10 Steps to a Stand Out Recruitment Process

Advice + Tools

Your people are your organisation’s success. Your company’s future depends on having employees with the right skills, abilities and values to thrive and contribute to your goals.

An effective recruitment process is vital if you want to attract and retain your ideal employees. As a recruitment consultancy, we’ve been involved in thousands of hiring processes with different employers to know what works and what doesn’t.

Our step-by-step guide will take you through what you need to do to stand out in a market where the candidate holds the cards.

Note: This is a thorough one-stop guide to the recruitment process, providing practical tips and insights, as well as references to the best external resources we’ve found for each step.

Make the most of the easy navigation menu above, to dip in-and-out of our guide.


Get buy-in to change the recruitment process

One of the biggest challenges in making changes to improve your recruitment process is getting buy-in – be that from the board, line managers or employees.

As a recruitment agency, we know a thing or two about influencing people. In essence, it boils down to three things: belief, understanding your audience and preparing a persuasive pitch.


Compare successful business people with leading sportspeople and you’ll notice one very clear common element - the power of belief.

Highly successful individuals understand that how they approach situations plays a huge part in its outcome. Have belief in what you say and approach any discussions with confidence and enthusiasm.

Understand your audience

An MD or CEO is more likely to be persuaded by metrics such as how a change in your recruitment process will impact their sales goals. Meanwhile, a line manager may be more concerned with how a more streamlined and strategic recruitment process will result in better-skilled candidates and save them time.

Also, consider what type of personality you are dealing with. Are they an assertive, amiable, expressive, pragmatist or expressive type? Different techniques will work for each.

For more on this, check out: Personality types, communication styles and how to use them.

Prepare a persuasive pitch

Have a persuasive pitch that you adapt for each audience based on your assessment of what motivates them. It should cover why your recruitment process requires improvement, how it impacts the business and what key goals and objectives it is designed to meet.

Throughout this guide, you'll find handy stats and guidance that will help you gain buy-in.


Determine key recruitment metrics

Less than a fifth of organisations currently measure the return on investment (ROI) of their recruiting activity.

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s Survey Report ‘Resource and Talent Planning 2017

You can’t improve what you can’t measure and data speaks volumes in the boardroom – especially if you wish to establish credibility and present a case for further recruitment change.

Most common recruitment metrics

Are you not sure where to begin? The CIPD’s Resources and Talent Planning Survey Report 2017 shows that these are the most common recruitment KPIs measured:

  • Cost per hire (81%)
  • Turnover rate of new hires (75%)
  • Performances of new hires (50%
  • Quality of source (34%)
  • Candidate satisfaction (30%)
  • Interviews per hire (20%)

How to record and report on recruitment KPIs

There are various methods for recruitng and reporting on KPIs. In SME's, budgets are often stretched and so simple solutions like excel spreadsheets can be used (and there are plenty of free templates on the web). However, tracking and inputting all your recruitment data can be burdensome (which probably accounts for the alarmingly low rate of measuring recruitment ROI).

Luckily, there has been a rise of affordable, cloud-based HR software. With the technology costing from as little as £49 a month, it makes business sense to invest in software that can help you streamline your recruitment process, increase efficiencies and spot areas for improvement.


Improve your employer branding

As anyone involved in the hiring process knows, securing the best candidates in your sector is essential to the future success of your company. Gone are the days where employers could have their pick of the best candidates. Instead, companies are faced with a skills shortage and candidates are often the ones holding the cards.

75% of candidates consider an employer brand before even applying for a job

According to LinkedIn Talent Solutions

What is employer branding?

Employer branding is marketing your unique value proposition to existing staff and candidates to attract and retain your ideal employees.

Read more on the importance of employer branding here: Ignore at your peril: 5 employer branding stats

Employer branding is a relatively new hot topic in HR, so it's always a good idea to learn from consumer branding principles. We've grouped together the best and worst consumer branding campaigns.

