How to approach recruitment – a guide for founders

Recruitment is one of the basic processes of all of the HR processes that the companies have to set. At the same time, it is one of the things that a new candidate (and possibly a future employee) encounters when first getting in touch with your company. 

In this article I aim to provide a general understanding of hiring as a process and options the companies have –  how the recruitment can be set from an organisational perspective – rather than going into operational details. However, I will comment on some recruitment basics and terms to give a better overall understanding. This should help SME business owners and founders to orient themselves on the topic and make informed strategic decisions when needed.

It is all connected.

At the same time, the operational part of the recruitment is as crucial as strategic. The overall mastery of the talent acquisition will aid you fill your company with engaged and determined employees. For them, it all starts there!

HR vs. Recruitment

I would like to touch on the subject of what “HR” actually is. For many SME (and other) businesses, HR work = recruitment. 

Well, that is a completely wrong assumption. 

Employee lifecycle

In terms of main business pillars, human resources takes position within one of the four main pillars along with financial, information and material resources. A strategic approach to HR management takes information from the business environment, from outside the organisation, from within. To put it simply, it translates all of those inputs – the context – into visions, missions, approaches, tools and operational steps to create value for all of the stakeholders involved (investors, managers, employees,…). 

In terms of the so-called employee lifecycle (see the image above), HR work steps in with tools and solutions in all of the parts of the cycle. Each period is different, yet they are all connected. The HR work is not recruitment exclusive. 

What to consider

When thinking about recruitment, there are some points you should always consider. Let me walk you through the popular buzzwords.

Company culture and employer brand

Basically, this is who you are and how you present yourself towards potential employees. A company culture is a topic of its own. For better understanding, I prompt you to draw a correlation in understanding what a country’s culture is. There are many inputs that form culture in a society – including geographical, historical, religious, demographical,… And there is a legal framework to it all. It affects you as a person – how you see and understand the world around you, what you believe in, your behaviour. A company is a society of its own. There are many opinions on how to form and keep a healthy company culture; some more appealing than the others. Just bear in mind that it has to make sense for your organisation, current situation and future vision.

A company is a society of its own.

For recruitment purposes, the company culture is closely related to an employer brand. This is how you are perceived by the public, e.g. candidates* and how you market yourself to the world and position yourself towards the competitors**. You literally advertise your company culture and business to attract the best people for yourself. It is easy to overlook the importance of employer brand and bury the recruitment efforts before they even started. Think of it as a value proposition. 

Candidate experience

Aiming towards a smooth and efficient process goes to every part of the business. A positive candidate experience belongs in the must-have category, too. As mentioned earlier, for your future employees, it all starts with the recruitment.

Photo by cottonbro on

And it all can end with the recruitment as well. Hideous advertisement, overly complicated application forms, uninformed recruiters, unprepared managers, unrelated tests, useless questions and information, missing feedback, you name it… are guaranteed mood killers. It is all an experience candidates go through and you want them to have as best one as currently possible. Subsequently, it hints on the company culture itself, so it can very well make the candidate turn the offer down just based on this experience. It is also good to keep in mind that a stellar candidate experience being the opposite of everyday job reality will most probably increase your employee turnover significantly. After all, it is all connected.

Operational part

Defining a recruitment need

You are hiring people because you need to cover for a need of yours. Either it is a completely new profile that is supposed to bring a know-how in or you are replacing a more junior colleague that you have recently exited, it is important to know why you are hiring and who. Neglecting this first step makes the rest of the recruitment tough.

Proper sources

Since you already know who you are hiring, it is easier to establish where the candidates should be coming from. A good correlation would be a marketing persona – if you know who your best candidates are, then you can predict their behaviour and where they could be “shopping” (or not) for new opportunities. A zero response on a heavily technical role that you have advertised in a local town newspaper wouldn’t come as a surprise, would it?


There are many unearthed information trending around the question and tips for both interviewers and the candidates. Most of the time, they are more than useless and will actually not lead you to any successful outcome.

