Selecting and Recruiting Skills

See also: Interviewing Skills

Selecting and recruiting the right person to fill a vacancy is not an easy task. It is, however, very important, because making the wrong decision can have serious consequences for your team and your organisation.

Recruitment is also a time consuming and expensive business, so it pays to get it right first time.

There are a number of activities that can really help to improve the success of your recruitment efforts. This page attempts to demystify the process, and explain how you can improve what you do to help your organisation to find the right candidate every time.


Build Networks

Recruitment begins long before you have a vacant position.

Some statistics suggest that well over half of all jobs are never advertised. The reason for that is that they are filled by a suitable candidate already known to the recruiter, or to someone in their network.

The art of successful recruiting is to build a network which contains a large number of people who will either be suitable for vacant posts in your organisation, or who will know someone suitable.

There is no short-cut for this: you have to put time and effort into networking. Use trade events, careers fairs, meet-ups, and conferences, and make sure that you are active in cultivating contacts. Make contact after the event by email and social media—LinkedIn is particularly good for job-related networking—and take steps to start to build a relationship.

You can also build relationships via social media, using your network as a way of connecting with people who may be suitable for your organisation.

You may find it helpful to read our page on developing an effective LinkedIn profile.

That way, when you have a job vacancy, you can share information via your network, and hopefully someone will recommend a suitable candidate.



Define The Ideal Candidate

When you have a vacancy, the first step is to define your ideal candidate.

You will need to have a job description and a person specification to provide to potential candidates, but this process also allows you to discuss and resolve exactly what you want from the jobholder. For example, you may want to supplement the skills of the team in a particular way, or realise that the person who is leaving the team had a certain skill that you valued, but was not part of the original job specification.

A possible process for preparing a job description and person specification


  1. Bring together a group of people who are currently doing either the same or a very similar job, and who you consider are excellent at the job. Make sure the recruiting manager is involved, and you might also want to include the departing postholder if they are still around.

  2. Get that group to develop a job description that actually sets out what the role will involve. It does not need to include every last thing, but it does need to cover the main responsibilities, and the outputs required.

  3. Use the group to define the main behavioural characteristics of the ideal candidate. What do they feel makes a successful postholder?

    TIP! These can be highly individual and tailored to that particular job and team. For example, if there is a particularly challenging team member, then ‘excellent social skills and ability to get on with a wide range of people’ may be a perfectly reasonable requirement to include in the list. The skills and characteristics should not include anything that is routine at that level, such as the ability to use standard computer packages.
  4. From this list, prioritise the top ten responsibilities and characteristics that you will use to screen candidates, both initially and at interview. This will give you a picture of what you are really looking for.

Your job description and person specification do not need to include every last characteristic. You need to prioritise, so that you can test for the elements that are particularly important to succeed in the job.


Decide on a Publicity/Marketing Process

You next need to consider how you are going to find suitable candidates. Consider in particular:

  • Where you are going to advertise the post

    You need to advertise where your ideal candidate will see your post.

    For example, the local job centre or employment office is not going to be the ideal place to advertise a chief executive role, and LinkedIn is probably not going to work for a handyman or similar technical role. Use recruitment websites and social media, but make sure that they are suitable by checking that similar jobs are regularly advertised there.

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    If you are looking for people like your current staff, ask them which social media sites they use regularly, and consider sharing on those.


  • How you are going to use your network, and your team’s contacts

    Having spent time building up your network, you now need to consider how you are going to draw on it. At the very least, you should share your job description and person specification with your network, and invite people to pass it on to anyone that they think is suitable. You can also ask your team to do the same.

    You may, however, want to be more proactive, and actually invite people to apply. With the wide range of contacts that you have built over time, you may well know several people who you think would be perfect. If so, get in touch personally, with a message saying that you thought they might be interested, and inviting them to get in touch for an informal chat. You never know, it might just work.

Don’t be tempted to invite too many to apply.

Keep your invitations just to the one or at most two you really want, because they will be rightly aggrieved if they find that you have personally invited 20 people to apply, when you only have one post.


Setting an Assessment Strategy

Your next step is to decide how you plan to assess candidates.

As a first stage, you will probably need to do some kind of sift. If you have a lot of candidates, you might even consider using a computer sift, just to weed out the most unsuitable candidates. It is, however, a good idea to at least glance at all the CVs yourself, just to check that you are not discarding someone perfect by mistake.

As a second stage, you will need something more comprehensive. Interviews are generally seen as the ‘gold standard’ of recruitment, but research shows that, by themselves, they are actually very little more reliable than simply tossing a coin.

You should therefore consider using other methods of testing too, such as asking candidates to do a written test or a presentation, or even inviting them to spend a day or half-day with the team to see how they get on with everybody.

Inviting shortlisted candidates to spend time with the team could be particularly helpful if you have identified good social skills, and being able to fit into the team, as important—and it also gives you more views on the candidates, which will help to reduce bias in the selection process.


For more about how to interview successfully, including using presentations, see our page on Interviewing Skills.

Making a Decision

The final stage in recruitment is to make your decision.

It is important to bring together all your information: the application form or CV and covering letter, the interviews, the results of any additional elements of the process, including views from the team if the candidates met them, references, plus any other information such as the results of internet searches and social media profiles.

You want the fullest picture possible of all the candidates.

Compare the picture that you have of each with the job description and person specification that you prepared at the start of the process.

The successful candidate is likely to be the person who most closely fits the ten or so elements that you identified as most important.

Of course, going through a process like this does not guarantee success in recruitment, but this kind of care and attention is likely to give you the best possible chance of that.


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