Recruitment is a hot topic for most organisations at the moment. This is because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find the right people for particular roles, although I think the issue often lies with the way these businesses approach recruitment.

A common mistake is to react to an unexpected situation, such as a member of the team leaving or having to take extended sick leave. In such circumstances, some SMEs and social enterprises rush out into the job market immediately without taking time to consider the options.

Just as a business plan is vital if your social enterprise is to be successful, having a plan for how you’re going to recruit will ensure you find the best talent, quickly.

The recruitment brief

If I still worked in recruitment, the first thing I’d do is interview my client, and from that discussion draw up a recruitment brief and job description.

There’s an important distinction to make here, because the recruitment brief and job description I’m referring to will be different to what you’d normally expect from the HR department. The latter is usually several pages long and concentrates on simple, straightforward information an applicant would need in order to identify whether or not the job is for them (for example, the job title, who they’d report to, the location and a list of duties and responsibilities).

However, this isn’t always enough to attract the right people. Too many job adverts that borrow from HR job descriptions are written from the company’s perspective, rather than the individual they’re trying to find. Clearly, you need to market and promote the company, but you also need to emphasise why the role is attractive for the right candidate.

This is why it’s so important to start by profiling the candidate and the role itself. The latter should give some background to the situation and reason for recruiting while also making it clear who would best suit the position.

Download our example Recruitment Job Description

Looking internally before recruiting

Let’s take a step back quickly, because before you go anywhere near your recruitment brief or job specification, you need to look internally.

For instance, if someone has resigned, it’s generally a pretty bad idea to simply head out into the market and look for a replacement or ‘clone’ of the person who has just left. The outgoing employee handed their notice in for a reason; it might have been lack of satisfaction, no development opportunities or because they’ve simply used the job as a stepping stone before moving on. Landing a person of a similar mindset as a replacement could therefore simply start that cycle again.

You may not need to recruit at all! Could you rejig the responsibilities and duties by handing them out to other people and departments throughout the business? If so, it could be an opportunity to award pay rises and increase the responsibilities for existing staff.

Reacting to failed job ads

A lot of SMEs and social enterprises will place a job advert in the local paper and, when it doesn’t work, they’ll react in a way that suggests there isn’t an alternative.

You need to be doing a number of things proactively during a recruitment phase that go far beyond the standard job advert. It’s important to give existing staff the opportunity to come forward if they want to be considered for the role. If someone is interested internally and you can develop them into that role, it should certainly be a consideration; they might be the exact person you’re looking for, and if you don’t offer them the opportunity may even create a bigger problem by leaving, too!

A job advert is only one piece of the puzzle; make sure you speak to the staff you already have once a job opportunity arises.

Wrapping up: recruitment never stops

As a social entrepreneur, recruitment should always be something that you have on your mind. The nature of your role means you’re rarely off duty; nearly everything you do is networking and developing contacts. If you start investing time in those contacts and find confidence in them, you’ll discover good people who you can work with and to whom you can offer employment opportunities – even if you don’t need them immediately.

There’s an old saying I love “professionals anticipate and amateurs react”. This is so true in recruitment; if you can anticipate what might happen further down the road, you can start planning for it – now.