Determine your employer value proposition 

Your EVP defines what your company offers to its employees in return for their contributions. To define your EVP, think about what your company stands for, offers and requires as an employer. This can cover issues such as:

  • Your ethos - Do you strive to be innovative? Is transparency a must-have? Do you champion a diverse workforce?
  • Company culture - Are you fun and laid back? Or professional with rapid career development.
  • Benefits and perks - Benefits such as flexible working, bonuses and rewards are becoming increasingly important to candidates, especially millennials. What you offer can speak volumes about what you value as a company. Actions speak louder than words.
  • Training and development - In some professions, such as HR and procurement, time off and paid qualifications can be a very powerful tool in your recruitment offering.
  • Awards - Showcase any awards you’ve been nominated for/won and workplace accreditations. If this is an area that requires improvement, then consider what you could apply for in line with your employer values.

How do you build and employer brand?

Consider the whole employee lifecycle 

Your employer brand is built through every touchpoint you have with employees and it needs to be consistent throughout the whole employee lifecycle including:

Consider the extension of your brand

If any external people work on your behalf, they also need to be ‘on brand’. When using recruitment agencies, it’s vital that they leave a positive – not negative – impression of your brand, as they are often the candidate’s first touchpoint with your organisation.

As well as being professional and knowledgeable about your company, dig deep to establish how they treat candidates.

You may find this helpful: 10 red flags to look for when hiring a specialist recruitment agency.

Reveamp your website and social media

Your website and social media chanels will be the first place that potential candidates head to when weighing you up as a future employer. It's vital that they promote what your company has to offer. 

Many SMEs do not have the resources to promote themselves during the recruitment process. If this is the case, some recruiters can offer employer branding services that put your brand in front of candidates as part of their fee.

Want to know more about how to build an promote your employer branding? Download our step-by-step employer branding checklist


Writing a job description for the perfect hire

First things first

Job analysis

Before writing the job description, it's important to take the time to consider what they job duties will be, what KPIs the employee will need to meet, the role's purpose and how it fits into the company as a whole.

Person specification

The person specification should include both necessary and desirable criteria. It also needs to be free from discrimination – whether direct or more subtle, indirect phrases

This role would suit a fresh graduatie, eager to get their career off the ground

Example of an indirect discrimination in a job ad.

Read Recruitment Grapevine’s, Do your job ads break the law?

Be realistic

Employers can often reject candidates because they don't tick all of the boxes. However, the 'necessary' boxes can often seem less so when you have met the candidate and can see their potential. Aim for 8/10, not 10/10. And sack any recruitment agency that promises to deliver a Perfect Ten - these candidates don't exist.

Gary Robinson - Sales Director

The advert itself

We recently wrote '9 tips for writing a job description your ideal candidate won’t bypass'.

Simple job titles work best. Consider what job title your ideal candidate would search for and avoid acronyms, jargon or abbreviations.

Salary – be attractive (and don’t be vague). Money talks. According to the same guide by Totaljobs, candidates are more likely to apply to roles offering specific salaries rather than a vague ‘competitive salary’ or wide salary range.

It also pays to salary benchmark the role with online tools or by speaking to your recruitment agency.

Jobs with a salary displayed on the job advert attract up to 20% more applications

According to Totaljobs

Don’t forget your benefits (and perks). Benefits and perks are becoming increasingly more important to candidates so make sure your job advert highlights anything you offer that would be valued by your ideal employees. From pensions to flexible working and duvet days, they all help sell your employer brand.

Make it mobile friendly. Did you know that half of your candidate audience is on mobile so don’t miss out - Make sure webpages are:

  • Mobile responsive
  • Easy to complete on a phone or tablet
  • Able to accept cloud document uploads

Why not make your candidate's life even easier by auto-completing details taken from job board registrations with applicant tracking software integration (ATSI)?

