What your job descriptions do for you

What your job descriptions do for you

The humble job description is a document that often doesn’t get the love and attention it deserves.

Largely ignored by smaller organisations, their first contact with one can often be the frantic scramble to put something together at the last minute when it comes to hiring a new member of staff – if for no other reason than to avoid an unnecessarily long phone conversation with a recruiter.

So, when it comes to creating your job description it is important to understand the wider value it can add to your business. As beneficial as a well thought out document can be, it can be just as harmful not to spend enough time thinking about what you’re saying to your employees and applicants.

It is easy to think that job descriptions are just tools for recruitment, but like it or not, it’s already much more than just your substitute job advert. Outside of the recruitment process, these are just a few of the other things that your job descriptions can be utilised to improve upon:

  • Job descriptions provide employees with clear expectations of what is required of them. Many problems in the workplace arise from workers having confused expectations, often through no fault of their own. Having a document that clearly lays out the fundamentals of what is required in a role is fair to everyone and avoids the potential for many disagreements.
  • They provide a point of comparison for determining similar industry salaries. It is rare that two jobs in different companies are the same. A clear job description and understanding of your role is vital to fairly assess competitive pay rates and avoid you having to pay more than you need to for certain skills.
  • They provide a starting point for employee reviews and appraisals. Extremely useful regardless of whether you’re setting quantitative goals or discussing role direction.
  • They help to cover potential legal claims. A job description itself is not a legal requirement, however, they have proven to be invaluable in discrimination cases as a means by which to prove the objective requirements of a role. Including the physical requirements of a role in a job description can help with new applicants and existing employees that might seek to tailor their own responsibilities.
  • It provides a fantastic opportunity to share the company direction and values. Whatever size your business, a well written job description will help to align new and existing employees with the direction of senior leadership.

Should your job description be vague in order to attract a wider pool of candidates, you might find that your employee is then confused about their responsibilities. If your job descriptions are just being used for appraisals, you could find that they are too specific to reference against the market to get an accurate price point for the role. Getting it just right can be a delicate balancing act.

So now you know what your job description can do, it’s time to think about what you want yours to do, and if they’re well thought out and kept up to date, your job description will be a great asset to your business.

Sometimes it can be difficult to balance all the factors, but if you feel like you need a helping hand, Kate Underwood HR can offer professional advice and support. Why not call us on 02382 025160 or email: [email protected]

How to avoid costly recruitment mistakes and win brilliant new employees

How to avoid costly recruitment mistakes and win brilliant new employees

Once you’ve decided now’s the right time to recruit new people into your business, you need to think carefully about how to go about it.

Your business may have specific times of the year that lead your recruitment activities. However, ongoing Talent Acquisition is an important element of your business that should, ideally, form part of your day to day business. In doing so, you can grow a talent pool to turn to when you have a specific role to fill.

By working to position yourself as an employer of choice, you reduce the risk of your recruitment activities being reactive, and as a result, any hint of desperation because you need to fill a vacancy quickly.

Develop your strategy

As part of your business planning process, you consider the resources you will need to achieve your goals. This should include your anticipated needs for additional staff and/or skills.

Using this information, before you embark on any other recruitment activities, develop a strategy that aligns with your business plan. This strategy will consider the people and skills you already have in place and identify the gaps you need to address in order to meet your business goals. At this stage, consider whether closing the gaps will best be achieved by bringing in new people with the skills you need, upskilling existing employees or a mix of both.

Once you understand these factors, use this to build a roadmap of what your recruitment needs really are.

Make your Job Descriptions Stand Out
Having defined your strategy, it’s a good time to look at your job descriptions.
• Do they really reflect the roles you have, or will have in the future?
• Do they reflect the qualities, skills and attitudes you are looking for?
• Do they bring the role to life and make you stand out from your competitors?

Well written job descriptions mean that your applicants know in greater detail exactly what you are looking for. In turn, at an interview, you can probe candidates on how they meet the job description.

