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Most employers fully appreciate that the success of an organisation can hinge on its staff. But, finding the right number of employees with the necessary abilities and attitudes - and then keeping them - requires skills and knowledge which can sometimes be undervalued, overlooked or simply rushed.

To find out more about how to recruit the best candidate to fill a vacancy and settle them in so they become effective quickly, download pdf icon Recruiting staff guide [326kb] and pdf icon Starting staff: induction guide [356kb].

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Key points

An employer needs to:

  • Carefully work out the number of new staff and the skills it wants, including how vacant roles might have to change.
  • Advertise vacancies, and any new roles, without discriminating.
  • Select candidates for interview etc - and the successful applicant/s - without discriminating.
  • As soon as the successful applicant accepts the job offer, start to organise a carefully-planned programme to settle them into the role and organisation, so they become effective as soon as possible... and want to stay.

Did you know we have a wide range of free, downloadable tools and templates to help you with recruitment, including job descriptions, a person specification, application and equality and diversity forms, and letters and checklists. See our Hiring staff templates. 

Preparation and organisation

Securing the best person for the job entails an employer setting up a well-structured process to:

  • accurately assess its staffing needs
  • attract applicants
  • efficiently handle applications
  • select candidates for interview or other kinds of assessment
  • pinpoint the best candidate
  • offer the job, tie up final details and deal with any queries.

Recruitment 5 steps Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser windowGet off to a good start

It is vital an employer prepares for how a new recruit will be welcomed and settled into their role and the organisation. Failure to do this well can create a poor impression and undo much of the work which attracted the successful candidate to the job.


Many employment contracts include a probationary period of employment at the start, usually for three or six months. This is so the employer can see whether the new recruit is up to the job in practice, and so the new employee can decide to leave if they are unhappy in the role or with the organisation. Notice required by either side during this period can be very short - sometimes only a week.

However, it should be remembered that some of a new recruit's employment rights start from their first day, including the right not to be wrongfully dismissed.

A job offer letter should say whether any probationary period will have to be completed satisfactorily. The employee's Written Statement of Terms and Conditions of Employment must include the length and conditions of any probationary period.

At the end of the period, it is decision time. Is the new recruit going to stay or leave? If the employer is still unsure whether the employee is suitable for the job, it could extend the probationary period if the employment contract permits and/or the employee agrees.

Don't discriminate

Organisations should be aware they have a responsibility to ensure that no unlawful discrimination occurs at any stage in the recruitment process on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, maternity, pregnancy, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

Regularly assess recruitment techniques

An employer should look back at the entire process so it is clear about what works well and where improvements are needed. For example, were there any problems in getting the successful candidate to accept the job offer?

Social media

The growing use of internet-based tools to help people interact is having considerable influence in changing how some employers recruit staff. To find out more, see the Acas website page Social media - recruitment and performance management.

Small firms

If the employer is the only manager, or one of only a few, some aspects of the recruitment process might have to be handled a little differently. For example, the sifting of job applications should be done by two or more people to avoid unintended or unconscious bias. But, of course, the owner who is also the sole manager might have to do it alone. To find out more, go to the Help for small firms guides on Recruiting an employee and Settling in a new employee.


There are two types - a professional reference, usually from the candidate's current employer, or a previous employer or manager; and a character (or personal) reference which typically comes from an independent person, often in a respected position, who knows the candidate well. There is usually no legal requirement for an employer to provide a reference, but there are important considerations for employers who do not intend to give references. To find out more, see the pdf icon Recruiting staff guide [326kb]. References must be accurate and fair.

Invest in induction - first day induction timeline Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser windowWhen I started work - real life stories

Employer Mike Gooddie is Vice President, Labour Relations and Human Resources Business Partner for Asda Logistic Services, AsdaWalmart:

"I remember a recruitment process that seemed to imply a career of: excitement, responsibility and position, and an inevitable reality, that initially at least, seemed to have more to do with filing. Whatever chance and charity had motivated the recruiters to offer me a position, the first few days brought home to me how little of practical value I knew about the world of work.

"The slight 'first day at school feeling' was mitigated by some very nice and supportive people in the team. In particular, I grew to appreciate Steve to be a first rate line manager who I am still in touch with. If I learnt anything in the early days, it was from Steve, who had endless patience, wisdom and experience, and somehow he seemed to set me on the right path.

"Starting work is a mixture of excitement and anxiety. A good induction helps, but people and leaders matter more if you are to make a good start."

Neil Carberry, Director for Employment and Skills at the Confederation of British Industry, the employers' representative body:

"On my first day, I wish I had appreciated the importance of interacting with colleagues and the visibility of your work. In the business where I started out, we each had our own little offices and I was happily beavering away - but so quietly that some colleagues were still wondering whether I had started!

"This just emphasises the fact that good induction needs to cover what is expected of staff in their job, but also help staff build an understanding of workplace culture and how things happen in the company. Hopefully, the new Acas guides will help employers when they are thinking about good practice on induction."

Anne Sharp, Chief Executive, Acas:

"Over 30 years ago, on arrival at the Health and Safety Executive, my boss suggested that I spend my first morning reading a report on the guarding of press brakes (I didn't even know what a press brake was). Life got better when a colleague put his head round my door and asked if I wanted to go with him on a factory visit - I remember it to this day. A long and happy career with HSE followed."

Acas training - did you know?

Acas run practical training courses to equip managers, supervisors and HR professionals with the necessary skills to deal with employment relations issues and to create more productive workplace environments.

View related Acas training and course dates in your area for:

Recruitment systems and processes - Acas business solutions

We can visit your organisation to help you understand what improvements can be made to your recruitment policies and we can help you avoid the pitfalls of poor practice. For example we can review your recruitment process and help develop management skills within your organisation for interviewing and selecting the right candidate for the job. We can also review your contracts of employment and perform equality audits.

Find out more from Recruitment and Retention: how Acas can help or alternatively let us know how we can help by completing our Customer contact form.

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