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What does a healthy recruitment journey look like? - The Ultimate Guide

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Whether you’re a hardened HRD or a fresh manager hiring for the first time, every recruitment process looks different no matter which industry you work in. Depending on who you are and what you do, importance will be placed on certain values, skills, personalities and a huge range of other variables that ensure teams are vibrant and high-performing.

Whether you’re a hardened HRD or a fresh manager hiring for the first time, every recruitment process looks different no matter which industry you work in. Depending on who you are and what you do, importance will be placed on certain values, skills, personalities and a huge range of other variables that ensure teams are vibrant and high-performing.

Naturally, some recruitment journeys leave candidates and hiring managers wanting.

If you haven’t thought about your post-pandemic EVP and hiring process recently, or you’re setting out a new recruitment plan, then this ultimate guide may help you.

When you’re hiring…

Have you planned and spoken to the MAN?

It’s really easy to dive into a new role, writing a job description and advert, then posting it and informing the recruiters. But has the role been fully signed off? Did you speak to the person with the Money, Authority and Need to confirm it’s all systems go?

There’s nothing worse than getting to the interview or even the offer stage, only to find out the role is no longer needed or there was never enough budget in the first place. Double check before hitting the big red recruitment button.

Do you know what type of person you’re looking for?

Hiring for a job title just isn’t enough anymore. In our flexible and ever-changing world of work, we’re used to being asked to pick up work beyond our usual remit, or increase our skill sets through training or experience.

Before you hire, investigate what you are hiring for. Most job roles evolve, so if you are replacing like for like, it’s worth checking if the role has changed from what was hired previously. Revisit the essential criteria and look at what the team needs at that present moment, rather than what was advertised in the past.

Are you looking in the right places?

Need to find a developer or architect? It’s fairly pointless reaching out to a generalist agency or sticking a generic advert on Indeed. Play it smart and think about networking, outreach or a tailored Google ads or social media campaign to avoid irrelevant CV-ageddon.

Listen: 10 places to reach new talent

Have you arranged the diary?

It’s all well and good cracking on and engaging with agencies, writing job adverts and then inviting candidates for interviewing, only to find out that the hiring manager is on annual leave for three weeks.

Check everyone who is needed in the process is available and block out time in the diary for interviews even if you don’t have a firm interview arranged. Missing an interview or pushing a candidate back may mean you lose them to a competitor who was quicker off the mark — after all, it’s 100% a candidate-driven market right now, and at the best of times!

How’s the job description looking?

Oh, you haven’t written it yet? Yeh, that needs to be done before you even think about writing a job advert, engaging with a job board or recruiter, or calling that candidate who you remember from six months ago. Get the job description nailed down and signed off by all parties — it should be your ammunition to go back to hiring managers with if the right candidate doesn’t exist.

Are your job ads sparkling?

‘I never have enough good CVs’. ‘There aren’t enough candidates in the market’. ‘No one applies for these roles’. All excuses for uninspiring job adverts. Check you're not just posting a shortened job description, or worse a bland shopping list of unrealistic skills and qualifications. Talk like a human and entice and excite — the candidates will soon follow.

Read next: How to write the perfect job ad

How do you sound?

Do you have and understand your brand and tone of voice? No? Not much point in cracking on with those lovely job ads or indeed the rest of your hiring campaign’s correspondence. Consider setting out some words or phrases that embody your organisation, and think about what your organisation would sound like if it came to life and attended a cocktail party. Would they be fun? Overbearing? Boring?

Remember that job adverts have a gender, too. Using words that are more appealing to one gender than another may mean you don’t get an application, so run your advert through our gender decoder tool to see if it’s weighted one way or another!

Are you thinking like a candidate?

If you were applying for a job or looking for something new, what would you want to see? Which organisations would stand out for you? What would put you off?

These really easy questions are a superb starting point when it comes to advertising your roles. Staying firmly on the other side of the table gives a skewed perception of the recruitment process — you’ll never understand the frustrations, anxieties and desires of someone applying to your roles unless you think like they do.

By just getting into the candidate’s head, you could end up unlocking their true feelings and motivations, rather than those displayed to try and get them hired!

Read: Are you getting into your candidate’s heads?

Do you have a diverse set of traps?

A classic pitfall for lots of HR professionals, hiring managers and even recruiters is to send the advert for their role to a job board, with the security that they’ll receive a pipeline of suitable CVs in exchange for a small fortune in credits. The same applies to using agencies — they have all the candidates, right?

Maybe. But you’re contributing to the broken system, whereby the agencies and job boards keep you on the magic CV roundabout that never stops. Break the status quo, and use your own job board — your careers page. Invest your hard-earned dough there, or even better, just do what job boards and agencies do and come up with an excellent social media campaign. You can do exactly what they do, and probably with more care and passion.

However, that doesn’t mean job boards or even recruiters should just be binned off — they can still be part of a healthy mix.

Aim for a blend of channels for your candidates to engage with your role:

  • Careers site
  • Refer-a-friend campaign
  • Social media campaign
  • Classic advertising
  • Job boards and recruiters
  • Open day
  • Networking

Do you make things too complicated?

