Key Learning Outcomes

  • Recognise that a structured selection process will assist you to hire the right staff and save your business time and money.
  • Adopt our attraction strategy to create an extensive list of applicants for your business to select from.
  • Look at both internal and external sources when searching for potential candidates.
  • Use our step-by-step guide to adopt a selection process that will increase your hiring effectiveness.


For most people managing a small- to medium-sized business, the decision to hire a new employee arises either because the workload has increased due to growth of the business or someone has resigned. Either way, it usually means that, as a business owner or manager, you are busy and at risk of making a rushed choice in the recruitment process. This is why it is essential to have a selection process in place that will ensure you make the right hiring decisions, which will save you valuable time and money in the long run.

Be clear on what you need

Firstly, you need a clearly laid out job description.  This comes from completing the job specification process, outlining what you need to be done and what skills will be required. This will ensure that you are well placed to attract and select the best possible candidate for the role. If you have not completed this step or are unsure, we suggest you first read the other learning articles in this section. Once you are armed with a precise idea of what you need the person to do, and what knowledge, skills and experience are essential in the role, you can start your search.[wlm_ismember]

Attraction strategy

We often hear that good people are hard to find. We agree and therefore suggest that you leave no stone unturned in your search. The following is a list of channels you can use in order to find the largest pool of applicants to choose from.

Internal sources – It is important to consider any options from within your business first.

However, a word of warning – ensure that the person is ready and willing to take on the new role. Too often we see businesses that do the employee shuffle, only to find that the person was either not ready or really did not want to make the change, leaving the business in a worse situation long term. If you are looking to recruit internally, you should complete a full interview and carefully check that the person has the correct skills to successfully fulfill the role.

External sources – When advertising jobs, ensure your requirements are clear in order to avoid wasting time with unqualified candidates.

Application process

We find that if you have a well-established application process, you will end up with a useful shortlist. It is essential that you make this process clear to potential candidates when advertising and promoting your vacancy. Businesses usually shortlist by getting candidates to fill out an application form, by asking them to submit a resume or curriculum vitae (CV is used in the remainder of this artlice), or a combination of both. The application form customises the information you receive from candidates and allows you to quickly assess whether they possess the skills and experience that you require. Ensure you ask the right questions on the form so you gather the information you need.

A CV is a tool that enables candidates to sell themselves and control the amount of information they include. Candidates present the information in a variety of way, which makes it hard to make direct comparisons.

If you anticipate a lot of interest in a position, you should include a closing date for applications in the advertisement. This not only allows you to plan your time more effectively, but it also tests a candidate’s ability to follow a simple instruction.

Selection process

There are two main components in the selection process: the first is shortlisting the applications; and the second is the assessment process to determine who you will offer the position to. The latter will usually involve at least one face-to-face interview.


When shortlisting, you will find there are vast differences in the quality and the presentation of both applications and CVs. This can allow us to be distracted by how things look rather than the information provided. We find it useful to create a checklist of your essential requirements, then run through each application and tick them off. You will end up with two piles: one has candidates who have the essential skills and knowledge, and the other has candidates who don’t. No matter how good a CV looks, it is important that you focus on the candidates who have the essential skills to ensure you make the best possible hiring decision.

Refining the list

Next, go through the pile of candidates that passed the first stage and start to read the CV a little more and think about the type of position you are filling. For example, if you are looking for someone with an eye for detail, then you will probably reject candidates who provided documents that contain spelling or grammatical errors. Have a look at the cover letter, if there is one. Is it generic or has it been tailored to your company? If the latter, it shows that the candidate has put some extra thought and care into the application, which may place them on the shortlist.

Shortlisting for interviews

Many of our clients ask how many people they should shortlist for the interview stage. There is no right or wrong answer. When you are hiring someone to work in a small- to medium-sized business, every decision is important, not just from a cost point of view but also in terms of how the person will fit with the culture of your company. We believe that if you interview too many candidates it can become confusing. We suggest you start with three or four of the candidates that look best on paper. Then if you do not find the right fit, review the shortlist for other candidates you could consider. If you have a large number of candidates that meet your essential criteria, you might like to start with a telephone screening process. Talk to each candidate and ask them a few screening questions, and then shortlist from there.


When it comes time to interview the candidates, you need to remember it is a two-way process. You need to sell yourself to the candidate just as they need to sell themselves to you. Follow these tips to ensure you are not discounted as a preferred employer due to a poor interviewing technique. You will find some additional learning articles related to interviewing techniques in this section of the website.

On-the-job testing

Depending on the role, you may want to see the candidate in action. Some businesses ask the candidate to do an on-the-job trial to ensure they will be a good fit. When interviewing, ask for examples of times when the candidate showed a particular skill or strength. For example, you may want someone who can deal with a pressure situation; it is one thing for them to tell you that they thrive on pressure; it is another to be able to give you an example of where they felt they excelled in a pressure situation. You may also want to do some skills-based testing if a particular skill or knowledge is required to get the job done. For example, if you need the person to be proficient at Microsoft Word, ask them set up a document to show their level of proficiency.

Reference checking

The final step in the assessment is to check references. Too often we hear of companies that employ people without checking references or qualifications. The argument is “well they would not give me the reference if they were not going to say nice things”, and this is true. It is important to delve a little deeper – is the referee the right person to talk to? Make sure you clarify the relationship and if you do not get the answer you need, call the candidate and ask for the name of another referee you could talk to.

Second interviews

At Absolute Best we like to conduct more than one interview. The second interview is an opportunity to gain further insight into the candidate and how they may fit with your business. Have they thought of more questions since the first meeting? How do they feel about the role? What do they think they will bring to the business? It is often a good idea to arrange for someone else in the business to meet and interview the candidate, as they may learn something you missed.

Making the offer

Once you have made a decision, the final step is to offer the candidate the position. Employment laws differ from industry to industry, state to state and country to country. You need to ensure that you are operating as per the regulations specific to your situation. If you have any doubts, you should seek advice from your accountant, solicitor, industry body or relevant government department.

Contracts may need to be signed and medical appointments carried out prior to the employee’s first day – this requirement varies across companies. It is important to make this process as simple as possible for both you and your new team member. A new employee checklist is an excellent way to ensure all steps are completed in a timely and consistent manner.

It is essential to work with the new employee to ensure that their orientation into the business is as smooth as possible. Our learning article on orientation will help you design a process that is suitable for your business.[/wlm_ismember]

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