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Help for small firms – Recruiting an Employee

25 September 2014 by Crystal HR & Payroll Ltd

There are seven step-by-step guides for small businesses on how to hire, manage and get the best from staff.

The guides are practical, concise, easy to understand and designed so they can be picked up and put down as you need them.

You can work through them in sequence, or go straight to the one you need right now.

Seven step-by-step guides

The advice will tell you what you must do to stay on the right side of the law, and how to get the best out of your employees.

Recruiting an employee: A step-by-step guide

Be prepared: How hard can it be?

You may have been running your business on your own, but now need some help, so you’re looking to take on your first employee. Or maybe you’ve hired before, but they ended up leaving.Employers are increasingly looking to hire staff with cross-disciplined skill sets.

You may have heard that employing someone involves too much red tape – and that they can take you to an employment tribunal if things go wrong.

Perhaps it’s better to just struggle on alone? But then again, you do need that help – and is it really that tricky to take on someone so you are both happy?

No, it isn’t, but there are guidelines you will need to follow.

This article is aimed at small firms and organisations, and line and team managers in larger organisations.

Recruiting an employee – Be prepared and know the basics

  • Stand back and take a look at your business – where it’s come from and where it’s going – and plan your staffing needs.
  • Pinpoint the key tasks of a job, and the personal qualities such as skills and knowledge essential for the post, and make these clear when you advertise the vacancy.
  • Advertise through at least two different channels – the many choices include job websites, social media, the local newspaper and the Jobcentre – so you do not end up with candidates from too narrow an audience.
  • Choosing candidates for interview, and the interviews themselves, should be done by more than one person if possible to avoid unintended bias.
  • Offer the going rate for the job in your business sector.

Recruiting an employee – Step 1

Working out if you really need to hire someone

  • Plan ahead to anticipate future staffing needs. How long-term is the post likely to be? Is your work flow seasonal or fairly constant?
  • Think about the way work is organised in your business. For example, could flexible working, such as staggered hours or overtime, help manage any peaks and troughs?
  • Look around the market place.
    • What are your competitors doing?
    • Can you recruit people with the right skills in your area?
    • Decide how much you will pay – but pay the going rate for the job if you want the best person.
  • Imagine the new employee starting work – will you have the time to train and coach them to become an effective employee?

Does your business case for taking on a new member of staff hold water? If so, give more thought to precisely who you want for the job.

Recruiting an employee – Step 2

Who do you want?

  • Pinpoint the key tasks and aims of the role in a job description. This should include the:
    • main purpose of the job. Try and do this in one sentence. For example: ‘To increase revenue from advertising on the company’s website by 25%.’
    • job’s main tasks. Try to be precise. For example: ‘Taking shorthand notes and typing company letters’ is clearer than ‘general office duties’.
    • scope of the job. Say a little more about how important the job is and how it fits into the overall purpose of your business, and briefly explain other duties and responsibilities.
  • Profile the person who would be best suited to it in the person specification. This is a pen portrait of the ideal person you would like. In order not to discriminate against anyone, focus on:
    • skills and knowledge – for example, managing current sales accounts
    • experience – for example, a minimum of one year in website advertising sales
    • aptitudes – for example, a head for figures
    • personal qualities – for example, self motivated and who judges performance by results.

You should spell out which attributes are essential for the job and which are desirable.

Legal check

  • You must not discriminate on grounds of sex, race, disability, age, sexual orientation or religion throughout the entire recruitment process –¬† going through job applications, selecting candidates for interview, offering a candidate the job, and agreeing their terms and conditions – and, of course, once you’ve employed them. For example, if a job candidate you have selected for interview has said they have a disability, you must make any reasonable adjustments so they are not at a disadvantage.
  • It is a criminal offence to employ a person with no immigration authorisation to work in the UK.
  • Recruiting an employee – Step 3

    Advertise and sift the applications

    • When it comes to advertising you will want to get the best person for the least cost. But you don’t want to choose from too narrow a pool. Pick at least two recruitment methods from:
      • local schools or colleges
      • jobcentres
      • employment agencies
      • local newspapers
      • online recruitment, including job websites and social media.
    • Use an application form to get the information you need and sift out unsuitable candidates. You can also use it as a basis for the interview. The form should only ask for information relevant to the job.
    • As well as sending applicants the application form, also send them:
      • the job description
      • person specification.
    • Sift the candidates who best match the job description and person specification. Ideally, this should be done by two or more people to avoid unintended bias.

