Finding Staff

Don’t rely on the rocky state of the economy to solve your recruitment needs. Leisure and tourism businesses, whatever the variable rates of pay, need well motivated, articulate, numerate, personable and, increasingly, digitally savvy staff. So take a little time to plan how you’re going to recruit high calibre people to market and sell your business.

Ten top tips for getting the best recruits

1. Decide on exactly what kind of person and skills set you want and hold out until you get the right person

2. Produce a tightly defined advertisement indicating the specific skills and experience you require

3. Make sure any vacancy you publish is accurate, well written, visually appealing and a great advertisement for your business

4. Don’t be afraid to ask industry colleagues for their suggestions for potential recruits or opinions of short-listed candidates

5. Prioritise candidates with existing skills and experience who can hit the ground running

6. Post your vacancy where the highest quality potential candidates are most likely to see it and don’t forget your own website and newsletters

7. Weed out any applicants that fail to stick to your application procedures or timescales

8. Make it clear candidates will be expected to give presentations and undergo practical tests during interviews

9. Ask short-listed candidates to demonstrate their knowledge of your business and how best to promote it

10. Use a LinkedIn account to identify and filter active and passive potential candidates and ‘Google’ shortlisted candidates to research online profiles and social networking behaviour

The Job Advertisement

First of all, be clear and precise in your job advertisements. Describe exactly what the role is, what and who you’re looking for and how candidates should apply. Too many ads are vague therefore attracting too few applications because it’s not clear what’s wanted or, even worse, too many because every reader feels suitably qualified. The salary you offer will also set a certain level of expectations so do your homework on what the rate quoted should be. Allow some flexibility by inserting ‘up to’ or ‘circa’.

The initial advertisement need not be large (less than 100 words) but should point prospective candidates to full job descriptions, qualifying criteria and application forms available online at your website. It should cite a cut-off date of around three weeks by when all applications should have been received. Include email contact details, your website address and a telephone number that can be used for those who wish to find out more about the position.

Provide a fuller job description together with details of skills and experience required and an application form, as downloadable word documents and/or editable pdfs on your organisation’s website. Ask candidates to return completed forms either as email attachments or via the mail by a stated date. Include details of any interview tasks, such as a presentation, that may be required of shortlisted candidates. Indicate rejected candidates will not be notified unless they have reached the interview stage.

Make it clear you will only accept applications that use your own supplied application forms. Check that you have complied with DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) requirements. Finally, be just as careful with the written accuracy and design quality of your advertisement as you would any other as it will be widely viewed both locally and within your industry.

Making sure the right people know you’re recruiting

In today’s economic climate you should be able to attract a good pool of candidates for most leisure and tourism positions. Getting applications is the easy bit. You may already have a library of recent speculative applications that you have sensibly kept.

You can also advertise at little or no cost using your own website, via email alerts, your Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and company newsletters. Your local tourist office or business network will usually circulate your vacancies for free. Don’t forget to distribute the details internally, including to any volunteers, supporters and suppliers.

A small one-off display ad in your local newspaper (most run weekly dedicated editions with online versions for job hunters) should normally represent the limit of your financial outlay. Agencies should be avoided unless you’re recruiting for specialised positions or all else has failed.

For some senior roles you may need to cast your net further afield. Experienced and talented senior marketers with sufficient knowledge of your sector who can relocate and hit the ground running will be thin on the ground. You should use your industry networks to pass the word around about your vacancy. You should sound out potential candidates identified by your peers by telephone, checking any LinkedIn entries or social media sites they have.

The best places to run paid advertisements nationally include Guardian Jobs (Marketing & PR jobs run on Mondays and Saturdays), and magazines such as Marketing Week or Leisure Opportunities . These are not cheap so do your homework on which is most appropriate for a specific job and make sure your advertisement is both accurate and compelling.

Short-listing Candidates

Ideally, you’ll receive plenty of applications from candidates who fulfil your criteria. If not, don’t panic. You may still have a great candidate. Only re-advertise once you’ve satisfied yourself there is no-one you would appoint once you have reviewed the applications and/or interviewed shortlisted candidates.

Devise a scoring system that ranks each application. Your application form criteria should have listed those skills and experience you deem ‘mandatory’ and what is ‘desirable’. However, allow room for the odd left-field candidate if an application makes a significant impression on you.

Dismiss applications that do not use your own forms or have a cut-and-paste look and feel about them, where candidates have simply adapted content. Again, dismiss any that contain poor spelling and grammar.

Once you have reviewed and placed applications in ‘short-listed’ (no more than 10), ‘reserve’ (no more than 5) and ‘rejected’ lists pass the unmarked applications to an appropriate colleague (or external expert) for a separate assessment. Compare notes and then agree on your shortlist of up to ten candidates.

Before signing off on your shortlist try running a check on any mentions of potential candidates’ on social media sites. You may discover information not contained in their applications and a more honest reflection of their interests and character.

The Interviews

Plan the interview sessions carefully. Don’t invite all and sundry to make up a selection panel. Two or three relevant people should suffice. It’s often useful to combine an owner/director/manager/director, with the prospective line manager. Seek the assistance of an external industry expert when interviewing for more senior staff as they’ll offer a broader perspective and ability to assess the value of skills and experience gained elsewhere.

You should assume everyone interviewed is qualified to do the job so don’t waste time having them repeat what’s in their CV. Set practical challenges to demonstrate how well they can perform a relevant task.

Ask them to present to you on a relevant subject. Don’t be afraid to set a short written test and always examine a candidate’s competence to work with the principal computer operating systems, image manipulation and design packages, web browsers and search engine optimisation (SEO) tactics.

If they are expected to make substantial improvements to your website and/or manage digital communications it is likely you will need to test their programming skills (using in-house or external examiners) such as in html and/or CSS should suffice.

Current market requirements in leisure and tourism indicate that the ideal candidate for most marketing positions would be highly literate and numerate, have great presentational and sales skills, a good eye for design and the technical skills to do it themselves, as well as build and run websites. Add to this your standard requirements that they have an exemplary track record, excellent references, are committed and passionate about the job and would fit in well.

Some candidates will excel at traditional interviews – particularly those having had plenty of practice! Don’t be afraid to place them in real situations to test their skills interacting with customers or making decisions under pressure. Getting your recruitment right is the bedrock of effective staff training.

Conclude the interview by telling the candidate when they should expect a decision and by what means. Check they will be available by telephone at that time.

The Offer

If there is little difference between your first and second candidates do not reject the latter until you have received a verbal acceptance from the former.

You should contact your chosen candidate as soon as possible, preferably the same day. Good candidates may well be waiting for other offers so it is important to reach a verbal agreement sooner rather than later. Make sure you send a written contract with a request it is signed and returned upon receipt.

Finally, ensure that your new employee is required under the terms of their contract to provide at least one month’s (2-3 months for senior marketing staff) notice.