If you’re looking to hire an employee for the first time, you probably want a few questions answering or simply a little advice before you make the leap.
This guide outlines the main stages of the recruitment process, along with key information to help you keep in line with the law and best practice.
You’ll also find handy links to other guides throughout, which offer more in-depth information if you need it.
First things first: are you sure you need an employee?
In some situations, especially if your business is still very new, you may be better off hiring an independent contractor. Learn more and work out what’s best for you with these two guides:
If you’re sure you do, it’s time to find the ideal person for the job. And to do that, you need to first make sure you’re employee ready, here’s a handy checklist to help:
Find your candidates
The first step to finding candidates is to write an informative and attractive job description to use in your job advert. Take some time to really drill down on what it is that you want to achieve, and think about how hiring someone can help you to do that.
Once the job role is clear to you, write your job description to include:
- The job title (The more specific this is, the more likely you’ll come up in the job search of relevant applicants)
- The location of the job (Again, being specific here should get you relevant applicants)
- Salary (If you don’t know this yet, simply write ‘salary negotiable’ or ‘dependent on experience’. You can then discuss this with specific candidates further into the process.)
- Who the role will report to
- Responsibilities (The day-to-day tasks that the job will involve, along with any ad-hoc or additional duties)
- Requirements (The specific skills and experience the ideal hire will have)
- Information about your business (The detail here should build a picture in the applicant’s mind of what it’ll be like to work for you - so make sure you don’t hold back on how brilliant you are!)
If you want candidates to complete an application form as part of the process, this is the time to create that. And on a separate page, you may want to add an equality and diversity monitoring form for the candidates to fill in voluntarily and anonymously.
Advertising your job opportunity: get help or go it alone?
Next, you’ll need to get word about your new job in front of potential applicants. You can do that as simply as sending a social media post or advert out to where you think your ideal employees hang out, inviting them to apply on your website or to your email address.
However, this does mean you’ll need to find the right places to reach the right candidates. And of course, you’ll have to sift through all of the applications yourself…which may negate the benefit of saving money on engaging someone else to help you find the right people. So, outsourcing to a recruitment agent may be useful and worth the fee.
A good recruitment agent should have an excellent source of candidates and know how to find them, they’ll usually also help you to craft a compelling advert, and they can act as an experienced promoter for you too - making the whole process a lot quicker and simpler. Be sure to agree on their fee upfront though, and don’t be shy about negotiating it.
To shortlist your candidates, you (or your recruitment agent) should:
1. Decide on your criteria and make sure you apply them rigorously. Take a look at your job description and decide which requirements are essential and which are desirable.
2. Consider whether you want to ask candidates to do something as part of their application, like answer a question of relevance to your business and/or the objectives for the role. Don’t go over the top here, and maybe set a minimum number of words for the answer. It can be a helpful way of establishing whether someone’s genuinely interested in and focused on your job opportunity or not.
3. Work out how many candidates you’re ideally looking to shortlist. This will not only ensure you end up with a manageable number of candidates, but it’ll also encourage you to be as picky as possible in your selections.
4. Study the applications you’ve received and discard those that don’t meet your essential criteria. Occasionally, you may come across a ‘wild card’ candidate, but be wary of these and only include those who are genuinely high scoring in your desirable criteria.
5. Go through the applications you have left and make a note of the desirable criteria that each one meets, and discard any that don’t meet any (or very few).
6. If you still have too many candidates on your shortlist, take things such as the spelling, grammar, and general presentation of their application into consideration. It’s expected that the candidates would have put their upmost effort into their application, so it’s a really good indicator of the level of attention to detail and quality of work you’d be able to expect from them if hired.
After following these steps, you should now have a shortlist of candidates! Now it’s time for…
This is where you not only get to find out more about the candidates on your shortlist, but it’s where they get an opportunity to learn more about you, your business, and the job itself too.
You might want to consider a ‘rapid-fire’ round ahead of inviting candidates to a more typical interview meeting. Lots of businesses now include an initial 15-30 minute phone or video call with a candidate as part of their shortlist process. This is especially great for customer-facing and people-engagement roles. Block out some time and try to do these all in one go so you can keep each candidate front of mind as you decide who to take through to the next stage.
