Good recruitment is vital for every organisation - finding the right people for the right roles at the right time. It ensures that the workforce has the relevant skills and abilities for the organisation's current and future needs. Effective resourcing is not just about filling an immediate vacancy but about having an impact on the long-term success of the business, using workforce planning data to understand what skills are needed for organisational performance.
This factsheet looks at what recruitment and resourcing involves and outlines the UK law affecting recruitment activities. It describes the stages of the recruitment process: defining the role, including job analysis and job description; attracting the applicants using both internal and external methods; managing the selection process; and, finally, making the appointment and employment offer.
What is recruitment?
Recruitment involves attracting and selecting individuals into the right role. Recruiting the right individuals is crucial to organisational performance, and is a critical activity, not just for the HR team but also for line managers who are increasingly involved in the selection process. All those involved in recruitment activities should be equipped with the appropriate knowledge and skills required to make effective recruitment decisions.
Another key part of recruitment is attracting a diverse range of candidates, and diversity and inclusion should be taken into account at each stage of the recruitment process. Processes and systems should be regularly reviewed to ensure hidden bias is removed and that talent is not blocked. Everyone taking part in activities such as shortlisting and interviewing should be aware of relevant legislation and the importance of avoiding discrimination.
For information on standards relating to recruitment such as cost of hire and workforce planning, see our HR and standards factsheet.
The candidates’ experience is another important aspect of recruitment. The recruitment process is not just about employers identifying suitable employees, it’s also about candidates finding out more about the business, and considering whether the organisation is one they would like to work for. Often, the first interaction a potential employee has with an organisation is the recruitment process, so effort should be made to ensure the process is transparent, timely and creates a good impression of the organisation, regardless of whether the candidate is successful or not.
The length and complexity of the recruitment process will vary depending on the organisation’s size and resources. However, the following stages should be present:
- defining the role
- attracting applicants
- managing the application and selection process
- making the appointment.
The following sections give an overview of these.
Key points for recruitment and resourcing professionals
It’s important to be aware of the labour market trends that affect recruitment and resourcing. For the UK, our quarterly Labour market outlook monitors UK economic and labour market indicators and recruitment outlook. Our Resourcing and talent planning survey provides data on UK recruitment trends and employers’ practices, including the impact of Brexit on resourcing. For more about the implications of Brexit in recruitment and resourcing, visit our Brexit hub and our factsheet on employing overseas workers in the UK.
Beyond hiring the right person for the job, candidate experience is a key part of resourcing. The recruitment process is not just about employers identifying suitable employees, but candidates finding out more about the organisation and considering if it’s one they would like to work for. First impressions matter; the process should be transparent, timely and fair, regardless of whether the candidate is successful or not. In a digital age where candidates can share their experiences online, inefficient, poorly designed recruitment processes can negatively impact on an employer's brand and the ability to attract candidates.
Another key part of resourcing is attracting a wide range of candidates. Diversity and inclusion should be considered throughout the process, with practices and systems regularly reviewed to ensure resourcing methods are inclusive and hidden bias is removed. Everyone taking part in activities such as shortlisting and interviewing must be aware of relevant legislation and the need to avoid discrimination. CIPD members can see our Recruitment and selection law Q&As for more on the UK legal aspects of recruitment. Our report Diversity and inclusion at work: facing up to the business case also highlights potential pitfalls in recruitment and ways to tackle them.
Our new Profession Map sets out the specialist knowledge that resourcing professionals need to identify, attract and assess to get the right people for the organisation.
Defining the role
The first step is to spend time gathering information about a job from a variety of sources, whether the position already exists or is new. This analysis provides the information needed for the job description and person specification. It should include:
- The job’s purpose and what duties are involved.
- How and where it could be carried out.
- What outputs would be expected of the jobholder.
- How it fits into the organisations’ structure.