Don’t forget that, as well as helping you, a brilliant job description helps candidates too. The chances are, job-seekers won’t only be applying for your post so make sure your job description helps you stand apart from your competitors and portrays you as an employer of choice!

Marketing that measures up

Marketing isn’t just about selling your services. When it comes to finding the perfect candidates for your business, marketing matters! Here are some things to think about when you’re advertising a role:

• Do your adverts match your brand and culture?
• How will you reach your ideal employee?
• Do you need to use an agency? If yes, how much will it cost?
• Will you use a job aggregator board?
• How will you make your advert stand out from your competitors?
• Will you use trade journals?
• Are there local job/career fairs that you can attend that will support your strategy?
• What social media platforms will work well for you?

A question of timing

Planning your recruitment campaign includes thinking about the timing of the process. Map the process considering the likely notice periods of successful candidates, allow time for your adverts to reach your audience and consider the impact – positive or negative – of recruiting at the same time as your competitors.

The cost of getting it wrong

Recruitment is time intensive and can be expensive so it’s critical to get it right. If you’re at all unsure, it’s wise to enlist some expert support and guidance.

If you need help with developing your strategy, freshening up your job descriptions or help to identify the best way to reach your desired applicant, as well as the full range of HR Support available, please book a call or email me: [email protected]

Don’t forget to check the references!

Don’t forget to check the references!

In an article I read recently, an airline pilot had used a reference from ‘Jabba the Hutt’ to land a job as Captain at West Atlantic UK, and obviously, when found out that the reference was false and that he did not have the qualifications, was fired.

He’d used a reference from ‘Desilijic Tiure’ – an alternative name for the Star Wars character Jabba the Hutt – which claimed he previously worked as an airline captain.

West Atlantic offered Mc-Gann the opportunity to resign, which he did, but then he subsequently claimed 3 months’ notice pay, being his contractual entitlement had he resigned with notice.

West Atlantic launched a counterclaim, for recovery of the employee’s training costs, as he had signed an agreement stating these were repayable if he was terminated within the first six months of his employment.

The tribunal dismissed the pilot’s claim but allowed West Atlantic’s counterclaim. Mc-Gann was ordered to pay back £4,725 in training costs.

Obviously, in this case, it was really serious in that if there had been an incident like a plane crashing, the consequences for West Atlantic and others could have been catastrophic.

Although you’d expect an airline company to have more stringent background checks in place, this isn’t the first serious case where a candidate has fabricated their application and landed a top job for doing so.


The purpose of references

The purpose of references is to obtain information about a candidate’s employment history, qualifications, experience and/or an assessment of the candidate’s suitability for the post in question.

It is estimated that one in eight people exaggerate or falsify their qualifications!

References should only be relied upon to check factual (and not subjective) information, so you should only ask ‘factual’ questions to the referee and not go into detail e.g. about dismissal or resignation.


How Reliable are References?

Due to increasing litigation risks, bad references are becoming extremely rare. Remember that potential employees are likely to choose wherever possible, those who will provide references for them.

Previous employers may have gone out of business, be pleased to provide a favourable reference for a questionable employer, or simply have different expectations in terms of work performance. Where a reference appears inadequate or incomplete, then try where possible to follow up by telephone.

If there was the occasion where a poor reference is received, but an offer of employment has already been made – if at least one reference has been sought (as company standard) prior to the offer being made, then the offer can be withdrawn.

Company offers of employment state that ‘offer of employment is provisional subject to references satisfactory to the company being received’.


Hiring new staff can be an expensive and time-consuming process, so it’s important to get it right. Get in touch if you’d like some support with this.

Exit Interviews – Useful information or too little too late?

Exit Interviews – Useful information or too little too late?

To say the HR world is divided over the value of exit interviews is an understatement. A quick internet search soon returns endless articles both extolling the benefits of gathering constructive feedback and lamenting the drain on an employers time to gather a list of gripes and grumbles from departing staff. Nevertheless, exit interviews are an established practice and can be extremely valuable.