Keep these initial interactions light and focused on the personality, attitude and general engagement of the candidate. Pay especial attention to what the candidate asks you about your business and the role and how they relate that to their own suitability for it. Try not to talk too much yourself.
Those who make it through can then be invited to the next stage. Check out our guide to good interviews for more detailed guidance on conducting interviews successfully.
If everything’s gone well, you should now have found the best person for the job.
The importance of doing final checks - and what you can check
Make sure you make any job offer ‘subject to satisfactory references’, and then ensure you follow up on those references. Our guide to performing checks on a candidate or co-founder before confirming your job offer is helpful here as well.
And now it’s now time to…
Prepare to be an employer!
Firstly, get in touch with HMRC to register as an employer - you must do this between 2 months and 2 weeks before their first payday.
And don’t forget to get employers’ liability insurance as soon as possible - it’s a legal requirement for any business to have cover of £5 million, even if they only hire 1 employee.
Registering for PAYE is a must-do task if your employees will be earning more than £113 per week, receiving benefits, getting expenses returned to them, are working another job, and/or are part of the business’ pension scheme. You can run your payroll by yourself with payroll software, or you can hire a payroll provider to run it for you. Find out more in this government guide to PAYE and payroll.
You’ll automatically have a verbal contract between you and your employee the second they accept your job offer - however, as with many agreements, it’s better to put everything in writing.
Details around the employee’s probationary terms and conditions also need to be shared and agreed with the new employee. You can read more about this in our guide to probation periods.
You’ll also need to put together a statement of terms within the first 2 months of hiring your employee - you’ll find information on what this is and what to include in our guide to why you need more than just an employment contract.
We also recommend sending your employment contract to the employee together with a cover letter that highlights the main elements of the contact, for example, the nature of the role (e.g. full vs part-time), what benefits are included in the job offer, hours and location of work, whether there will be a probation period, to whom the new recruit will report during that probation period and who to contact if they have any questions.
Probation periods are highly advisable for employers. They’re a valuable safeguard if, in spite of all your efforts, a candidate turns out not to be right for the role.
If you’re applying a probation period to the employment terms, details around the employee’s probationary terms and conditions also need to be shared and agreed with the new employee. You can read more about this in our guide to probation periods.
Complying with your legal obligations as an employer
You must also remember to enrol your new employee in a workplace pension - see our guide to pensions here. This is mandatory and there are penalties for not doing this on time or correctly, but you can get set-up relatively easily and there are lots of businesses that can help to manage this for you. (Let us know if you need some suggestions for who can help you, some of our expert partners can very cost-effectively help you out.)
Make sure you’re also aware of, understand, and are ready to implement the statutory rights your employee is entitled to.
Here are a bunch of guides to help you understand and implement these rights:
- Guide to working time
- Guide to setting wages
- Guide to employees and their trade union rights
- Guide to family-friendly working
- Guide to equal opportunities and diversity
- Guide to dismissing staff
- Guide to notice periods
- Guide to redundancy
- Guide to employee sickness and absence at work
You should also create policies for these subjects, as well as any of your own rules and regulations you’d like your business to adhere to. You’ll also need an employee handbook, which is essentially all of your policies put together.
Ok, so you have found your employee, your contracts are in place, you’re clued up on their employee rights, and you both can’t wait for their start date - congratulations!
Now it’s time to ensure that you onboard the employee successfully…
Don't forget about the induction…
For a working relationship to be set up for success, it needs to get off to a strong start - and that’s where the induction period is so important.
From the way you welcome your employee on their first day to the way you check on their progress over the course of their first few weeks on the job, you can make a real impact, from the way your new team member feels about the role to the quality of the work they produce.
Follow our employer’s guide to the first 30 days of a new recruit and our guide to probation periods to make sure your employee gets the best start possible. You’ll find our induction checklist below comes in very handy in ensuring that you don’t overlook anything helpful (or legally vital!), as well.
Follow our employer’s guide to the first 30 days of a new recruit and our guide to probation periods to make sure your employee gets the best start possible.
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