How to recruit staff

Dip into your recruitment and selection box and do you
pull out a treat or something bitter? It’s a tough job
filling a job. Here, Des Kelly and John Burton help to sweeten the

Effective management means nothing without the right people in
the right jobs, and therefore recruitment is an important
management skill. However, for some, recruitment has become
unnecessarily complicated in the hands
of human resources (HR) specialists. Managers at any level should
recruit their own staff, with the support of recruitment
specialists if necessary, but don’t let them take this
crucial responsibility out of your hands.

Recruitment is costly in terms of management time and resources,
advertising, interview and possibly assessment centre or agency
expenses. It also costs the organisation not to make an appointment
or to select someone who leaves soon afterwards or proves

You need to know the basics: job descriptions, person
specifications, advertising, selection, and appointment. Generally,
HR and, sadly, many managers, will want to write long, repetitive
documents. You should write one page – or compromise at

Weed out specifications that exclude people. The more concise
the job description and person specification, the more the
potential of the job opens up. For instance, have you considered
recruiting someone who’s deaf or blind to a job that you had
previously described as requiring speech, hearing and sight?
Contrary to assumptions, doing so may improve communication within
the team and with your service users.

Keep job titles short, simple and sensible. And don’t call
a job the opposite of what it is: “child abuse
co-ordinator” looks silly or criminal to any ordinary

Your purpose in advertising and sending out an application pack
is to attract only suitable candidates. Processing 200 applications
is time-consuming, and probably means your advertising and
information were poor, or you’re paying too much.
You’ve probably got it right if you’re getting 10
applications, shortlisting five, and selecting one from three
excellent contenders. Make sure all dates – deadline, test,
interview – are arranged and applicants know about these from
the outset.

Good organisations will have a statement of equal opportunity
which sets out clearly the ways in which the recruitment process
provides safeguards against discrimination. It’s about
ensuring all applicants are treated fairly and given equal

The applications are in, and it’s time to shortlist for
interview. Ideally, this should be done by at least two people
using agreed criteria-matching skills and experience to the job
description and person specification. If the main purpose of
shortlisting is to invite candidates for interview, think about the
time required for the interview and evaluation, as well as what is
the maximum number manageable in the time available.

Interviewing remains the primary source of selection. It is
worth preparing for the interview.  Have the details about times
and location been confirmed? Has the interview panel been agreed?
Is it representative – are users involved, for example? Have
agreed questions been set?

Remember, the purpose is to get the best out of candidates, not
the worst. Plan who will ask which questions, and agree the order
before the interview starts. Be wary of reading out in turn a list
of questions and writing down the answers – this can be
disconcerting for candidates. If you set them an oral exam, all
you’ll find out is how well they’ve revised. You want
the candidate to speak freely, but you need an agreed structure and
assessment method so each candidate has an equal chance to show you
their true qualities. So think about the best way to go.

Ask open questions that require an answer beyond
“yes” or “no”. Keep in mind both the
“content” of the interview and the
“process”. The layout of the room, introductions by the
chair of the interview panel, conduct of interviewers and the way
questions are asked can all influence the extent to which
candidates relax and perform at their best. Think about what you
might say as the introduction and at the conclusion of the

Plan the process of notifying the successful candidate as well
as those who are unsuccessful. People usually appreciate a phone
call as soon as possible. Be prepared to give feedback –
it’s important that people know why they have failed and,
indeed, why they have succeeded. However, keep in mind the effect
the call or letter of rejection may have. You may want to attract
people to apply for other posts in the future, so the wording is as
important as the job offer letter.

And remember, these days interviewing is a two-way process
– the candidate is assessing you as much as you are assessing
them. Get it wrong, and you’re covering that vacancy for
another three months.
John Burton is an independent social care consultant; and Des Kelly
is consultant director in social care, BUPA care homes

• It is worth getting feedback on why people join as much as
on why people leave.
• Involve your team, service users and carers in the
recruitment and selection process.
• Always keep a record of notes made at interview and any
scoring system used.

• Your time is valuable – delegate interviewing to more
junior staff.
• When you interview regularly it becomes second nature
– you just know what questions to ask.
• The best interviews are spontaneous and unstructured.

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