MinuteHR recruitment process for small business

Creating an effective recruitment process for small businesses

You know having the right people in the right roles is critical to the success of your organisation. And for that to happen you need an effective recruitment strategy.


Chances are, like most small businesses, you don’t have a dedicated Human Resources team. Managing recruitment will fall to you or one of your senior management team. Taking a little time to plan your recruitment strategy will ensure you find the best candidates for the roles you need and the most effective use of your time.

For a successful approach, you will need to think about

  • What role your business really needs
  • your budget
  • How you’re going to attract candidates
  • The nuts and bolts of your selection process
  • Who will oversee the recruitment process and how it will be managed


What role does your business really need?

A new employee is a significant investment for any small business. Taking the time to define the new role your organisation needs is an essential first step in recruiting the right candidate. You need to be clear about what the role is and what skills and experience are needed.


Job Title

A job title rarely describes what’s really involved in a role. And the same job title will mean different things in different organisations. For example, a Marketing Manager’s role in a small business could have greater breadth than in a large organisation. The small business Marketing Manager may be hands-on with PR and brand development, but their large organisation counterpart probably heads a department with a team for each. Attracting the right candidates requires more clarity than job title alone.


Job Description

Defining the job description is the starting point for recruiting any role. Often job descriptions are a dry list of tasks. But a good job description is so much more. It provides a clear vision of the overall purpose of the role. You should include the main elements of the job, the key responsibilities, who the role interacts with and its impact on the organisation.

A clear and detailed job description makes it easier for you to describe the role to a candidate or recruiting agent. In a recent survey from Glassdoor 44% of UK Job seekers and workers were frustrated by the lack of information on job responsibilities.  (See our recent infographic) . Clearly communicating the role you are seeking avoids turning off suitable applicants.  And ultimately that helps you find the best candidate.

Don’t try to write a job description in isolation. Canvas the views of your management team and the workers who are going to work alongside the new recruit. Their insights into the role will highlight important and frequent interactions critical to your business. Understanding these interactions will help you shape the job description.

Very few roles remain static. Think about how role may develop in the future. Include areas that may be needed in the longer term. This helps identify candidates who can to grow with the changing needs of the role and the business.


Ideal candidate specification

The completed job description is the template you use to identify the skills and experience that are needed for the role and your business. Use it to describe a picture of the ideal candidate and create their specification.

Try to consider the broader context when drawing up an ideal candidate specification. What range of skills is already in your business? Is your team focused around one skill set? It’s easy to fall into the trap of recruiting the same types of people. Imagine a business full of only creative thinkers. Who’s going to do the detailed work? A broad range of skills makes your business stronger.


Contract type

Armed with a job description and an ideal candidate specification you should consider the timescales involved. Not all roles are needed for the long term.

If the need is short-term, the role may be better served by someone on a fixed term contract or hiring a contractor or agency worker. On the face of it, contractors and agencies appear more expensive, but they have the expertise to hit the ground running and don’t carry the overheads of permanent employees.


Your Budget

Your new recruit is a significant investment in the future success of your business. But most businesses underestimate the cost of recruitment by 90-95%. This leads to poor decisions that fail to control the expense and increased long-term costs.

At first glance, the cost of a new hire is the salary you’re offering them. Don’t forget the employer National Insurance and pension contributions in your calculations of the ongoing costs of the role.

And the cost of recruiting and onboarding a new candidate also quickly add up. Remember to include advertising, recruitment agency fees, the time interviewing and selecting, the training costs for the successful candidate and their new equipment.

Knowing the true cost of your investment is essential to avoid any nasty surprises.


Attracting candidates for your vacancy

As a small business, you don’t have a huge budget for recruitment. While your brand may be well known in your niche or geographical area it may not have the same recognition in the job market. You have to be creative to attract suitable candidates.

To attract the people you are looking for, start with the job description and ideal candidate specification. Use it as the basis of all your advertising. Your adverts should include a brief outline of the business with an overview of the role and skills required. Include a clear indication of the salary and benefits offered.

Remember it’s a job advert. Sell the benefits of working for your business. Show candidates what kind of organisation you are. Does the role your advertising offer more breadth, responsibility and flexibility than the equivalent in a large organisation? Perhaps you can’t offer the benefits package a large company can, but good candidates are attracted by more than material interest. Other advantages like development opportunities, flexible working or social activities are very appealing.

Choose the advertising channels best suited to your business and the role. Using more than one channel will increase your chances of finding the right applicant.



Are there any potential candidates within your existing networks?


Recruitment Agency

Outsourcing to an agency can save you valuable time and resources finding and shortlisting candidates. Yes, they will charge a fee, but this may still represent value for money. But, don’t forget, the applicants they find will only be as good as your job description and ideal candidate specification.