Clumsy CV submission system? Four-stage interview process? Empty, generic feedback for a candidate rejection? You may have experienced all of these, and isn’t it frustrating?

What happens if that candidate goes away, becomes much better at what they do, and you would consider them? Would they go through the shoddy first steps again? Probably not.

Like the rest of the service industry, be like Deliveroo or Uber and make it incredibly easy for people to get what they want in a few clicks. You’ll keep them happy, and you’ll probably see more candidates as a side effect.

Are you retargeting lost applicants?

Only around 6% of applicants who land on your careers page or job post will apply straight away. If that process is complicated, expect that number to be even lower.

Make sure your careers site is set up to capture visitor information, or at least display adverts to visitors who clicked off using cookies.


Screening CVs may be one of those boring jobs that gets passed on to someone else, but not getting it right is asking for problems.

CV screening isn’t just about selecting the right people for an interview. It’s also a great opportunity to assess candidates who may have transferable skills for other roles. It’s also an exceptional opportunity to assess what the market looks like and feedback to hiring managers with expectations.

Taking a more open approach to screening, rather than sticking to a strict set of criteria, is also highly recommended. Remember that skills can be taught and that certain personality traits and motivations are extremely difficult to change. Giving someone a chance could be infinitely better than hiring that all-star who is offered something bigger and better in a few months’ time.

You’ll also need to review how you reject candidates who aren’t right for the role.

Or, you could look at automating your screening process…

What do you want to get from your interviews?

When it comes to interviews, set some objectives. Asking people about their 15-year plan is painful for everyone. Use a three-step plan, like:

  • Ascertain ability
  • Question skills
  • Analyse fit

Suddenly, you’ve got everything you need in a much shorter time!

Two elements of interviewing that are often left out are things like brutal honesty and push-pull factors. What this means is really digging deep into the candidate’s real motivations for leaving a role, or the real reason why they’ve applied to work for you.

This could seem a little awkward at first, but it’s critical if you want to hire someone that’s coming to you for the right reasons and is the right cultural fit. If you’re being treated as a stop-gap or the candidate sees you as an easy way to negotiate a pay rise out of their current employer, then you can focus your efforts on candidates who are more focused on career development or joining you for the right reasons.

Oh, and if you’re still keen on doing everything over Zoom, read this first to make sure you’re doing it properly.

What’s in the interview?

Job interviews are your prime opportunity to investigate the candidate’s skills and assess if they’re a fit for the organisation — but it’s also their opportunity to figure out if the move is right for them.

A disjointed, organic interview may make sense to you, but for the candidate it could be off-putting. Set out a clear structure that leaves enough time for questioning (both ways), discussion, a skills test, and possibly a trial or working interview.

Having a page on your careers site or sending an email in advance could allow candidates to be better prepared and perform at their best. Interviewing is stressful and can cloud judgement, so by indicating how they might prepare for an interview, you will get a more comfortable interviewing experience for both parties.

The industry standard is two interviews, which we think is about right. A single interview stage doesn’t give either party enough time to assess fit and the role, and anything more than three is going to drag things out, meaning they could be poached by someone else.

Consider having multiple methods of assessment to really get the most out of your potential candidate and give them an opportunity to show you what their strengths and weaknesses are. Depending on the role, this could include an assessment, an on-site visit or interactions with the team or organisation, or a test or task that mirrors an everyday occurrence in your organisation.

Think about who will be included in the interviews from an internal perspective and ensure they have the correct support and training in place when it comes to interviews. Check what you have in place when it comes to interview best practice and ensure a consistent approach across your organisation.

Have a gap of a few days in between each interview too. This gap gives the candidate time to reflect and talk it through with their important people, and it gives you enough time to review portfolios, see the remaining candidates and personalise the second interview based on what you learned from the first.

Are your company’s values, culture and EVP clear from the first interaction — and throughout?

If they're not, you’re missing a prime opportunity to embed culture and set expectations from day one! Imagine a world where everyone totally understands and lives your values? That’s entirely possible if everyone is on the same page from the start.

Over 60% of job seekers want to see a company’s values and vision before they apply, so if yours aren’t crystal clear from the beginning, you’re potentially putting off a lot of people!

Read next: What does culture even mean, anyway?

What happens when you make an offer?

It may be hum-drum everyday stuff to you, but to your candidates, it could be the best news they’ve had all year. Make a song and dance about a successful offer, otherwise your muted offer letter and quick call to say they got it could set the wrong tone from the start — or make the other offer they had from the more enthusiastic competitor down the road seem more appealing.

How are you declining?

A major candidate frustration is poor feedback, or even a complete lack of feedback after a rejection. If they’ve taken time off work and travelled to see you, the least you can do is give them a real reason for rejection, rather than a ‘thanks but no thanks’.

Provide in-depth written feedback, and at best, several tips for them to work on that may have made the decision a different one. And again, remember that in the future, they may have the correct skills or motivations and may be more likely to interview again if they had a good experience first time around.

Are you engaging enough during notice periods?