The job description explains to potential candidates the detailed job requirements such as responsibilities and objectives of the role. It helps the recruitment process by providing a clear overview of the role for all involved. It can also provide clarity during induction and later, on performance and objectives.
The person specification states the necessary and desirable criteria for selection. The characteristics must be clear, demonstrable and avoid bias in wording.
Competency frameworks are sometimes substituted for job or person specifications, but these should include an indication of roles and responsibilities. See our factsheet on competence and competency frameworks.
Job adverts should give clear, accurate information about the organisation and the role. They should include:
- Job description and person specification.
- Job location.
- Type of employment offered - for example, is it a fixed-term role?
- The organisation’s activities and values.
- Reward and benefits package.
- Flexible working opportunities, where available.
- Details of how to apply and the deadline.
There are many ways to generate interest from potential candidates.
It's important not to forget the internal talent pool when recruiting. Providing opportunities for development and career progression increases employee engagement and retention, and supports succession planning. For more, see our talent management factsheet.
Employee referral schemes
Some organisations operate an employee referral scheme. These schemes usually offer an incentive to existing employees to assist in the recruitment of friends or contacts. But employers should not rely on such schemes at the expense of attracting a diverse workforce and they should complement other attraction methods.
There are many options for generating interest from individuals outside the organisation.
Our Resourcing and talent planning survey shows that the most common ways for attracting candidates include employer’s website, commercial job boards, recruitment agencies, and professional networking sites such as LinkedIn (although this will vary by sector and seniority). There is growing expectation from candidates to be able to search and apply for jobs online and via mobile devices, and this shift means that more and more, employers need to pay attention to their corporate website and their employer brand. Many organisations also use social media to identify candidates, but employers need to exercise caution - see more in our report Putting social media to work: lessons from employers.
Candidates and organisations should also be aware of the increase in fraudulent online job adverts, where fraudsters post a false roles on job boards in order to ask applicants to pay for online checks or training. Safer Jobs can provide advice and support.
Advertisements should be clear and indicate the:
- the organisation’s activities and values
- requirements of the job
- necessary and desirable criteria for job applicants
- job location
- reward package
- type of employment offered. For example, will it be a short term contract role?
- details of how to apply and the deadline.
Care should be taken to ensure that the wording and specification of the job is clear, accurate and does not inadvertently deter candidates from applying.
Other common ways to attract applications include building links with local colleges/universities, working with the local jobcentre and using local networks. Using multiple and non-traditional outreach methods can increase the talent pool.
External recruitment services
Some organisations use external providers to help with their recruitment. Recruitment agencies or recruitment consultants need to have a good understanding of the organisations and its requirements. They offer a range of services such as attracting candidates, managing candidate responses, screening and shortlisting, or running assessment centres on the employer’s behalf. These services might also be provided by an outsourcing provider.
Managing the application and selection process
TPaper and online applications are likely to be received as a curriculum vitae (CV) with covering letter, or an application form. Some organisations allow candidates to apply with their LinkedIn profile.
Throughout the application and selection process, reasonable adjustments may need to be made for candidates. For example, as well as helping those with a physical disability, recruitment processes might be adapted for neurodivergent people.
Application forms allow for information to be presented in a consistent way. This makes it easier to collect information from job applicants systematically and objectively assess the candidate’s suitability for the job.
However, an unnecessarily long or poorly-designed application form can put candidates off applying. And, it may be necessary to offer application forms in different formats to comply with discrimination law.
CVs and LinkedIn profiles
The advantage of CVs or LinkedIn profiles is that candidates are not restricted to a standard application form. However, CVs and LinkedIn profiles may include surplus material and vary in format which undermines their consistent assessment.
All applications should be treated confidentially and circulated only to those individuals involved in the recruitment process.
Prompt acknowledgment of an application - whether successful or unsuccessful - is good practice and presents a positive image of the organisation.
Selecting candidates involves two main processes:
Shortlisting those who have the necessary skills to proceed to assessment stage.
