Whilst we find ourselves in a time where job seekers are plentiful, in any small business each employee plays a key role, so what steps can we take to make sure we employ the best person for the job?

Firstly concentrate on the requirements of the role and tailor your adverts, selection criteria and interview questions to reflect this. To attract the right people be honest about the role, the person it would suit and what you can offer in return. Think about the role you are recruiting for, small employers recruit less frequently and as there are less people, each person’s contribution is critical. It is tempting to recruit via word of mouth but you need to bear in mind two things:

  • Make sure your sources allow you to consider individuals from all parts of the community
  • interview and assess the individual carefully yourself

To manage the expectations of the recruit provide them with a comprehensive job description and a planned induction process. Finally ensure you issue them with a robust employment contract, with a clear probationary period, so that they are clear on the terms of their employment.

Creating a pool of applicants

As well as traditional methods such as advertising in trade publications think of other ways to find candidates.  For example if you are part of a small employers’ networking group, this can be a good way of sourcing people, but don’t forget to make the correct checks (references, right to work in the UK, qualifications etc) and that you are recruiting fairly and diversely where possible.

Other methods include:

  • the Internet – an increasingly popular choice – why not add a page to your own website so that candidates who are interested in your organisation can see what vacancies you have available?
  • your local Jobcentre Plus – there’s no cost and it can be very effective
  • an internal advert or notice aimed at current employees who may be keen to apply
  • an advert in local or national press or professional/industry publications
  • a file of any previous applicants
  • schools or colleges or other training providers
  • a referral scheme to encourage your employees to suggest suitable candidates for your vacancies
  • social media sites such as LinkedIn are increasingly used by employers to target potential recruits
  • if the post is an apprenticeship, you could use the National Apprenticeship Service.

Retaining employees

Smaller employers may not have the sophisticated HR policies and packages of flexible benefits but they do have the advantage of knowing all of their staff very well, and of having the flexibility to react quickly and spontaneously. Regular company events (BBQs, pub quizzes, day trips etc); matching funds raised by employees to their charity of choice and supporting such initiatives; birthday and Christmas cards handwritten from the MD and a supportive interest in personal events (births, deaths, divorce, house moves etc) can all help to build a sense of belonging and commitment.

General factors that attract, recruit and retain applicants include:

  • clear and documented terms of employment and related policies
  • fair and consistent salaries (above the NMW), bonuses and other benefits
  • an employment relationship based on trust, that recognises and plays to people’s strengths and rewards performance
  • clear roles and defined responsibilities at all levels
  • a culture of performance and positive behaviours
  • interesting work
  • a friendly co-operative environment.

Recruiting the right people and then investing in them by means of how they are treated and trained and how they are rewarded for their contribution can make the difference between making ends meet and future growth and success.

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