Recruitment, selection & on-boarding

Recruiting the right people is a critical skill for managers and leaders. Unfortunately we are not very good at it. Trawling through research and statistics on the Internet reveals some pretty shocking numbers -  chief amongst these is that between 30 and 50% of recruitment decisions result in failure.

Why is recruitment so prone to failure?

The first point to make is that it can be very hard to separate a poor recruitment decision from poor management of the individual once he or she is on board. For this reason we need to look at recruitment as part of the 'life cycle' of an employee. Sections on this site deal variously with Motivation, Performance Management and other aspects important to the success of any employee. Get those wrong and an apparently good recruitment decision can quickly result in a disaffected employee who doesn't stay. But in this section we shall confine ourselves to looking at the principles of good recruitment and on-boarding (or induction).

Job design

A good place to start is with the job itself. By designing a job that includes broader responsibility for the success of the undertaking you immediately have the opportunity to make it more meaningful and interesting. So if you want to recruit a picker in a warehouse, consider including a requirement (for example) to participate in a work group that examines working practices in order to try and improve them. Other ideas could include the requirement to study ways to reduce waste, improve safety and so on. The key point is that for people to be engaged at work, they need to feel part of something meaningful and worthwhile. The cynic would argue that spending a couple of hours a week on these non-critical activities wastes time and damages productivity. A more enlightened leader would argue that an engaged worker will do more and stay longer in the company, resulting in a win for everyone.

So design jobs to be interesting from the start!

Set out the requirements of the job carefully

In the section on Performance Management you will see suggestions about how to set out the principles that govern the behaviour of everyone in the organisation; the specific deliverables of the job in question and the objectives and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that need to be met. The individual must have a copy of these early in the application process, so that he or she is very clear as to what is expected.

Explain and stick to the performance review process

The candidate must know that he or she is going to have a discussion about performance at least every month- more often in the early days of the job. Any candidate who is interested in doing well will welcome this. You should also explain that at the same time you will have regular discussions about job satisfaction and personal development.

Design the induction process before you start to recruit

It amazes me how many organisations fail to put in place a decent induction programme for new starters. The plan should be shown to the candidates before any decisions are taken, and candidates should be asked for their input to make sure it meets their needs. Why not ask your existing staff to help design and deliver the plan? After all, they know what's going on around the place and it's a great way to enrich people's jobs!

The induction plan should be set out on paper, with new recruits required to meet with people and spend time in various parts of the organisation. The plan should specify the objectives of each visit and require 'signing off' by the person delivering that piece of training as well as the individual. In that way everyone is clear as to what has been studied.


See the attached example induction plan below.

Candidate profile

Once you know exactly what you expect the job holder to do, you are in a position to describe the knowledge, skills and attributes that you need. Again, involving your people can help enormously as well as giving them a bigger stake in the undertaking.


Start with the principles or values that govern the behaviours of all - these should already be established across the organisation. You might describe these as attitudes you want to see.

Next set out the specific attributes and skills that will be required. For a field based sales person for example you might well include the need for someone who is fine working on their own all day, is resilient, can take rejection, is capable of adapting their behaviour to suit differing types of potential customer, is well organised, well spoken, numerate etc etc. You could argue whether these are skills or attributes, but either way you want them to be in evidence! So set them out and be sure to discuss the list with colleagues and those who may be able to help with input.

Be prepared for candidate questions

Before you start you should have a clear list of the questions that you are likely to face from candidates, coupled with the relevant (honest!) answers. This must include information on pay, benefits and other nitty-gritty details; as well as a full explanation of the work, 'a day in the life' and other relevant information that will help candidates to decide if the job is for them.

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'We are hiring' graphic

'If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur'

Red Adair

Decide how you are going to assess candidates

You need to give some serious thought to the process that you are going to follow in assessing candidates. Traditionally the hiring manager would have trawled through a bunch of c.v.s and then spent an hour with perhaps three potential candidates. And then a decision would be made which would have far reaching consequences for all concerned. The hiring manager would probably end up recruiting someone who was just like them - known affectionately as the 'halo effect'. No wonder up to 50% of such decisions go bad.