Perhaps then, the issue is more about how you carry out the exit interview and what you do with the information collected. After all, what employer doesn’t want to be efficient and cost-effective with a happy and committed workforce?

Staff turnover is a problem in all businesses and can be a costly one. The time and resources needed to recruit, onboard and train new staff are considerable and that doesn’t even begin to quantify the cost of the experience you lose from your business when a member of the team leaves.

What’s more, the impact on staff morale can be huge. Depending on communication within the organisation, workers may speculate over the reasons their colleagues move on and the whole process can deeply unsettle team, and business, dynamics.

Using properly structured exit interviews, conducted by an appropriately trained person, can bring significant benefits to senior managers and business owners. The feedback can help identify if the wider climate in the business is dissatisfied, understand the drivers of someone choosing to leave as well as identify opportunities for positive changes in the future.

Structuring an exit interview

Know what you want to achieve from the process.  Set your goals in just the same way you would any other business activity, measure the feedback and act on the results. Using the information from exit interviews effectively, you can identify great opportunities to improve the experiences of future employees.

If you find a common theme emerging from leavers, then you would be wise to heed the warning!

How will you interview your leavers?

Consider who will carry out the exit interview as well as how and where it will be held. Is it best to hold a face to face interview or would a phone call yield the same results? Will your HR department do this for you? Of course, these decisions may well be influenced, in part, by the size of your organisation.

Who will carry out the interview?

It is often the role of the HR Advisor to undertake exit interviews. Using a trained professional makes it easier to uncover deep rooted issues or matters an employee may not wish to discuss face to face with their soon to be ex-employer. A professional with training and experience in the process will also possess the skills to deal with potentially emotive or contentious issues in a calm and non-judgemental manner.

If you don’t have an HR department, consider engaging a freelance HR advisor to undertake the process for you.

Take action

A wise person once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. Whilst this may be an overused cliché, there is an irrefutable ring of truth in it. If you routinely carry out exit interviews yet fail to act on the findings, how will your business grow and improve?

In the same way that an experienced HR professional can benefit you by carrying out exit interviews, so can they support you in identifying improvement opportunities and implementing them.

And remember, there will always be some staff that are easier to lose and some that you expect to see spread their career wings, but there are also those who, on departing, take with them a depth of knowledge that you just can’t replace!

For more information about how I might be able to help you why not contact me for an informal chat

6 Ways to Avoid Wasting Time and Money When Hiring

6 Ways to Avoid Wasting Time and Money When Hiring

According to a study by the CIPD, it costs about £2000 to recruit a new member of staff, that is just recruitment, the overall cost is a lot higher. If your organization has a high turnover of staff, that can be very costly.

It is possible to attract the best candidates for the job on a budget but there are some common pitfalls.  There is no guaranteed process for successful recruitment, but knowing the obstacles and potential problems that you might face can help you to avoid them or deal with them if they do arise.

Not Creating an Accurate Job Description

Job descriptions are an essential part of managing the work of any business. Use them to do the following:

  • Provide meaning for people, so that they know why their job exists, and understand the value of their work.
  • Give a set of clear expectations for workers, so that you can manage people’s performance in line with these expectations.
  • Give people and a clear sense of priorities, so that they know what to concentrate on, and what not to waste time on.
  • Define business structure, and plan human resources needs.
  • Advertise jobs, and recruit candidates.
  • Establish career progression.
  • Identify training requirements, and train new staff.

A job description should not just be left in a draw and only reviewed once in a blue moon.  It should be used throughout an employees lifecycle and reviewed yearly to ensure that it is still up to date.

Failing to Consider Recruiting From Within

Sometimes, the best candidates could be right under your nose!  It can make economic sense to fill roles internally, as it cuts the costs and time associated with advertising for external candidates. Also, an existing staff member will be familiar with your businesses processes, values and mission. Chances are, they would get “up to speed” in a new role more quickly than an outsider would.

