What steps are involved in the recruitment process?

HR meeting

Updated on 3/8/23


So, you want to hire a new employee, but you’re not 100% sure what the ideal recruitment process looks like.

Your recruitment process steps will vary depending on things like the size of your organization and the number of roles you’re trying to fill. But at the most basic level, your recruitment process should include the 8 steps we’re going to lay out in this article.

What is the recruitment process?

The recruitment process is the step by step procedure for attracting, screening and selecting a new candidate to fill a vacancy in your organisation. By creating a defined recruitment process that your business or HR department can follow, analysing the abilities and attitude of your potential new employee will require less effort, ultimately finding you the best possible candidate.

Let’s have a look at the best practice recruitment process. You can apply these steps to one or multiple vacancies, and depending on your business requirements, you can amend the steps where necessary.

1. Form a selection committee

In the first step of the recruitment process you’ll need to decide who will be making the hiring and selection decisions. This group of people will be your “selection committee”.

If you run a small business, your selection committee might only include you.! But in most organisations, you’ll want at least two people on your hiring committee. For larger organisations, consider up to four people.

Members of your selection committee should be objective, and should represent your company’s best interests. You’ll also want to make sure the members understand the vacancy you’re trying to fill, and have a good understanding of equal opportunities in recruitment.

2. Write a job description

A job description is the second essential step in your recruitment process. With a well written, clear job description, you’ll attract better candidates and likely find the best possible candidate for your requirements. It’s also the first impression that your potential hire will have of your company, so it’s important to make it a good one.

There are 11 key areas to cover when writing an effective job description, and should include the following:

  • Job title
  • Department
  • Who the role reports to
  • Responsibilities and expectations
  • Goals and objectives
  • Opportunity for progression and promotion
  • Required qualifications, education and training
  • Soft skills and desirable traits
  • Location and travel requirements
  • Salary and benefits
  • Company culture and identity

It’s also crucial to make the job description clear and readable. Quite often candidates may be put off by an extra long description, too many unachievable requirements or even by bad grammar. Consulting your selection committee, or even further afield in your company, is a great way to ensure it’s a well written description.

And remember that a good job description should work two ways. It should make great candidates feel good about applying for a job with your company, and it should be clear about the kind of person you’re looking for.

3. Post your job advert

If you restrict yourself to posting your brand new job advert in just one place, then you’re limiting your reach. The more places you post your job advert, the more chances you have of finding the perfect candidate for the job. Of course, this can make it hard to track your incoming applications, and it can get a little bit messy.

To keep things in order, try to make sure all applications arrive in one central location. To maximise your chances of finding the best person for the role, here are a few key places to post your job advert:

  • Your company website: A careers page is where all candidates will go to find your current opportunities. If you don’t have a careers page, you might want to contemplate making one.
  • Social media: Post your vacancy details to social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. LinkedIn is particularly good for this, as it is often used by people who are thinking about their next career move. If you’re well-connected, and if you write an appealing job description, then digital “word of mouth” via social media could dramatically increase your reach.
  • Dedicated job websites: Job websites are designed especially to connect job seekers with employers. There are plenty of them out there. The main players in the UK market are probably Indeed, Monster and Reed.
  • Classified ad boards: Although not dedicated to careers, many classified ad boards – both online and in print – include “job” categories where you can advertise your vacancy. Consider posting to places like Gumtree, Craigslist and FreeAds if you need to.
  • Government Jobcentre: You can advertise both online and in local Jobcentres by signing up to the Government’s Jobmatch service. This will help you to connect with people who are currently receiving government help to find a job.

A smaller step in this part of the recruitment process is automatically contacting the applicants after their application. If possible, aim to contact all applicants immediately after they apply, to acknowledge their application and to say thank you. You can normally automate this.

In your response, you might want to tell them what to expect next in their recruitment process – such as when they might hear from you. It will increase their confidence in you as an employer, as long as you follow through with whatever you promise.

4. Create a shortlist & arrange interviews

By now, you should have plenty of applications and CVs waiting on your desk. In this step, it’s time for you and your selection committee to review applications, create a shortlist, and invite candidates for an interview.

To create your shortlist, you should give each applicant a score. This score should be based on how well they meet the criteria you set out in your job description. Candidates who do not meet criteria crucial to the role should be removed from the equation and told they were not successful this time.

It is important you do not discriminate during the recruitment process, and this includes the shortlisting. You should not remove candidates on the basis of any of the nine protected characteristics. This doesn’t mean you cannot eliminate candidates, rather that you do not eliminate candidates based on discriminatory reasons.