Before you start the assessment process you need to:

  • Decide and set out all of the capabilities and attributes that you are going to test

  • Decide how you are going to test them

  • Decide at which stage in the process you are going to test them

  • Decide who is going to test them

The idea is that you start off with the easier stuff, and get into the complex issues as the process moves forward and the number of possible candidates reduces. In this way you minimise the workload involved.

And here's the interesting part - by involving other dispassionate people in the process and thinking through carefully how you are going to test for the required attribute you significantly increase the likelihood of reaching an accurate and objective decision. As an example, let's say that you need someone for a job who is highly organised. How are you going to test for that and who will do it? Traditionally the recruiting manager would ask a dreadful question such as 'So John, how well organised are you?' John, not being stupid, would reply that he was very well organised. Duuh!


The thinking manager however would talk to his or her colleagues, have a look at the Internet and between them they would come up with some innovative ways to 'test' for organisation skills and preferences. It could be part of a psycological test. It could be that you ask the candidate to take you through there and then (yes really!) their calendar, their email in-box, the folder that they have prepared with their job applications and interviews, their car (if their job is 'on the road'), the way they organise their 'to do' list etc etc. The key point is that you are looking for evidence with which you can determine whether or not they demonstrate the capabilities that you are looking for. It's so much more effective than just asking questions!

When you do use questions to try and establish something, always try and get the candidate to refer to real life illustrations. So for example, you might want to test someone's ability to deal with pressure. You might say 'Tell me about a time recently when you were under pressure at work.' By digging in to the detail and asking supplementary questions you should be able to work out how well he or she managed the situation. But you must be prepared to keep digging - don't accept vague or general answers and insist on getting all the detail. You can almost always see it on someone's face or via their body language if they are 'inventing' a situation, and the more you dig the more apparent it will become.


Any question that starts with 'Tell me about a time recently...' is likely to be a good one. Any question such as 'How would you deal with...' is hypothetical and may not reflect reality.

If you are going to explore thoroughly all of the attributes and qualities that matter, you are going to have to spend some significant time on the selection process. To that end I would strongly advocate getting colleagues to help. It increases objectivity and helps to prevent the halo effect that we talked about earlier.


Here is an examples of a process, but clearly you need to design one that will work for your particular job.

Step 1

Identify and test for a few 'essentials' for the job. Without these, candidates cannot go forward to step 2. But don't include anything on which you would compromise, otherwise it becomes a 'desirable' rather than an 'essential'. Here are some examples:

  • The candidate must have a licence to drive

  • The candidate must be able to get to work within 30 minutes

  • The candidate must have qualification 'x'

The idea here is that you screen out those that do not meet this list of minimum criteria. If you end up with no candidates so be it, but you do not compromise on these attributes during the process. If you do end up with no candidates then you will need to ask some tough questions about the job, the pay, the attractiveness of your organisation etc.

Step 2

Let's assume that you have 25 candidates that made it through step1. You can now start to introduce some attributes that will require a bit more testing. You could potentially do this one of several ways:

  • Check them out on social media, LinkedIn etc.

  • Conduct initial interviews over the phone

  • Have them complete an online assessment exercise

  • Meet them face to face, but perhaps in groups of (say) five people

You may be surprised how many of the invited candidates fall by the wayside by simply not tuning up or by failing to phone in at the agreed time!


Step 3

You should now be down to a list of perhaps 8 candidates (if you are recruiting for one position). I would have thought that you would certainly want to see all of them, and put them through a reasonably thorough process to test values and capabilities.

Recruitment dos and don'ts

  • Be sure you know what you are testing for

  • Be consistent in the way that you test or question each candidate

  • Have a prepared sheet on which you record the candidate responses

  • Keep the records, responses and test results safe in case you are challenged by a candidate who thinks they may have been treated unfairly, or simply wants feedback as to how they did (always a good sign!)

  • Keep to your time plan

  • Maintain momentum

  • Don't compromise the process

  • Don't ask questions that you are not allowed to (see below)

Create a clear time plan

Once you are clear on the process you are going to follow, you need to set out an action plan with time lines, so that everyone knows exactly what the various steps are and when they are going to happen. You should share the plan with candidates in due course- they will be impressed by your level of organisation and preparation. You could also ask them to comment on the plan- this in itself could be revealing!