Sending the offer, agreeing day one and then playing the waiting game is the usual process for new hires. But that three months or whatever it is is when your new hire is like a sitting duck.

Competitors, recruiters and desperate ex-bosses could swoop in with a better offer/ convincing reason to stay, and nine times out of 10, you’ll only find out about this the week they’re meant to start.

Arrange regular catch ups with your new hires even before they’ve started. As well as being a great opportunity to keep them engaged and excited, you’ll be able to find out about threats and do something about it, or at worst find someone else when they do drop out.

And just because they're not ‘officially’ part of the team yet doesn’t mean they can’t be invited to coffee mornings, work events, Christmas parties, conferences etc. Engaging them from the get-go is something many employers don’t do, so stand out from the crowd!

When you’re retaining…

Is the first day painful?

No desk, no laptop, sitting around waiting for a pointless HR onboarding meeting — sound familiar?

Most new starters will be raring to go, so get all of this stuff done before day one. Your new starters won’t feel disengaged when they’re trying their best to make a good first impression without anything to work on.

If you need to onboard people who don’t work near you, or still don’t have everyone in the office all the time, then think about what onboarding looks like from a digital perspective.

Are you asking how things are soon enough?

We love to do reviews. The one month review. The three month probation review. Then maybe an annual review. What about a one day, a one week, and a one fortnight review?

The first few days in a new job can be daunting and even boring, confusing, exciting and terrifying in even measure, so remember this and check in on your new starters! Remind them it’s OK to need time to bed in.

Do they have plenty of opportunities to talk things through?

Often, when people leave a role, it’s for a good reason or set of reasons. But a lot of the time, the real reasons are buried away out of courtesy, politeness or fear of retribution.

As the old adage goes, people leave their manager, not their jobs. So why on earth wouldn’t you help that person by giving them a new manager if things aren’t working out?

So many organisations are still dancing around reasons for leaving or accepting reasons that simply aren’t true. If the person is saying it’s because they want a new challenge, it could really be because they hate your working culture.

The only thing you can really do is ask them to be really honest and create a safe space where they can say uncomfortable things without being treated any differently. You may soon find that some of the reasons for leaving can be solved very quickly, saving the pain of having to replace someone who would rather find a new job than complain or bring up a difficult subject.

And ultimately, even if the employee was particularly unhappy, unwilling or unable, you still need to look inward and recognise the opportunities you had to get the best out of them. It may have something to do with the contractual nature of work that we’ve all fallen into over the last 300 years or so…

Are they getting the basics?

Think of the things on your list of objectives throughout your career. We’ll bet the list includes progression, fulfilment, salary increases, development, options to possibly manage or hold more responsibility, and to eventually become the best at what you do.

Now look at your teams and see if they can access all of those. If the answer is no, then you really, really need to look at your retention strategy.

But then again, strategy will never be as important as culture. Get your culture right and the basics should be just that — basics that happen without the need for a strategy.

When they leave…

Are you reviewing what went well, and what didn’t?

So they’ve been with you a while, they haven’t got what they need/ have been tempted away and have handed in their notice. Instead of accepting and wishing them well, dig into the nitty gritty, no matter how painful it may be. If you keep burying your head in the sand every time someone leaves, you’ll just suffer the same issues over and over again.

Collate all information and analyse it. If you can spot trends, then it makes it much easier to get things fixed.

Don’t take it personally and look for the wins

Yes, it’s annoying, and yes, it’s a pain that they’ve put their notice in at the busiest time possible, but instead of complaining, look for the opportunities.

Dig deep into why they’ve decided to move on — could others be in the same situation? Could you make some tweaks to alleviate the issue, rather than accept a resignation? Could you take the reasons and finally have that serious conversation with a manager or senior leader?

See resignations as an opportunity to learn and make changes, rather than a negative that creates more work.

Are exit interviews taken seriously?

Did you know that well over half of leavers in the UK simply skip their exit interview? This is a real shame, as it’s a great way to help everyone improve and get it right next time. Rather than making this an awkward tick-box exercise, give your leavers the chance to dig into their thoughts and reasons without repercussion, and ask nicely for feedback that could help you to improve the experience for their ex-colleagues.

Who knows, a good exit interview could be the final chance to extend an olive branch and retain a great talent who may not have had the opportunity to open up already.

Wish them well

Even if things didn’t work out, leave the situation on a positive note. You never know where that person may end up, and if you really didn’t want to lose them, then it makes sense to keep the door open if it all goes pear-shaped at their next place!

Also, there’s a little thing called Glassdoor that anyone can access and write reviews about their time at your organisation, so taking that resignation personally and shouting them out the door will mean more potential candidates won’t want to have the same experience.


Now you’re up to speed on the best practice recruitment journey, you can go forth and employ with the confidence you won’t be backfilling that role in a few months’ time! But jokes aside, the recruitment journey is something all of us often take for granted and forget to assess regularly.

The final big takeaway we can give you is that no matter how great your process is, there’ll always be someone who slips through the cracks. And to remedy that, we’ll just remind you to talk, talk, talk. Keeping open and honest communication with the people who choose to devote most of their time spent awake to you deserve that as a minimum.

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