The nine protected characteristics of discrimination are:

  • Age
  • Being, or becoming, a transsexual person
  • Being married or in a civil partnership
  • Being pregnant or having a child
  • Disability
  • Race, including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
  • Religion, belief of lack of religion/belief
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation

In your shortlist, candidates with the highest scores and meet the job description best should be invited to an interview. How you perform the interviews is largely down to you, but as a minimum, you’ll want to meet the candidates face-to-face where possible. Telephone screening can also be a helpful first step in this process, as can video interviews, as it allows you to get to know the candidate before going to the effort of organising a face to face interview.

5. Conduct interviews & review scores

In this step of the recruitment process, you should conduct your interviews to get a good impression of whether the candidate is suitable for the role. Your selection committee should think about the questions you’re going to ask the candidate in advance. Last minute scrambling could lead to a poor interview that doesn’t give you the information you need, and it could make you look like a bad employer.

A phone interview prior to the face to face should last between 5 to 15 minutes. The initial face to face or video interview should last between 30 and 40 minutes. Anything less might feel rushed, while anything more might be too time consuming – especially if you have a lot of interviews to perform.

If you need to go into greater detail with your ideal candidates, then don’t be afraid of planning two rounds of interviews. You can use the second to interview the top few people from the first round, and go into greater detail about the job role and responsibilities. To get inspiration For help on what kind of questions to include in an interview, you can read our article “10 important interview questions (and why you should ask them)”.

6. Make your preferred selection

Following the interview step, you should create a final selection or shortlist, including at least the top 3 to 5 candidates you’re going to choose best fits the role. Once you have your final shortlist, you and your selection committee should compare scores, and decide who best fits the role. This person will be your “preferred selection” – but be careful not to reject other candidates too soon, as you may need to go back to them at a later date.

It is important to make your preferred selection based on merit – i.e. how good you think the person will be at performing the role. It is easy to be biased towards a certain candidate, based on things like existing friendships within your current team, or length of service with their previous company.

Naturally, how well a person gets along with their new team is an important consideration. But this doesn’t mean you need to put two friends together at the expense of hiring somebody who is not up to the role. Learn more about the candidate shortlisting process in our in-depth guide.

7. Check references

In the seventh step of the recruitment process, you should check your preferred selection’s references and qualifications before you contact them to give them an offer. This could save you from some very awkward situations! For example, imagine offering a person a key position… only to find that none of their previous employers feel comfortable providing a reference.

Of course, references don’t make or break a candidate's abilities. But it still pays to check them. If you’re noticing a common theme from all previous employers – such as refusal to comment on punctuality – then you might need to prepare yourself for an employee who is perpetually late for work.

When calling previous employers to get a reference, you should try not to keep them on the phone for more than five minutes. If the role is a very senior or business-critical role, you might want to make an exception. Otherwise, use the five-minute rule – it is a common courtesy, considering the previous employer is likely getting nothing out of the exchange.

Read our article on pre-employment checks to find out more on the types of documentation you should be looking at, and legal requirements you need to adhere to.

8. Send a formal job offer

We’re now at our final recruitment process step. Even though the candidate has expressed an interest in a role and, attended the interview, it doesn’t make it a sealed deal yet. You still need to send out a formal job offer and await their acceptance.

Once your new employee accepts their position, remember to inform unsuccessful candidates as a matter of courtesy. You may want to ask if they’d like their CVs to be kept to be added to your talent pool for if any future opportunities arise that they’d be suited for.

What if the candidate says no?

This is an extra small step in the recruitment process, depending on if your candidate rejects your offer. If your preferred candidate doesn’t accept your offer of employment, you can simply select the next best candidate on your final shortlist. If for whatever reason you do not find the right person, you might need to repeat the recruitment process again. Make sure your job advert is being published in the right places to give you maximum reach and make sure you’re giving every candidate a fair chance before eliminating them from your shortlist.

Once a suitable person accepts your offer, make sure you notify everybody else who made it to the interview stage as a minimum. This isn’t a formal requirement, but it is good business etiquette. Candidates will appreciate your courtesy, and you will develop a better reputation as an employer.

Tie it all together with an applicant tracking system

If you are still handling the recruitment process manually, you might benefit from HR software that includes an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Your ATS will tie these recruitment process steps together, and will let you handle the whole recruitment process from start to finish with less stress. See if People HR is best for your business by trying it for free today.

Further reading

If you found this article helpful to your organisation, you may want to continue reading with these HR insights:

Rich Newsome
By Rich Newsome Digital Content Writer

Rich is a content writer at Access PeopleHR and has a wealth of experience within the tech space, including HR software. Passionate about providing website visitors with informative and easy-to-understand content, Rich is committed to helping SMBs find the best solutions for their needs. With a flair for writing, Rich's content engages and educates readers, guiding them towards informed decisions.