Last reviewed 2 April 2015

Recruiting staff is something that every provider needs to do from time to time. It is often time-consuming and expensive, and it is therefore essential to find the right person for the vacancy. Val Moore outlines how to be sure your provision attracts the best candidates when advertising a vacancy.

In many areas the job market is highly competitive, with increasing numbers of applicants for each vacancy. Job advertisements need to attract the people the provider would like to consider, while discouraging those who are not suitable. Even in areas where there may be a lower number of applicants there is no point in attracting “just anyone”.

Providers can recruit through various agencies, but these agencies will also need to be given direction in order to assist the provider in finding the person with the requisite abilities and experience.

Where to start?

Before preparing the advertisement, providers need to consider what they actually want and clearly define what the role is. It is difficult to work out who is needed until there is a solid idea of the role the future employee will be required to take up.

Set out the purpose of the role and the main duties within a job description. The provision may already have a previously used job description, but do not just arbitrarily use the same one; times and requirements change, as does the make-up of the staff of a provision.

The objective is to attract the most capable people for interview, who will fit best with the role advertised. Some of these candidates may be in high demand, so try to portray the role in as interesting a way as possible. Appeal to those who are looking for a challenge and career progression, and seek to show the provision is not “run of the mill” and indistinguishable from other providers.

Once the role has been established, the employer will need to consider what skills, abilities and experiences an individual needs in order to fulfil the role. This information is then used to draw up a person specification. This should reflect what is actually needed within the role and should not overstate what will be required of the new member of staff. Be sure that it does not discourage suitable candidates because they do not meet an unnecessary requirement. Consider what constitutes necessities, such as an NVQ3 in childcare, against experiences or qualifications that can be thoughts of as “nice to have”, like an NVQ2 in computer skills. Bear in mind the Equality Act and do not be discriminatory; be sure there is not a requirement that by its nature would disadvantage older or younger people — such as specifying that a candidate must have five years of managerial experience — without justification.

The advert

Many organisations tailor their advertisement (often unintentionally) so that it appeals only to certain types of personality. Others believe that extroverts make the best employees, but this may be a mistake as teams often function best when there is a balance of personalities. Where roles directly interface with children, their needs demand consideration — set out the skills and abilities required rather than personality traits. Thus, the advert should focus on the requirements of the job, not on the personality of those applying.

Make the advert eye-catching, focusing on a fun aspect of the role if possible. Describe what the role is intended to do and invite anyone interested to contact the provider for further details. Ideally, have a named contact who can ensure that the same information is given to all applicants who can also gain a first impression of the applicants.

It is normally best to use an application form so that every application is addressed in the same format. This can be sent to the applicant with a copy of the job description and the person specification.

Using an application form requires applicants to think about how they meet the criteria and gives a “level playing field” rather than relying on the provider interpreting applicants’ suitability from their CVs. It will also make shortlisting a lot simpler, and allows the employer to set out any absolute requirements, such as an agreement to a DBS check or to disclose any convictions. Include a requirement for a signed statement of truth where candidates acknowledge that their employment can be terminated if they have provided false information.

Based on the application form, the provider will then invite the most suitable candidates for interview. It is worth taking time when going over this process as childcare requires people skills as well as professional skills. Those who would appear to be suitable candidates during an interview should be asked to spend some time in the provision to allow an opportunity to fully assess their skills, personality and generally how well they would fit into the day-to-day working environment of the provision. It is not unknown that the perfect person on paper and in an interview can be eclipsed by another in the actual working environment.

Consider each candidate under the seven Cs:

  1. Competent:

    • having the necessary skills, experience and education

  2. Capable:

    • able to cope with and in a variety of situations, not just the immediate job. Having the potential for personal growth and the ability and willingness to take on more responsibility

  3. Compatible:

    • willing and able to get along with colleagues, children and parents (and management)

  4. Commitment:

    • serious about working for the provision for the longer term. While a history of past employment gives an insight, someone who has had a variety of jobs or a short time in a position may be seeking the ideal placement. Do not automatically dismiss them; delve deeper by questioning

  5. Character:

    • having the values of the employer and the provision. Honest, truthful and a team player

  6. Culture:

    • understands and accepts the values, expectations, policies and procedures of the provision

  7. Compensation:

    • accepts and is happy with the remuneration package.

Like all relationships, this is a two-way affair. Prospective employees will also be seeking an employer that has all the right attributes too; be open and honest and, as you would expect of the candidate, attempt to give the best interview you can.

There is more practical information available in the Recruitment and Selection Procedures topic.

As Anne M. Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox, says: “employees are a company’s greatest asset — they’re your competitive advantage. You want to attract and retain the best; provide them with encouragement, stimulus and make them feel that they are an integral part of the company’s mission.”