Another potential benefit is that promoting and training up your own people can boost their morale and productivity.  Recruiting from within can also protect important knowledge that would be lost when people leave your team or business.

Relying Too Much on the Interview

Some managers use only an interview to evaluate potential candidates, but is it the best method?  A candidate may say or do anything to get the job that you’re offering. Consider giving them a test or exercise to find out how they might perform “on the job.” For example, you can use Inbox/In-Tray Assessment or maybe a work trial to reveal how good they might be at planning, organizing, prioritizing, and communicating.

Rejecting an Overqualified Candidate

It’s tempting to reject an overqualified candidate because you’re afraid that they will become bored and leave your business for a more satisfying challenge elsewhere.

But highly experienced and talented people may have the skills and ability to help you to develop your team – even if they don’t stay long. And to encourage them to be loyal to your business, think about what opportunities for development, progression or reward you might be able to offer to this exceptional person.

Waiting for the Perfect Candidate

You may have a picture of the ideal employee in your mind but, as you wait for him to appear, you may be jeopardizing your team’s productivity by keeping it understaffed for too long. Your team members may have to pick up the extra workload or work overtime, which can affect their morale.

Recruiters call perfect candidates “purple squirrels,” because they are so rare! Instead of waiting for someone who fits the role exactly, it’s usually best to hire someone who meets most of your key requirements, who fits your corporate culture, and who has good soft skills

Rushing the Hire

OK, the perfect candidate may not exist. That doesn’t mean you should rush to hire just anyone. Take your time. Think about what it’s going to cost in time and money to hire and train someone, only to find that she’s not up to the job. You could end up having to repeat the whole process.

Interview twice if you have to and, if necessary, arrange for a freelance or external contractor to cover the role until you’ve got the best person that you can.

Relying Too Much on References

How much can you trust the information on a CV?  Almost 60 percent of employers have discovered a lie on a résumé, according to a survey of more than 2,000 HR and recruitment managers.  For example, a candidate who claimed to be a construction supervisor admitted in his interview that he had only built a doghouse in a backyard!

So, while applicants may have listed excellent experience and qualifications, you’ll likely want to check some of the details they’ve provided.

However, don’t place too much weight on these references, good or bad. Someone’s positive experience at one business does not mean that he will automatically shine at yours. And a negative reference from a previous employer does not mean that he won’t thrive on your team.

Make sure you are using the probationary period effectively to ensure that you have the right candidate for the job.

Expecting Too Much, Too Soon From a New Recruit

Typically, it takes a new starter about three months to become fully integrated into the team and to begin producing results. It’s understandable to want them to “hit the ground running,” especially if the position has been vacant for a while or if the hiring process has taken a long time, but this can mean that you don’t give them the time to “learn the ropes” properly.

During the first few weeks, it’s important to help your new recruit to understand the business’s and team’s goals, and to support them as they learns. This is often called “onboarding.” Make them feel welcome on their first day, and introduce them to the team. Let them know that they can ask questions and seek advice, and arrange regular meetings to see how they are doing.

In Summary

Hiring new staff can be an expensive and time-consuming process, so it’s important to get it right. You want to make sure that you recruit someone who’s the best person for the job and who fits into your business, so that you’re not facing continual turnover. Get in touch if you’d like some support with this.

How to prepare for your first ever employee

How to prepare for your first ever employee

A few weeks ago CharlieHR tweeted asking for guest bloggers, as I’m trying to do more blogging I thought I would give it a try and see.  It was tough to choose a topic but finally found one that would be useful so why not pop on over and take a read. How to Prepare for your first ever employee.

If anyone knows me or networks with me then you will know that I rate both CharlieHR and BreatheHR as HR systems. I wrote a blog about businesses using HR systems who don’t want to pay a fortune in May.

CharlieHR is an amazing product and it is such a shame not more small businesses know about it as it saves so much time. The core product will always be free. Yes I did say free, there is not much that we can say we get for free but in this case it is true.

Don’t keep it a secret (it’s not like Secret Santa)

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