Inviting applications

You can invite applications from whatever sources you decide will work best for you and your organisation. You may want to start with internal applications before advertising the job outside. Whatever methods you choose, be sure that you have a log in place with which you track all applications and the responses that candidates get. Make sure that every application gets a prompt response - fail to do that and you are sending a clear signal that your values and manners stink.

Taboo interview questions

There are certain questions which if asked could leave you open to accusations of discrimination. So don't ask them! What you can ask may be affected by the position itself - for example if the job involves working with children. The following list indicates subject areas that are off limits, but the list should not be relied upon and professional advice should be sought as appropriate.

Age, religion, marital status, place of birth, nationality, children, family plans, race, native language, health, disabilities, criminal convictions (but there are exceptions for certain roles), debts, smoking habits, memberships and affiliations...

You are however entitled to ask specific questions that help to establish if the candidate is capable of undertaking the role, for example:

  • Do you know of any reasons why you may not legally be able to take this role?

  • Are there any special requirements that we should need to address in order for you to undertake the work effectively?

  • Are there any circumstances that would prevent you being able to undertake basic tasks such as... (but these must be relevant to the job).

Job interview

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'As a business owner or manager, you know that hiring the wrong person is the most costly mistake you can make.'
Brian Tracy

You have got the job

Copyright: Ferli Achirulli

The job offer

The best way to make the job offer is by telephone. That way you can assess reactions and deal with any questions. The offer should be made promptly and in line with the time schedule that you have previously set out. Then send out an offer letter which the candidate should sign and return so that all parties are clear on the terms. You will still need to prepare a contract of employment that sets out the main terms and conditions of the employment and you should not delay on this. I would strongly suggest that contracts of employment are all signed off before the candidate starts the job. I have seen situations where the employer and candidate were unable to agree on certain points in the contract; but the individual had already started work!


There is a process that should be followed regarding reference checks, medical assessments etc which is beyond the scope of this site. As ever, specialist advice should be followed.

Remember - momentum and pace are critical.

Unsuccessful candidates

One of the key reasons for getting offers, acceptances and contracts sorted out quickly is that it enables you to let down the unsuccessful candidates in a prompt and professional manner. Don't neglect this step - to do so will leave a bad taste and create negative sentiment that you don't need. Frame the process so that unsuccessful candidates part company with you singing your praises. Another good reason for acting quickly with job offers is that should your preferred candidate turn you down, you may wish to offer the job to one of the other candidates. Difficult if you have already told them 'no thanks'!

Welcome to the compay graphic

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The induction plan

Having a comprehensive and well planned induction says so much about your organisation and helps to make it clear to new starters that 'we do things properly around here'. Think through the colleagues the individual needs to talk to, the parts of the organisation they need to visit, the things they need to know and understand. It may make sense to divide the induction plan into two parts. The first part contains training and orientation topics common to all new starters. The second part is job specific and so needs to be adapted according to the needs of the job or department concerned. The following list will give you some pointers but see the attached document for a comprehensive (fictional) induction plan for a customer service representative in an engineering company. Adapt the plan as you see fit. Note the use of workplace colleagues to help orientate the individual and settle him/her in.


Payroll procedures. Sickness procedure. Holiday procedure. Performance review procedure. The entry system to the building. Staff handbook etc.

The employing manager

Introductions to key staff. Introduction to a 'buddy' to help the individual's orientation. Review of the principles and values of the organisation, the deliverables in the job, objectives, KPIs etc.

The 'buddy'

Hygiene standards and procedures. How to use the staff kitchen. The photocopier. Lockers for personal possessions. The phone system. How to greet people on the phone. Organisation charts and key personnel.


I.T. processes, equipment, security etc.

Health and safety representative

The procedure in case of fire, evacuation etc. Medical emergency procedure. Fire extinguisher use.

A trainer

The key elements of the job and how to do them.

Observing the job

Listening and watching someone experienced in the role.

Departmental visits

Spending time in key departments learning what they do and how they do it.


Visits to customers.


You should think carefully about the induction plan and involve your other people in its design. You may well discover that many of them have yet to visit or understand certain parts of the organisation that really should be part of everyone's orientation! Don't worry if this is the case, but get them to put together a plan that ensures all of your team benefit from the same knowledge and understanding! Engagement and motivation will improve as a result.

Example induction plan