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Created on 27.02.2019

These guidelines provide a systematic approach for your recruitment

Are you an SME which has advertised a job and is looking for a systematic approach to recruitment? These guidelines produced by Christoph Vogel at the FHNW School of Business will help you in your search.

Christoph Vogel von der Hochschule für Wirtschaft FHNW gibt Tipps für die Personalsuche im Kleinunternehmen.

Draw up a profile of the tasks and requirements

Draw up a job profile where you as the managing director – if possible together with the current job holder, a team colleague or the direct line manager – consider which tasks have to be performed as part of the position being advertised.

Example of tasks

Tasks for a position selling watches and jewellery in a jewellery store:

  • Providing advice on and the sale of watches and jewellery
  • Receipt of goods, warehousing and helping with inventories
  • Dealing with complaints and returns
  • Keeping the branch and outside area tidy and well presented
  • Managing the point of sale terminal

Elaborate the requirements profile by listing the job requirements that are key to performance of the job. Adopt a structured approach by taking account of technical, social and management skills. Only include the really important requirements in the requirements profile and leave out those which can be easily learned. Otherwise you will restrict the group of potential candidates unnecessarily.

Example of requirements

Requirements for a position selling watches and jewellery in a jewellery store:

  • Sales training
  • Retail sales experience
  • Knowledge of watch and jewellery products
  • A quick learner
  • A professional and friendly manner in dealing with customers
  • A team player
  • Ability to deal with conflict
  • Works well in a team
  • Good command of English (advanced certificate)

Tip: Prepare job-related questions to the requirements listed at this point for the job interview and decide on small tasks for demonstrating work through which you can check the requirements listed based on real scenarios as far as possible. Practically relevant questions on the requirements will allow very good candidates to stand out much better from other applicants at a later stage.

Determine the target group and highlight the strengths that you can offer to it as an employer.

Based on the tasks and requirements profile, decide which target groups you wish to appeal to in order to recruit new employees. Is the 25 to 35-year-old person working full time envisaged at the outset really the ideal appointment – or would an experienced candidate working part-time be better? Broaden your scope and include, for example, those changing careers and candidates returning to the profession or various age groups. They may offer potential not evident at first glance. Then consider the strengths offered by your SME as an employer which could be used to persuade your target group.

Examples of typical employer strengths of SMEs:

Organization

  • Flat hierarchies
  • Short decision-making paths
  • Less formal
  • Good coordination
  • Straightforward cooperation

Tasks

  • Wide range of tasks
  • Greater degree of freedom
  • More diverse tasks
  • Tasks which can be carried out from start to finish
  • High degree of responsibility
  • Proximity to the product
  • Close to operational activities
  • Customer contact

Professional sense of purpose in the company

  • Inclusion in company decision-making
  • Opportunities for participation
  • Great appreciation of staff contributions

Social aspects

  • Close, informal contact with the company management
  • Relaxed atmosphere in the team
  • Mutual respect (company management – employees)
  • Smooth cooperation

Other advantages

Healthy work-life balance

If you are looking for a mechanic, for example, the emphasis may be placed, on considerations such as the range of tasks, the equipment available and the team spirit. With a vacancy for a carer for the elderly, it may be social factors and the benefits of the work to society that are worth underlining. When compiling your list of employer strengths, ensure they are authentic and credible. Otherwise you run the risk of demotivating, annoying or even losing future (but also existing) employees due to false promises. Specifically try to identify strengths that your major competitors cannot offer, but which your small company can (for example, customer proximity, involvement in company decision-making etc.).

Tip: Also try to determine hidden employer strengths by asking existing employees the following questions, for example, at workshops:

  • Why did you decide to join our SME?
  • What’s special about the job in your view?
  • Why did you decide to stay with us?
  • What was your personal highlight as far as work is concerned?

Draft the job advert

Base the job advertisement on the tasks and requirements profile. Here too it’s important to distinguish between tasks and requirements. Job adverts must be authentic and present the applicant with a realistic picture of the job, but can be bold in terms of textual content and layout. Try not to see job adverts as an arduous chore, but instead as an opportunity to present your company on the employment market. Avoid empty clichés and vague statements. A job advertisement generally consists of the following elements:

  • Company profile: what sets your SME apart?
  • Job description: for which position are you looking to recruit a new employee (including place of work and level of employment etc.)?
  • Requirements profile: who are you looking for and what do you expect from an applicant?
  • Benefits provided by your company: what can you offer applicants (including communication of employer strengths in line with the target group)?
  • Application process: how can candidates apply (including application deadline and contact partner)?

Tip: Make it as easy as possible for candidates to apply. Avoid too many stipulations regarding the submission of documents and give candidates the opportunity to ask questions directly and personally. This will also allow you to make a good impression – in comparison to larger companies – when recruiting. 

Define your search strategy

Define the channels in which you wish to place the job advert. Distribute your job advert as widely as possible.

Possible channels include:

  • Job websites such as jobs.ch
  • Industry associations
  • Vocational schools
  • Regional and national newspapers
  • Industry magazines
  • Social media channels, such as Xing, LinkedIn, if suitable for the target group possibly also Facebook or Instagram
  • Your own employees
  • Customers
  • Personal network

Tip 1: Involve your employees in the search and ask them to alert their personal professional network. Your employees are the most persuasive ambassadors your company has.

Tip 2: If you post your job on social media, you will also appeal to people who may not currently be looking for a new job but would change if a suitable position arose. Passive job-seekers, who while happy in their current position would be keen to seek new challenges, may prove extremely good professionals.

Stay in touch with applicants.

Ensure you maintain communication with applicants after the job advert has been published. Decide on a candidate within two or three weeks, if possible, and communicate your decisions promptly. Also stay in contact with the people you identified as strong candidates but who did not get the job. You may have another vacancy to fill in a few months’ time and can then use this contact. It’s really important that your SME makes a positive impression on all applicants. Bad experiences, even if it’s just one applicant, can tarnish a small company’s image.

It’s a good idea to keep recruitment going as a continual process instead of something you only focus on when a vacancy arises. Use employer evaluation sites, such as kununu.com/ch, and ask your employees to submit their ratings there (for example, at appraisal meetings). Also communicate your employer strengths regularly via communications channels, such as websites and social media, using simple, engaging stories and anecdotes from your company (storytelling). Also feature employees who present themselves and their roles in brief profiles (video or text). This will provide anyone interested with a good insight into your company.

About Christoph Vogel

Christoph Vogel is a Research Associate at the The link will open in a new window Institute for Human Resource Management   in the School of Business at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) and co-author of the practical guide The link will open in a new window “Integriertes Personalmanagement in kleinen Unternehmen” (integrated HR management at SMEs), published by Springer Verlag in 2018. After training as a design engineer, Vogel studied psychology at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), majoring in occupational and organizational psychology, human resource psychology and human factors. In addition to his research activities, he also lectures on the new professional development course The link will open in a new window CAS Integrated HR Management for SMEs being run at the FHNW School of Business from March 2019.

Christoph Vogel, wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Institut für Personalmanagement und Organisation (PMO) an der Hochschule für Wirtschaft FHNW im Porträt
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