Showcase your employer brand. Once you’ve carried out your employer brand review, it’s time to let your brand shine in your advert:

The following are becoming increasingly important in the current fight for the best candidates:

  • Branded job ads with images and videos
  • Maximising the first three or four-line preview to sell your brand
  • Careers sections on websites (or mini 'recruitment sites' that are offered by specialist recruiters)
  • LinkedIn following: Consider both you and any agency's LinkedIn following. For example, Cast UK casts its net wide with, over 255,000 reach of 1st and 2nd level connections on LinkedIn.

Don't forget to hire for culture fit

Before you post the job description, have you given a thought as to how you will hire for cultural fit as well as those who appear to tick all the boxes on paper?

If not, you’re not alone. All too often as recruitment specialists, we receive calls from clients who have been burnt by missing this key step of the recruitment process.

The cost of candidates that don't fit

The candidate may have ticked every box on paper but been rejected at the final interview stage. Or they may have done the rejecting as they didn’t like your culture.

Or worse, too many clients ignore their hunches and hire the ‘perfect’ candidate only to find that they leave within the first few months (or the hiring manager wishes they would do so!).

This not only leaves human resources and hiring managers frustrated, but it also costs companies considerably too. Add up the wasted recruiting, salary and onboarding and it’s already a huge cost. Not to mention that happy workers are 12% more productive than unhappy workers, according to the University of Warwick.

A checklist for hiring for cultural fit: it's not just hiring people you like

Cultural fit isn’t about hiring those who you’d like to go for after-work drinks with. It’s about hiring people with similar values who can complement your team.

For example, a process-driven candidate is unlikely to thrive at an organisation that values innovation and flexibility. Likewise, an employee hungry for rapid career progression is unlikely to stay the course at a company with little opportunities for promotion.

We discuss this in our blog Are you interviewing for cultural fit?

It’s therefore important that you have a sound recruitment process in place to guard against this.

  1. Determine your values - Your values should have buy-in from employees. If your values aren't already determing, you can involve employees in the process, or evaluate which values are already embedded in your staff
  2. Be upfront about your company culture - From writing the job descripton to your employer branding, make sure that your values are communicated at every stage
  3. Consider initial screening via video interviews - Video interviews have many benefits, one being that they are a much better tool for determining cultural fit in the early process. For many companies, budgets can be stretched and implementing video interviewing seems hopeful, at best. However, some recruiters (such as ourselves) offer this as part of their service, reducing costs and time to hire. Read more here: 5 benefits of video interviewing software
  4. Prepare interview questions for cultural fit - It's important that you interview for cultural fit as much as for competancies. We've put together a useful list of top interview questions you should use when hiring for cultural fit - Interview Questions for Cultural Fit


Employment legislation and case law: stay on the right side of the law

It’s no use hiring the perfect candidate if an Employment Tribunal claim is just waiting to land on your desk because you failed to follow the correct procedures.

Where to get the latest employment law updates

The CIPD provides useful employment legislation updates of the most relevant changes affecting employers.

As anyone in-charge of employment law compliance will know, how the courts choose to interpret legislation turns on a case’s unique facts. It’s therefore important to sign up to employment law websites. Peninsula offer employment law advice to SMEs and their blog is a great source for those wanting an easy-to-understand round-up of the latest case law and employment law updates.

What are the latest legal issues in recruitment?

Employment law is ever-changing and, with Brexit in sight, it’s going to get even more complicated. However, in the world of recruitment, the following areas are particularly topical:


Who can forget the flurry of emails hitting their inbox prior to 25th May 2018, as companies attempted to garner consent for marketing purposes?

There are six grounds on which companies can process data. The Information Commissioner’s Office has provided a useful guide to the GDPR here.

Employment status and the 'intermediaries legislation'

The government introduced the IR35 legislation to prevent what is known as ‘disguised employment’ – whereby workers claim to be contractors for tax benefits when, for all intents and purposes, they are employees.

Gender pay gap reporting


In a landmark win for women’s rights, companies with over 250 employees must now report on differences in pay. However, this marks a headache for human resources teams.