Social media

Make use of the reach of social media to fill vacancies. Carefully choose the social media channels that suit your business


Online Job boards

There are a variety available and they can generate a high volume of applicants. But this volume makes them popular with agencies and larger organisations. It can make getting noticed more challenging. Candidates look for attractive job opportunities using the site’s search function. Research the search terms for the role and use them in your advert.


Your business website

Your website is already doing a great job of promoting your company’s profile. Advertise vacancies on a dedicated page


Selection process

You need a selection process that objectively differentiates between candidates. It doesn’t have to be a complicated scoring system. But it must highlight the difference between candidates. With objective criteria based on the needs of the role, you will choose the best candidate for your business. And objective criteria could protect you and your business from a claim of discrimination.



Interviews are a significant time investment by the interviewer and the candidate. Both should be prepared.

Be realistic about the people and resources you have available to interview applicants. The early stages of your selection criteria should create a manageable shortlist of candidates for interview.

Prepare your interview questions in advance. The answers to these questions help you objectively measure the candidate against the selection criteria. And help you find the best person for the role.

As well as role-specific questioning, it’s ok to have some standard questions you use for every recruitment interview, for example around company values and ways of working.  

Use selection techniques that test for the role. For example, for a client facing role, you might ask the candidate to prepare a client pitch as part of the interview.

In small businesses, employees are occasionally expected to cover other jobs within the company. If this is expected in your business, include questions that test initiative and flexibility.

As small businesses need to cluster roles together, the jobs are often unique. You may not find an applicant that ticks every box of the ideal candidate specification. Think about what transferable skills they may have and ask questions to test for them, for example asking how they would draw on past experience to deal with a particular scenario.

The interview is also a time to sell the role and company to a potential recruit. The candidate is trying to decide if your business is the right move for them. A poor interview experience is one of the main reasons candidates do not accept job offers (infographic). Take time to show them around the workplace, let them speak to members of the team and get a feel of the culture of the organisation. You want them to leave with a positive impression. If your chosen candidate gets a competing offer, it’ll be harder to turn your role down.


Managing the Process

Without proper management, recruiting a new employee can eat into your valuable time and resources.  Before you start, you need to think carefully about who needs to contribute and the time and costs involved. Intuitively in-house recruitment can appear more cost-effective. But careful analysis may show you using a recruitment agency is a more effective way to find suitable applicants for your shortlist.

If you use an agency, take time to get to know them. The more they understand your business the more likely they are to find suitable candidates to match your vacancy. Agencies often use applicant tracking software to automate the application process. These systems shortlist candidates based on keywords. To ensure you have the best candidates applying for your vacancy, include the keywords for the role in your advert.

If you’re going to manage the process in-house, here’s six tips to get you started

  1. Respond to every candidate – 84% of candidates expect a personal email and 52% expect a phone call, yet more than half of employers respond to less than half of the applicants.
  1. Give feedback regardless of the outcome. 25% of candidates expect to be told if they are not being invited for an interview and 41% expect to be notified if they weren’t chosen at interview.

(Treating even unsuitable candidates well will enhance your reputation as an employer and make your job offer more enticing. And better yet, candidates are willing to accept a 5% lower salary offer from a company with a reputation as a great employer.)

  1. Move candidates swiftly through the recruitment pipeline – the best recruits can be off the market in less than 10 days. A slow recruitment process can suggest indecision or lack of interest in the recruit.
  1. Let candidates know where they are in the recruitment process – only a quarter of employers actively communicate progress and half of candidates are frustrated because they don’t know what’s happening
  1. Give recruits a clear timeline and meet deadlines. Letting recruits know you have a time frame manages their expectations. This will save you time dealing with candidates chasing up their application. However, delays are common and you need to keep the candidates informed. Failing to explain delays suggests you’ve lost interest and they’ll move on.
  1. Make it clear a candidate can contact you at any stage – it’s better an applicant shares a concern with you before they presume it’s not the role for them. They may still withdraw their application – but at least you are aware at the earliest opportunity. Alternatively, the concern is addressed, and a potentially suitable candidate is still in the process. And for those that have no concerns, the message is clear – you’re a considerate employer that believes communication is two-way.

If you’re frequently recruiting you might consider using an applicant tracking system to help the process. There are a variety of systems available.



Once you’ve chosen a candidate make the job offer. When they accept, the next step is to wow them with your stellar onboarding process. You have chosen the best person for the role. You don’t want your new recruit to change their mind. Your onboarding must live up to the good impression your recruitment process made.


9 key features of a successful recruitment process


The key takeaways for a successful recruitment process are

  • clarity of the business need and role that matches it
  • a good job description
  • an ideal candidate specification
  • careful budgeting for the new hire
  • creativity to help find the right candidates
  • sell the benefits of your organisation – it’s a competitive market
  • an objective selection process
  • time sensitive and efficient processing of applications
  • keeping candidates up to date on their progress

A new employee is a significant investment for your business and warrants the careful preparation to match. Carefully managing the process will help you find the right candidate for your business and will save you time and resources in the long term.

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