Why are you recruiting in the first place?

Perhaps a member of your staff has resigned. Or maybe your organisation is growing at such a rate that you need to take on more people. Whatever your need to recruit, it is essential that you look at all the alternatives before you start. With careful planning, you may find that you don’t need to recruit after all.

Do you need to recruit?

If you are planning to recruit a team member to a new role in your organisation then you have probably given the matter considerable thought already. You should know the answers to following questions:

  • Why is the new position necessary?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities of the new position?
  • Who will the position report to?
  • How senior is the position?
  • What skills and experience would be required to perform the role?
  • Could the role be covered by any other position within the organisation?

If, however, you are recruiting because an existing member of staff has retired or resigned, you should think carefully about whether you need to replace them or not. Consider the following questions:

  • Why has the existing jobholder resigned?
  • How has the role developed over time?
  • Will the role continue to exist for the foreseeable future?
  • Could any other jobholder handle the additional responsibility of part/all of the role?
  • How important is the role? Is the role central to the organisation?
  • How does the role contribute to the overall objectives of the department, and ultimately of the organisation?

The answers to some of these questions should confirm whether or not you actually need to recruit. Many people in business consider that a resignation is a good opportunity to look again at their staffing requirements. Here are two practical examples:

Case 1

A direct marketing agency employed a part-time PA for one of the company directors. They also employed someone part-time in their sales team, whose role was to turn the salespeople’s notes into well presented proposals. The part-time PA resigned because she was getting married and moving to London. The agency recruited a replacement PA, also on a part-time basis. In fact, the part-time sales team member was looking for a full-time position. He would have been interested in a full-role that encompassed both generating the proposals and working as a PA. If the agency had regarded their PA’s resignation as an opportunity, they may have thought of this possibility themselves. Instead, the part-time sales team member also resigned shortly afterwards to move to a full-time position elsewhere.

Case 2

A high street retailer of maps and travel books employed someone on the shop floor who was soon due for retirement. Before he left, the managers got together to consider his replacement. After a lengthy discussion, the managers concluded that the demand for paper maps was such that a full-time retail staff member could no longer be justified. However, the demand for digital maps was soaring, and staff in that department were fully stretched. So it was agreed that John’s retirement was a good opportunity to strengthen the digital maps department, and reduce the paper maps department by one.

These two examples show how important it is to use a resignation or retirement as an opportunity to look carefully at your current staffing needs. Perhaps you do not need to recruit after all?

What are the alternatives?

Vacancies tend to arise for two reasons. Either your organisation has grown or developed, or one of your existing staff is leaving. In either case, it is worth considering the alternatives before starting the recruitment process:


Can the functions and responsibilities of the role be redefined? Or reassigned? In either case, you may not have to recruit a new staff member. Perhaps you have someone working for you who is always asking for more responsibility? If so, could they handle some or all of the responsibility of the outgoing jobholder’s role in addition to their own? Perhaps the role need not be performed by someone so senior? Maybe the role needs someone more senior still? A reorganisation of the team or role can often mean that you will either not have to recruit after all, or that you need to recruit someone with different skills and experience to the outgoing jobholder.


Could the role be outsourced, either to freelance staff or to a third party organisation? A vacancy provides a good opportunity to consider this option. If the role is not central to the business, the argument for outsourcing can be compelling.


Can the role be automated, either now or in the foreseeable future? If so, there is a strong case for assessing the viability of automation, rather than employing a new staff member to the role.

Type of role

If the role is currently performed by someone full-time, could the role be performed part-time? Would this allow greater flexibility for the role? Would this saving then allow you to strengthen a different part of the team or department?

Assessing the alternatives to recruitment is vital, and is a step that should be taken every time a vacancy arises.

Predicting the need to recruit

If a member of your staff leaves unexpectedly, then of course you will argue that you could not have predicted it. After all, they seemed happy in their job, and the reasons they gave for leaving could not be influenced. In many cases, this is so. However, organisations are increasingly looking at their staffing needs way into the future, and summarising these as part of a constantly developing business plan. This prediction of staffing requirements is often referred to as ‘workforce planning’. The principle of workforce planning is as follows:

Step 1: Estimating workforce requirements The business plan states the organisation’s objectives for the coming period (usually one year). It also lays down specific targets in terms of sales and costs. Your role is to estimate both the number of staff, and the skills that you require in order to meet the targets laid out in the business plan.

  • Will more or fewer staff be required in each department/team?
  • Do you have any specific skills shortages?
  • Will changes to working patterns be required?
  • Will any services need to be centralised or outsourced?

Step 2: Audit your current staff  You have established what you need from your workforce to deliver the objectives and targets in the business plan. Now you need to audit what you already have. Where in your organisation do you have staff wastage? Where are you most understaffed? What skills do your staff already possess? Where are you short?

Step 3: Summarise the skills and staff gap If you know what skills and staff you need, as well as what you have already got, you should be able to summarise the shortfall (as well as when specifically the shortfall is likely to occur). From this you can develop a plan that defines:

  • Specific staffing requirements for the coming year
  • The likely periods during the year when recruitment will be necessary

Workforce planning does not mean that a vacancy that you hadn’t anticipated will never occur. However, it should prevent the pressure that builds up in growing organisations when staff are required that have not been budgeted for. A well considered workforce plan will have a positive impact on all your staff, and should enable you to predict the need to recruit new people throughout the year.

Recognising the costs

Recruitment is expensive. Just consider some of the costs involved in terms of time and money:

  • Advertising costs
  • Agency costs
  • Developing an application form
  • Shortlisting applicants
  • Interviewing time by you
  • Interviewing time by your colleagues
  • Second interviews
  • Selection
  • Training and development

It is easy to see why the planning stage of recruitment is actually the most important stage of all. Recruiting a member of staff who was not necessary, or appointing the wrong person, can cost you dearly. So spend as much time as you can spare considering:

  • Whether you need to recruit
  • What specific role needs to be filled
  • What sort of person you are looking for

We will look at each of these issues in the coming briefings.

Why are you recruiting: Checklist

  • Why has your vacancy arisen?
  • Do you need to recruit?
  • What are the alternatives?
  • Does the job need to be full-time?
  • Could someone else perform part/all of the role?
  • Could you have predicted this vacancy?
  • Do you have an overall workforce plan?
  • Have you estimated the costs of recruiting?
  • Do you still need to recruit?