Consider outsourcing HR legal issues

If you’re a generalist HR Manager wearing many hats (or you employ one), then staying on the right side of the law can be a major stress. One option is to outsource your HR legal issues to specialist consulting firms.


Select which methods of recruitment to use

What are the most popular recruitment methods?

According to the CIPD’s Resourcing and Talent Planning Survey 2017, the most common methods of attracting candidates are:

  • Via the company's website
  • Profession networking sites e.g. LinkedIn
  • Commercial job boards
  • Recruitment consultants
  • Social networking sites e.g Facebook

Read more about the pros and cons of what remains a first port of call for many companies: Recruitment methods - the pros & cons of job boards.

Using recruitment agencies: pros and cons

Many organisations faced with a strict budget will look to save money by recruiting internally. However, in our experience, this rarely saves clients money when you factor in the recruitment team’s salaries and benefits, job ad tools, interview tools, the cost of a bad hire and more.

Of course, that’s not to say that the job can’t be done cost-effectively in-house. Internal recruitment is likely to be more successful in the following scenarios:

  • The human resources team have previous external recruiting experience
  • Your company and staff have a large professional network on LinkedIn, with actively engaged potential candidates (as a benchmark, Cast UK have a network of 255,000 1st and 2nd degree connections on LinkedIn)
  • Less specialised and lower-seniority roles

The CIPD’s 2017 survey supports what our own clients tell us: the more senior the position, the less effective job boards become. Instead, executive search, recruitment consultants and use of professional networking sites become more important.

What to look for: a specialist recruitment agency

If you do look to outsource some or all of your recruitment, then our recent market research has revealed that clients most value consultants that take the time to thoroughly understand their business (including their culture) and act with integrity with candidates.

Working with a specialist recruitment agency is therefore imperative, but it’s vital that you ask the right questions and perform your due diligence.

We’ve put together a blog that should help: 10 red flags to look for when hiring a specialist recruitment agency


Reduce your time to hire

Reducing the time to hire is essential if you want to win the war for talent in today’s candidate-driven job market.

The number of vacancies is at the highest since records began, at 829,000 (up 51,000 from the previous year)

Office for National Statistics (ONS), via The REC.

Top seven tips for reducing time-to-hire

Below are our top tips to reduce your hiring process. We cover this in more detail in our blog: 7 foolproof ways to reduce time-to-hire (and avoid losing top talent).

  1. Think long term - A proactive, rather than reactive, approach to how recruitment needs fit into short and long-term business goals is vital.
  2. Generate a candidate 'hot list' - Use sources like recruitment agencies and LinkedIn to identify any 'ideal candidates' in advance of the role going live.
  3. Make sure interviews are booked quickly - Avoid time delays caused by coordinating hiring managers and reduce the risk of your candidate getting snatched up by another company in-between, by block booking the relevant interviewers in advance for both first and second-stage interviews
  4. Consider video interviewing for the initial screening round - Video interviewing is fast becoming the go-to option for companies that wish to reduce the time to hire. One-way video interviews, or video interviews undertaken by a recruitment agency on your behalf, allows you to review all interview recordings in one place, at a time to suit you. As we discuss in our blog, Ignore at your peril: 5 employer branding stats, it also means you are less likely to damage your employer brand.
  5. Don't hedge your bets, only interview candidates you wish to see - Use your gut and only interview candidates you wish to see. Instead, use video interviews or a decent recruitment agency to screen candidates early on for cultural fit. That way you won’t miss out on candidates that aren’t perfect on paper but would thrive in the role. It is also more respectful of a candidate’s time
  6. Consider outsourcing your recruitment process - In our experience, outsourcing the recruitment process can save money, rather than blowing the recruiting budget.
  7. Make a decent initial offer - A weak initial offer can cause unnecessary further negotiations and be off-putting to a candidate. We cover this part in more detail below.