Assessing those candidates to find out who is most suitable for the role. See more on this stage in our selection methods factsheet which covers the various techniques and tools available to employers, and the importance of using valid and reliable methods.
Making the appointment
Before making an offer of employment, employers have responsibility for checking that applicants have the right to work in the country and have the appropriate qualifications or credentials.
A recruitment policy should state clearly how references will be used, when in the recruitment process they will be taken up and what kind of references will be necessary (for example, from former employers). These rules should be applied consistently. Candidates should always be informed of the procedure for taking up references.
References are most frequently sought after the applicant has been given a ‘provisional offer’.
The UK Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to ask candidates to complete a medical questionnaire before being offered a job. Only essential medical issues should be discussed at this stage.
However, any particular physical or medical requirement should be made clear in the job advertisement or other recruitment literature.
Employers should also take care before making selection decisions relating to a candidate’s mental or physical health. They need to think creatively and innovatively about where they can make reasonable adjustments, such as flexible working, where someone has a disability.
Offers of employment should always be made in writing.
Unsuccessful candidates should be notified promptly in writing and if possible given feedback. As a minimum, feedback on any psychometric test results, delivered by a qualified person, should be offered.
Joining the organisation
Well-planned induction enables new employees to become fully operational quickly and should be integrated into the recruitment process. See more in our induction factsheet.
Documentation and evaluation
The recruitment process should be documented accurately and access limited to recruitment staff for confidentiality reasons.
Information should be kept for sufficient time to allow any complaints to be handled.
It’s good practice to monitor applications and recruitment decisions to ensure that equality of opportunity is being allowed. Where issues are highlighted in the process, action should be taken.
Using metrics such as cost of hire, candidate experience ratings and time to hire can also provide insight into the effectiveness of recruitment processes.
Useful contacts and further reading
Books and reports
GOVERNMENT EQUALITIES OFFICE. (2011) Equality Act 2010: What do I need to know? A quick start guide to using positive action in recruitment and promotion. London: GEO.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE CARE AND RESETTLEMENT OF OFFENDERS (NACRO). (2015) Recruiting fairly and safely: a practical guide to employing ex-offenders. London: Nacro.
NEWELL-BROWN, J. (2012) The professional recruiter's handbook: delivering excellence in recruitment practice. 2nd ed. London: Kogan Page.
TAYLOR, S. (2018) Resourcing and talent management. 7th ed. London: CIPD and Kogan Page.
Visit the CIPD and Kogan Page Bookshop to see all our priced publications currently in print.
ACIKGOZ, Y. (2019) Employee recruitment and job search: towards a multi-level integration. Human Resource Management Review. Vol 29, No 1. pp1-13.
BROWN, P. (2018) It’s time to put data at the heart of the recruitment process. People Management (online). 13 February.
CAPPELLI, P. (2019) Your approach to hiring is all wrong. Harvard Business Review. May-June. Reviewed in In a Nutshell, issue 89.INGOLD, J. and VALIZADE, D. (2017) Employers’ recruitment of disadvantaged groups: exploring the effect of active labour market programme agencies as labour market intermediaries. Human Resource Management Journal. Vol 27, No 4. pp530-547. Reviewed in In a Nutshell, issue 73.
JEFFREY, R. (2017) Would you let AI recruit for you? People Management (online). 12 December.
CIPD members can use our online journals to find articles from over 300 journal titles relevant to HR.
Members and People Management subscribers can see articles on the People Management website.
This factsheet was last updated by Melanie Green.
Melanie Green: Research Adviser
Melanie joined the CIPD in 2017, specialising in learning & development and skills research. Prior to the CIPD, Mel worked as an HR practitioner in a technology organisation, working on a variety of learning and development initiatives, and has previously worked as a researcher in an employee engagement and well-being consultancy.
Melanie holds a master’s degree in Occupational Psychology from University of Surrey, where she conducted research into work–life boundary styles and the effect of this on employee well-being and engagement.