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A 5-step recruitment plan for small businesses

6-minute read

When you have a position to fill, you want to be sure that you find the candidate most suited for the job, and the one whose skills and knowledge will help your company grow.

While the interview may seem like the definitive moment for choosing the right person, making the right choice actually begins long before the interview.

Successful recruitment depends on how well you prepare and publicize your job ad, as well as how well you screen applicants. That way, when you get to the interview, you are meeting only the best candidates that most closely fit what you’re looking for.

Here is a 5-step recruitment plan you can follow to improve your chances of finding the right candidate.

Step 1: Prepare an effective job description

Writing an effective job description is the first step to attracting the right candidates to your company. The more clearly you describe the requirements, tasks, working conditions and advantages of the position, the less time you will waste examining and rejecting unsuitable applications.

An effective job description should include the following.

  • Position title—Avoid using a title that’s unique to your company and make sure it can be understood by everyone in your industry.
  • Information about your company—A few lines to explain your business and why a candidate might be interested in working for it (e.g., mission, values, recent awards, etc.).
  • Job descriptionTell candidates what contribution they will be making by summarizing the most important tasks that the successful applicant will be required to perform. Be sure to highlight what makes the position unique and exciting.
  • Qualifications—Before you write this section, ask yourself and other key people in your company, “What kind of person would be ideal for this post?” List the most important attributes and qualifications in order of priority.
  • How to apply—Clearly state which items you want to receive (e.g., resume, references, other relevant documents) and whether you want candidates to apply in person or by mail, fax or email. If you don’t want phone calls, make that clear. Give a deadline date and time.

Step 2: Use the right recruitment tools

Once your ad is written, you need to find the right way to promote it. Two factors will determine the best choice: your company's budget and the type of candidate you are looking for. Remember that using more than one tool increases your exposure.

It’s important to keep track of the results. (This can be as simple as asking people how they heard about your company.) In time, this will help you determine which recruitment tools work best for your company.

Here’s a list of tools you can use to publicize your opening and attract candidates.

  • Online job boards—Job boards are one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways of reaching job seekers. Because of the sheer number of jobs available on these websites, however, it’s important that you make your job ad stand out from the pack. General online job boards include sites like: Craigslist, Job Bank (Government of Canada),Indeed, Jobboom, Kijiji, Monster Canada and Workopolis
  • Social media—Social media sites like LinkedIn have become powerful tools for recruiters. Not only do these sites allow you to post job ads on your accounts, but they can also be used to identify and recruit candidates that possess specific skills.
  • Advertising—Advertising in traditional media can be effective if you choose a publication that targets the type of candidate you are looking for. Advertising in industry publications or in the newsletters of professional groups, for instance, can lead to a nice payoff.
  • Employment agencies—Employment agencies can be costly but can save you a lot of time by handling the advertising, screening and reference checks, sending you only the applications that meet your requirements. They can even handle the interviewing.
  • Your website—If you receive enough traffic, your website can act as an ongoing recruitment tool. You can create a career section or post vacancies on your home page.
  • Word of mouth—Word of mouth, or simply telling your employees, friends and colleagues about a vacancy, is a time-tested and often effective recruitment strategy. Some companies offer employees a finder's fee (usually less than the cost of an outside agency) if they recruit someone.

Step 3: Do a first screen of the applicants

Once you’ve received resumes and made an initial selection of interesting candidates, the next step is to do an initial screen of candidates. The more careful you are at this stage, the less time you’ll lose at the interview stage.

Here are ways you can screen candidates before the interview.

  • E-mail or telephone—Ask people for more information to help you decide if you really want to interview them. You can also ensure they are actually interested in the job.
  • Standardized testing—Tests can help you find the applicants whose skills, talents or values most closely match your ideal. Testing can assess cognitive skills, emotional intelligence, character, work preferences, etc. The tests should be administered and interpreted by external or in-house certified specialists, and can be provided by specialized companies (which can also provide online tests). Service Canada offers an informative look at worker assessment tools.
  • Ask to see their portfolio—A preliminary screening of the candidates’ previous work can be a great way to assess their abilities and fit with your company. Ask candidates to send you their portfolio to get a sense of what they can do.

Step 4: Interview the best candidates

The interview is your opportunity to confirm the candidates’ qualifications, determine if the job matches their expectation and see if they fit in with your company culture.

There are two commonly used types of interview questions:

Behavioural questions

These types of questions help predict future behaviour by asking about past behaviour. They can help you assess the person's self-confidence, creativity and problem-solving skills.

Situational questions

These types of questions present the applicant with potential situations they could face on the job. This can help you evaluate the person's knowledge, skills and work methods. These questions usually start with, “What would you do if...?” or, “How would you X...?”

Beware of asking questions about personal interests. They can get the interview off track or annoy people who want to keep their work and private lives separate.

To help you make your decision, you can create a point system or an analysis grid to compare and rank the strengths and weaknesses of the interviewees.

Step 5: Offer the job

When you have selected your front-runner, call and offer the position. If necessary, give the candidate a few days to decide. Once they have confirmed, it’s common to send a letter of offer that states in writing what was discussed over the phone.

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