    But, of course, that is not always possible in a small business, so you may have to do it on your own.

Recruiting an employee – Step 4

Interview and offer the job

  • Interviews should, where possible, be conducted by more than one person, again to avoid unintended bias.

But, again in a small business, you may have to do the interviews on your own.

It is also advisable to have set questions to probe candidates’ skills, and help you measure their answers.

  • When carrying out interviews, you should make sure that you:
    • are not interrupted by visitors or telephone calls
    • ask ‘open ended’ questions that cannot be answered by a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’
    • do not ask questions which may be considered discriminatory.
  • Once you’ve decided who you want, send out a job offer letter. Remember, you are now on the verge of entering into an employment contract, a legal arrangement. It should set out:
    • the job title and offer of the job
    • any conditions applying to the offer
    • the terms – including salary, hours, benefits, pension arrangements, holiday entitlement and place of employment
    • start date and any probationary period
    • what the candidate needs to do to accept the offer, including satisfactory references, or decline it.
  • If the letter is to be the employment contract, or part of it, it should say so and include the main terms and conditions. A Written Statement of Employment Terms and Conditions must be given to the employee within two months of them starting work.

Make a note

  • Before the interview, make a list of the questions you want to ask. Keep all notes, including any made during the interview. They will help you to sift the applicants fairly.
  • Be prepared to give reasons for rejection to unsuccessful candidates who ask.

Recruiting an employee – Useful tools: Real-life situation

You advertised the job carefully spelling out the main duties and the skills that would be needed.

You’ve had a lot of applications, but glancing through some you’ve noticed they are from a wide range of people with very different experience.

That’s worrying you – you’re a one-person outfit short of time and feel overwhelmed by the details.

What do you do next?

You fully appreciate that taking on your first employee is a major change for your business. So, once you’ve dealt with customers’ orders and queries, make going through the applications your priority.

In the advertisement, you spelt out the main duties, and the skills, knowledge, experience and aptitudes the successful candidate would need. Turn these into a checklist, and sift the applications using only these factors to find the applicants which best match them. That way you should not discriminate on grounds such as sex or race, and should focus on what you are looking for.

Invite the best candidates to interview and prepare a set of questions to gauge their skills and qualities necessary for the post. Asking them all the same questions will help you assess them and be fair.

Recruiting an employee – Myth busting: True or false? Case study one

If things don’t work out as planned, and my new employee can’t handle the job, I’m stuck with them. And if I sack them, I’ll end up in front of an employment tribunal.

No, that isn’t the case. The best way to make sure an employee can handle their job is to be clear about the standard and level of performance you expect from them, regularly get and give feedback, and give them any necessary training to do the job.

But if things don’t work out, you should use your disciplinary procedure to try to improve their performance.

If the employee’s performance is still under par after going through these processes, you can dismiss them. If the employee makes a claim, a tribunal will want to see that you acted fairly and reasonably in the way you went about dismissing them.

In most cases, employees who started work on or after 6 April 2012 now have to have worked for their employer for two years before they can claim unfair dismissal.

Recruiting an employee – Myth busting: True or false? Case study two

You’re on Facebook and by chance see the profile of someone who has just applied to you for a job. You notice a picture of her with two toddlers in a pushchair and think she looks too young to be a mum.

Anyway, you accidentally stumbled on the photograph – it’s not as if you went looking for it – so there’s no harm in that.

Well, actually there could be. You’ve already started to make a judgement about her which has no relevance to whether or not she’s the best candidate for the job as your PA. You’re now going to struggle to block out that assessment.

Should you now decide not to offer her the job, even though she’s suitable for it, she might think you’ve made that decision because you’ve seen the photograph, or something similar, and don’t want to employ a young mum with child-care responsibilities.

She could claim discrimination on the grounds of her sex – and at the very least you would have to gather a defence against it.

So, beware.

Download the ACAS Advisory Handbook, employing people

Article courtesy of ACAS.

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