The goal of the interview is to gain information that will enable you to decide whether this person is the right one for the job or not. At the same time, you have the opportunity to observe the candidate and get a sense of how this person fits overall within the team and the company***. Since you already know who you need to hire, forget hilarious practices, behave ethically and ask questions that truly matter. That is all. Interviews are not rocket science.

Basic metrics

Thinking you know something is not the same as really knowing. Setting up at least a couple of basic metrics is definitely worth your time. It helps you make informed decisions and check if you are staying true to your recruitment goals.

basic HR metrics for recruitment
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

You can track anything you find helpful and relevant – efficiency, speed, feedback,… Just to get you started – look for “time to hire” and “time to fill”. Because thinking you can hire someone within 3 weeks but knowing it takes 6 months to welcome a new colleague on board makes a significant difference in your workforce planning.

Recruitment as a service

You don’t have to do everything yourself. Same as in other fields – recruitment or its parts can be outsourced.

Internal vs. external

The benefit of keeping all “in” is having a complete overview and control of how you plan, execute, what you do, how you communicate,… Of course, the flexibility to change things as you go is dependent on the level of bureaucracy of your organisation.

You are not doing recruitment for the recruitment itself.

On the other hand, it brings the general challenges of employing your own recruitment team. Except the obvious ones in terms of competitive compensation package, goal setting, career development, training plans,…etc it also may lead to a certain organisational blindness, lack of proper knowledge in the field or know-how that deteriorates in time. In-house recruitment supports your organisational needs, you are not doing recruitment for the recruitment itself.

On the contrary, for the “external” services the recruitment is their core business. The risk of not having the most up-to-date practices is mitigated as it is crucial for them to stay competitive on the market. The work with different clients on filling various roles enriches their experience and is something you are able to benefit from. That being said, not all services are the same and the quality varies. It is important to remember that this is an external business service, the same as any other – if you are unsatisfied then communicate it properly and or change the service.

How to outsource

Most companies use a combination of both internal and external recruitment services. There is no universal recipe on how to make it work for your organisation. For some the best way is to keep all of the recruitment efforts within their own HR team, some use several external services along with their own, some have it completely outsourced,…
The trick is to combine it the way that makes the most sense for your organisation. Remember, you are not doing recruitment for recruitment itself, you are supporting your needs with the recruitment.

External recruitment partners

As previously mentioned, not all of the services are the same and the quality varies significantly. To brief you on a couple of terms from the field, you may encounter the following services.

Headhunters, sourcers, freelance recruiters – what they do, what their specialisation is and how exactly they are engaged in the recruitment process differs from freelancer to freelancer. They also work with their own pricing models, some are more standardised than others. 

Recruitment and headhunting agencies – organisations that specialise in hiring in either specific industry or specific type of roles. Depending on their size they may cover for many of them at the same time. Usually, the cooperation works the way that you define the recruitment need, work out the specifics for the role and then hand it over to the agency. They come back to you with shortlisted candidates, you interview them and pay a fee for each successful hire. 

Executive search – similar as above, but they usually specialise in top management positions and or specific positions on the market. Their approach is slightly different, as they want to provide their high calibre candidates with the best possible candidate experience – with them and with you. The pricing tends to be high calibre, too.

Recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) firms – a complex cooperation between you and the provider. Depending on the depth of your relationship, they could feel like a part of your own team. Well, they are not, but no one has to know. They offer a wide range of services related to recruitment – support with employer branding, executive search, operational recruitment,… and come with a variety of tech tools to make the hiring efficient and engaging. They will adjust to your needs and can support you globally. 


As overwhelming as the recruitment may seem, with a proper process and partners in place, the challenge of it goes down to changing labour market and business needs “only”.  

Human resource management needs a strategy, as any other part of the business and hiring new colleagues is a partial manifestation of it you can literally experience.

That being said, recruitment should be understood as an integral part of having the right people in the right positions at the right time, not as a stand alone solution. It is all connected.

* Not customers in this case.
** Here it means other companies that are hiring the same profiles as you are.
*** The same goes for the candidate.

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