Make and negotiate attractive offers to candidates

If you've found the ideal candidate, don't ruin it by taking too long to make an offer, or offering one that is not in line with thier salary expectations for the role. (if your budget truly doesn't allow for this, there are ways around it, which we discuss below)

Remember that a great candidate is likely to be fielding offers from different companies. If you handle the offer stage badly, it could result in:

  1. The candidate feeling undervalued by your company. (Even if they do accept the offer, will they stay or be engaged?)
  2. They continue to look elsewhere and another company beats you to it with a better offer
  3. Even if nobody else offers, they are put off working for your company. (Ever turned down an offer on a house because the first offer too 'cheeky' to a whole new level?)
  4. An increased chance of buy-back, where the candidate's existing employer offers to match or beat your offer if they start

In Cast UK's experience, around 60% of candidates are approached with a 'buy back' offer from their current employers.

Ensure your offer is 'on the money' every time with these tips:

Undertake salary benchmarking

Before you wrote the job advert, you should have undertaken salary benchmarking. If not, now is the time to make 100% certain that the offer you make is a reasonable one.

Be transparent with salary expectations for the role

Set a clear salary band for the role at the outset and ensure that candidates are vetted for their salary expectations for the role. It may be that their target salary is more or less once they understand the duties and responsibilities. Doing so should prevent protracted negotiations and the candidate feeling undervalued.

If you are working with a recruitment agency, you already have an advantage as they wouldn't have put forward a candidate whose salary expectations are way above what you offer.

Consider what other benefits and perks you can offer

We often advise clients that one thing has to give - the salary or the candidate. However, in some circumstances (where the disparity with market rates isn't too high), benefits and perks such as career progression, flexible working, or performance-related bonuses can make all the difference, Make sure you take the time to understand what motivates that candidate. 

Make a timely offer

Ensure all decision makers have time in their diaries in advance to make quick decisions on candidates. An offer should ideally be made within 24 hours and a maximum of 48 hours. 

Negotiate carefully

It's woth noting that there is a fine line between good negotiation and putting a candidate off!


Onboarding: don't fall at the last hurdle

Once your all-star candidate has accepted your offer, the post-hire experience becomes vital. How should you handle their notice period? What does a great settling-in period look like in their first week on the new job?

You've already laid the groundwork, now it's time to build on that relationship and prevent the possibility of competiting offers, buy-back or early leavers.

We asked our recruitment consultants for their tips on managing the onboarding process. You can read all the best tips here: How can employers onboard new employees so they have the best start?

Below is a summary of their advice:

  1. Regular contact is vital - This tip came up time and again. It's especially important during a long notice period. As a minimum, you should be contact with candidates by phone or email every few weeks. Maximise functional requests such as whether candidates have handed in their notice or have already booked holidays by adding some friendly information on business news or ask questions that make them feel valued.
  2. Ask your future employees their opinion on key decisions - If you're hiring someone for a managerial or senior position, then it's likely that they will appreciate the opportunity to get a heads-up on key information pertinent to their role before starting. It's also wise to ask for opinions on decisions that need to be made on anything that may be within their remit. The trick is to make them feel valued - not pressured into working two jobs during their notice period!
  3. Provide plenty of invites to meet the team - Work nights out or company events like the Christmas do are a perfect way to break the ice and make future employees already feel like part of the team. Or you could invite them to meet their team after they've accepted the job role. Why not do like Cast UK do and add them to your company's WhatsApp or Slack groups so they feel like a key team member from the day they accept your offer?! 
  4. Make sure they're fully equipped with equipment on day one - Make sure your employees have their desk, pens , PC/laptop and phone set up for their start.
  5. Set up HR details in advance - Again, this makes new recruits feel like part of the team immediately. It also avoids those first few days feeling like a barrage of mundane tasks.
  6. Provide an induction that gives direction - Give candidates a good induction plan on day one showing what they will be doing for the next few weeks.

We hope you've found our guide useful

As we've discussed, one of the vital steps of the recruitment process is ensuring that candidates know why to choose you over your competitors. If you’ve not already done so, you may want to download our Employer Branding Checklist, which will help you devise a strategic plan, create content that resonates with your ideal clients, and more.


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