A Practical Guide to Recruiting the Right Employee

Sarah Alford, a senior associate specialising in employment and HR law at Berry Smith Lawyers, offers a practical guide to help organisations recruit the right employee

The success of a business often turns on the skill and commitment of its staff.  Therefore, finding the right person for the job is crucial for any organisation. Despite this, the need for   filling a vacant post ASAP often trumps a structured approach to recruitment – especially if there is a need to fill the post quickly due to a surge in activity.

As a result, months down the line we often get calls from businesses asking for advice on the dismissal process – which can be slightly convoluted where the Company is put on notice of a protected characteristic, for example a disability. This, along with the average cost of recruiting the wrong person being between £8,200 and £12,000 (CIPD), means that the overall impact on the bottom line is significant. Therefore, to assist in getting the recruitment process right (the first time around), we set out below a helpful guide.

Before advertising

  • First and foremost, put pen to paper and prepare the job description and person specification. A common place in unsuccessful recruitment is the lack of structured preparation – many feel that the time that goes into the preparation is not warranted because of the junior nature of a role, for example. However, allowing time to re-write the job description and person specification is time well spent in the long term. The job description should set out the main purpose and objectives of the role, the main task and responsibilities of the job holder.  The person specification should detail the experience, knowhow and qualifications, skills, abilities and attributes necessary for the role.
  • At this stage (and throughout the process) it is important to check the terms of any relevant equal opportunities or recruitment policies and then factor in any of these requirements to the procedure being followed.  Document any decisions to deviate from the policy with reasons.  If your company has the luxury of a HR or Personnel Department, get them on board at this early stage.

Advertising the role

  • Decide where the job will be advertised – internally and/or externally – and the deadline for applying.  It is generally considered best practice to advertise all vacancies externally.  However, it may be appropriate to advertise internally only, such as where there are existing employees at risk of redundancy. 
  • If advertising externally, consider which publications to use to reach the widest variety of candidates – using specialist publications, websites and agencies will enable you to target different communities, ages and genders. Many potential candidates find roles through online searches using key words. Therefore, making the advert easy to understand and one that is likely to target the search is a good place to start.
  • Advertising a new role on social media is by no way a new means of advertising. However, this is often over looked and yet the benefits are significant; it’s a great platform to showcase the Company’s values and culture; it targets an audience that already follows the company and what better people to come and work for you than existing advocates of your brand?
  • Consider what format the application should be submitted – a CV and covering letter or an application form. 
  • Once the deadline date arrives and all the applications are in, sift the candidates who best match the job description and person specification. Short listing can be a time consuming activity. However, structuring it to ensure you use your time efficiently to produce consistent outcomes is key. For example, when reviewing applications against the essential specification of the role, as soon as you become aware that a candidate does not meet one of the essential criteria, stop assessing it.  Ideally, this should be done by two or more people to avoid unintended bias.


  • Whether or not additional assessment methods are used, interviews remain the most popular choice for assessment.  It is vital that all members of the panel are prepared by:
    • Ensuring they have reviewed all the relevant documents – job description, person speciation, CV’s and covering letters / application forms.
    • Agree a suitable number of questions – who will do the asking and who will take notes?
    • Are there any reasonable adjustments requested by the candidates and have they been put in place, for example wheelchair users to have interviews on the ground floor.
    • Where will the interviews take place?
  • The questions should ideally be open ended so they cannot be answered with yes or no. It is sensible to plan core questions to probe skills, qualities and values essential for the job.  That way, it will ensure consistency amongst the scoring.  Avoid asking for personal information or personal views irrelevant to the job or potentially discriminatory questions e.g. are you planning to have children in the next few years?
  • It is important that the candidate leaves feeling that they have been given the opportunity to ask questions and understand the next step(s) of the process – for example when they can expect a decision by.

Selecting the best candidate for the Job

  • Using marks against criteria should determine which candidate has the highest marks whilst not overlooking a low score in a crucial area.  Using a structured scoring system will help avoid making snap judgments based on gut feeling or sub-consciously looking for similarities to themselves in the candidate.
  • As soon as possible after the interview, the interviewers should write up their key notes of the answers, scores and/or other important details.  It is important for an employer to be aware that a candidate can ask to see information held about them for example the application form, interview notes and references or the full personnel file if the candidate already works for the organisation. 

Make an offer of employment

  • Make a written offer to the successful candidate.  It is important to set a time limit for acceptance of the offer and specify that acceptance must be in writing.
  • Any offer of employment should state that it is subject to contract, the candidate providing proof of permission to work in the UK and receipt of satisfactory references.  If relevant to the job, the offer may also be subject to the candidate confirming they have no restrictions preventing them for working for the employer, a satisfactory medical examination, proof of relevant qualifications required for the job and also a DBS check.
  • It is good practice to remind employees not to resign from their existing job before these conditions have been satisfied.
  • Once the candidate has confirmed acceptance of the offer in writing you should seek their permission to approach their referees.

Welcome and induction

Although it need not be a formal process, there is no doubt that a properly planned and consistently delivered induction process is just as important as the recruitment process – it gives the organisation the opportunity to welcome the new recruit, build on their positive attitude and enthusiasm for their new job and to familiarise the new recruit with the organisation’s policies. Having a comprehensive, structured induction process plays a big part in improving long-term staff retention – no doubt an article for another day!

Finally, always remember that recruitment is a two way process – ultimately it is the candidate who makes the decision whether to accept an offer of employment. Therefore, they too will be making judgments on the organisation and whether it is one they want to work for.  Even if they are not successful in the role, you want to ensure that the message they give about the organisation to others (including potential customers) is one that is positive.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any other aspect of employment  law at 029 2034 5511 or salford@berrysmith.com

Sarah Alford – Senior Associate