Recruitment Part 2: Advertising a Job

In this second post of my series, I’ll record my thoughts on recruiting. (You might also like to read Recruitment Part 1: Applying For A Job.)

The Job Specification

  • Think about the job that needs doing, and weigh this against the skills the sort of candidate you are trying to attract could reasonably have. If somebody leaves who had built up a bespoke skillset over many years, you probably won’t be able to replace them with one person. You may get somebody with a sufficient subset of those skills, though.
  • It is vital that the job you advertise is the one you need to be done. It sounds obvious, but only ask for the skills and experience you need.
  • Research what other organisations are paying for similar roles.

The Job Advert

If you get this right, you’ll attract the right candidates. The job advert should be:

  • Accurate
  • Attractive
  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Visible

On this last point, getting your advert out to the right people is quite an art. You may find your organisation has a policy on this. Don’t be afraid to challenge the policy if you are having trouble recruiting; just make your case carefully and bring evidence.

Reviewing Applications

If you are fortunate to get a lot of applications, you’ll need to allocate time for the whole panel to review them. There is a huge man-hour cost to this, which is one reason why the specification and advert are very important. Don’t schedule interviews too close to the deadline, and make sure that the panel members have some help with their regular duties if you want them to do a good job of interviewing. I would suggest at least a week between deadline and interviews is needed.

Have a grid with your essential and desirable criteria in columns, and then a row for each candidate. As you review CVs, try to objectively score the candidates in each area. You’ll soon warm to the candidates who make this easy for you. Reject any candidates who don’t bother to show how they meet your criteria, or who don’t meet enough of them.

Preparing for the Interviews

Decide if you want a written or practical test, or if you want the candidate to do a presentation. Plan the tests carefully, and get colleagues to try them out. I like to make Cisco certified candidates solve some problems on lab kit via the CLI. If there is an equivalent in your field, consider this. For example you may wish to ask a web developer to look at some code and fix a bug. Don’t make these overly difficult – they should verify the candidate has the skills they claim, not terrify them. They should be challenging enough to expose frauds, though.

Think about the questions you will ask the candidates and make a note of them so that you can ask the same questions to all candidates. Score them on each question and make notes if possible, as you’ll forget who said what by the end of the day.

Trust your instincts.

Allow enough time for each test and interview. Allow a good hour for lunch for the panel. Don’t schedule too many interviews for one day. I would suggest three in the morning and two in the afternoon as a maximum, but it will depend on the seniority of the role.


When candidates ask for feedback, be very careful. Ask HR for the official policy; where possible, refer unsuccessful candidates to them.

Final Thoughts

Recruitment involves a lot of hard work on both sides. The process can be made easier if there is empathy between candidate and recruiter. Hopefully my ramblings will encourage that.

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