word of mouth
  • local radio

Ok, looks pretty much like a mini marketing campaign to me, so what next?

The application process, i.e. decide what interested candidates need to do to apply. Some common practice: formal letter of application; application form; a simple phone call; sending you their CV. See our resources for more on this. There is a chance that you may get more applicants than you can interview, so some form of screening may be required for you to produce a short-list; your ability to do that screening effectively will depend on the quality of information asked for and given in the application process. At this stage as at every stage from now on you should make notes about your decisions in case you are challenged by a disappointed candidate. There is a lot of legislation on discrimination that you should be aware of, for more information visit this page.

Schedule the interviews and send out the invitations.

In the meantime you need to prepare for the interviews. There will be certain things you will want to ask every interviewee to asses their suitability for the role, but there will also be individual questions and clarification based on each candidates application form, CV etc. For more information visit this page.

Interview day.

Prepare well! Rather than draw up a long list of questions, make a note of the areas that you want to explore with each candidate and have an opening question for each topic to get you started. Listen carefully to the answers and ask further questions until you have achieved your objective for that particular topic, then move on to the next topic.

Some golden rules:

  • Ask open questions i.e. what; when; where; who; why. Closed questions invite the candidate to answer yes or no, which is useful sometimes to clarify a point, but mainly you will want detailed answers and for that you need open questions
  • Treat the interview as a conversation with a purpose, but ensure that the interviewee does most of the talking.
  • Make brief discrete notes during the interview to help with the more detailed notes after the meeting, but otherwise listen attentively to what is being said.
  • Allow time after the interview for review - make your summary notes of the interview as soon as possible afterwards. Stick to the facts and don't write down your thoughts and impressions.
  • Get your staff involved in the process where practical.
  • Consider second interviews if necessary, with one or more candidates, if you are still unsure. Don't repeat the first interview, explore the areas that need clarifying and even consider a more practical exercise.
  • At the end of the interview ask each if they would accept the job if offered.


It's decision time!

Leave this for a few hours or until the following day. If you have done your preparation well and conducted the interviews effectively you should be in a position to choose. Look again at your selection criteria i.e. Job Description and Person Specification, your application forms, CVs and your interview notes. Most importantly be objective in you decision making.

Confirm the offer and write to the others to say that they were unsuccessful. You might want to hold the letter to your number two choice for a day or two just in case your first choice has a change of mind about the job.

That's it, job done - pardon the pun!

Not quite; having gone through all of this you want to make sure that your new employee settles in as quickly as possible, and doesn't leave in frustration after a few weeks. The Induction Programme will cover the early days, weeks or even months of the new job. For more information on induction visit this page.

It may help to allocate an experienced member of staff to help with the early parts of the induction: policy and procedures etc and to 'show them the ropes' for the first day or so. You need to review progress regularly during this period ensuring you identify help or action needed to improve performance and job satisfaction.

In Summary

You get the quality of staff you deserve, and this starts with the recruitment process - prepare well, maintain a professional approach and you will stand a greater chance of recruiting a valuable long-term team member.

That's all for this month.

Peter Mulhall
Business Adviser

Business Link - the place to go for business support



business link

I met someone at a networking event recently and we have decided that our companies should work together. Do you think that business co-operation or collaboration is a good idea?

In short: you can't be good at everything, so yes it may well be a good idea.

However, let's look at a few of the things that would be involved.

What opportunities do we want to capitalise on?

You will need to identify an opportunity. This might be submitting a joint bid on a tender, or entering another market sector, or a particularly large customer to target which otherwise you would not have the credibility, skill or the resources to convert into a customer. You may not identify a specific opportunity at the early stage, but all parties should have a purpose for wanting to collaborate.

Choose your partners - but choose wisely!

The choice of collaborative partner is critical. Sometimes the criteria for partner selection are woefully inadequate and more suitable to choosing a golf partner than a business partner. Getting on with business partners is essential, but more is needed.

Taking it on trust

Trust; this is a difficult one as it only truly forms with experience. There will be issues possibly, for some, on intellectual property and the need for confidentiality and confidentiality agreements. But ultimately you will need to trust partners, sometimes with sensitive information about your own business as you proceed to collaborate. Not only that, you will need to trust that the other parties will fulfil their responsibilities on the projects or ventures that you undertake; there will inevitably be division of labour and you are unlikely to be in a position to supervise, hands-on, the things that others are accountable for.

Skills match

One of the big advantages of business collaboration is that you gain access to skills and competencies not available in your own business i.e. the other party excels in areas where you are weak and vice versa. This doesn't happen automatically; drawing up a skills map and skills-auditing each potential partner in order to match skills required with skills available is a crucial part of the preparation stage.

Cultural match

If you, as a sole trader, are wanting to collaborate with other sole traders, understanding the other party's style of doing business, vision, view of the world around them, their values and beliefs and behaviours will be important for effective collaboration.

If you are a larger business with staff and even possibly a management team, how you go about understanding each other's business culture will need a lot of careful thought. Each MD spending time at the other's business getting to know people and processes is a good place to start.

Process matching

This is about how you or your company actually works from end to end. How you sell, market your products & services, communicate internally, & externally, deal with suppliers, customer relationship management; how you actually make the products and provide the service, how you run your admin and finance functions etc. Don't assume that because your own business runs effectively and smoothly that there will be no difficulties when you collaborate with others even if they too have a smooth running business.

Legal & structural aspects

Collaborative agreements or even legal entities may be needed depending on the depth of the relationship and complexity of the work being undertaken. Seek specialist advice.

So yes it is definitely an option to consider...

It is widely accepted that business cooperation / collaboration is a valid strategy for growing a business. There are huge benefits to be had from utilising the synergy of complementary businesses as well as potential economies of scale.

...but don't go into it blindfolded

We have only scratched the surface and looked at a few aspects, but even so it should be clear that some form of due diligence is needed before any decision is made. Good advice is essential for each party separately and, if the idea progresses, possibly a facilitator, either internal, or external to mediate and to project manage the formation and early stages of the partnership or joint-venture.

A sobering thought is that the majority of collaborative business relationships fail. So do your groundwork first, be prepared to put the time and effort into making the partnership work and you stand a chance of being one of those businesses that succeed with collaborative cooperative relationships.

In a nutshell:

  • Identify the business opportunity
  • Choose your partner carefully
  • Spend time getting to know them and their business
  • Take advice
  • Be clear about the risks and benefits

If you think that collaborative co-operative working is a possible strategy for you but you're not sure where to start, talk to one of our business advisers.

That's all for this month.

Peter Mulhall
Business Adviser
tel: 07717 290309

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Business Link - the place to go for business support



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