An introduction to improving hiring and onboarding practices

Businesses need strong hiring and onboarding practices to attract and retain talent that’s moving around more than ever.

The current challenges faced by business leaders are indicative of how much employee expectations and ambitions have changed.

The era of lifetime employment is over – 21 per cent of millennials changed jobs in the past year, more than three times the number of non-millennials.

There are also higher expectations for onboarding too. Research found that 91 per cent would consider leaving a job within their first month and 93 per cent during their probation period.

Few businesses can afford to make mistakes when it comes to hiring, whether it’s recruiting the wrong person or failing to spend enough time integrating them into the company.

It’s essential to think about how – and where – you’re finding candidates and what their first experiences of your business are like.

In this guide, we’ll look at how hiring and onboarding has changed, common mistakes companies make and quick wins that can improve your practices. The next step will be to use our dedicated action plan to direct your change and improvement.

Which factors affect your hiring and onboarding practices?

Hiring and onboarding practices are constantly evolving, as are candidates’ expectations of the processes. Here are some of the most important factors to consider.

The range of places you post a role

Historically, there were one or two job boards. That isn’t the case anymore.

There are general job boards like Indeed or Monster and a plethora of sector specific boards like Stack Overflow Careers for tech roles and Behance for design that have sprung up around communities. LinkedIn is rapidly growing in popularity too, especially for salespeople.

Some companies prefer to recruit from existing networks and will post exclusively from websites or social media accounts.

Choosing where to post a role doesn’t just affect how many applications you receive – it can be decisive in finding the right candidate. You need to understand where your ideal candidate is likely to be.

Volume-based recruiting

Volume-based recruiting attempts to attract as many candidates as possible to a single job posting. This includes “passive candidates” who aren’t actively seeking a new role.

The reasoning for targeting passive candidates is sound. It gives companies the chance to lure talent from competitors or bring niche skills into the business. For example, if there are only a handful of specialist developers in your area, passive recruiting may be your only option.

The problem is, sorting through hundreds of candidates is time-consuming and it’s hard to review each application effectively. Companies facing this challenge need an objective evaluation tool or method to identify the best candidate.

A competitive job market

Competition is tight for top-tier talent. What’s more, the most competitive roles are usually in critical business functions: IT, research and development, marketing, sales and customer service.

This affects each stage of your hiring and onboarding process for a simple reason – talented candidates know that there is always another option.

Hiring for attitude over skill

It’s not just how you hire that’s changed over the last decade, but why you hire. Companies are no longer exclusively looking at experience and skill set when they sift through CVs.

For some companies, a candidate’s personality has become more important than the skills they can offer. Skills can be taught but a poor attitude is hard to shift.

Bruce Gray values attitude over technical skills when hiring for brewery Left Handed Giant

“I’ve been hiring for 20 years and I would always choose attitude and personality over technical skills. If the people behind our bars aren’t passionate and engaged then the whole thing falls flat on its face.”

Bruce Gray, managing director of Left Handed Giant

The cold hard facts

According to LinkedIn research, the top channels people use to look for new jobs are online job boards (60 per cent), social professional networks (56 per cent) and word of mouth (50 per cent).

Common mistakes that are affecting your hiring and onboarding

Candidates have a poor recruitment experience

One of the biggest problems created by volume-based recruiting is that candidates inevitably end up having a poor experience.

It’s difficult to keep everyone updated on their application when you’re dealing with dozens of candidates or you’re recruiting for a number of roles at once. As a result, job seekers can spend weeks waiting for an update that might never come.

It’s a bad look for your business and can deter good candidates from applying in future.

The scope of your job advert is too broad

This is a common mistake, particularly for smaller companies where there’s lots of crossover between roles.

There’s a tendency to pack too much into job adverts because you’d like those skills at your disposal – not because they’re relevant to the role. Adverts like this attract an almost impossibly broad pool of candidates and detract from the real skills you need.

You aren’t tracking your hiring process

Recruitment is expensive and time-consuming, yet few businesses track the success of their hires. Looking at the time the process took and where you found your chosen candidate can help you build a better and more efficient process.

Add structure to your hiring and onboarding processes

Five easy steps to follow

There’s no formal onboarding process in place

The onboarding process is vital to settling employees into the business. Taking an ad-hoc approach presents a number of problems.

First, it’s easy to forget important information or abandon the process entirely if you aren’t following a set structure. Say a project kicks off which pulls your attention elsewhere – suddenly your employee’s left to muddle their way through a new role alone.

Second, it’s hard to measure the success of your onboarding process if it’s slightly different every time. A structure helps to pinpoint areas you can improve.

Finally, a vague or disorganised onboarding process might give your employee second thoughts about the role. Research found that 36 per cent of new employees would leave a new job if there was a lack of proper onboarding.

Derry Holt improved the company's onboarding process by making it more structured

“Our onboarding was quite ad-hoc and people weren’t performing. They needed more direction and a framework. Now we assign checklists to line managers to make sure they do things like circulate a first-day agenda and book in a culture presentation.”

Derry Holt, CEO of OneUp Sales

The cold hard facts

A Reed poll of over 4,000 people found that 38 per cent of candidates would share a poor experience with friends and family, while 33 per cent of candidates would be less likely to use a brand’s product or service in the future.

Nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of respondents said a bad recruitment experience would damage their relationship with the company’s brand.

Quick wins for improving your hiring and onboarding practices

Spend an extra hour on your job ads

Next time you’re posting a job ad, get specific about what the job entails and the skills it requires. Don’t be tempted to recycle the advert you posted last time the position was available – think about what someone should expect from the current role.

Spending more time on your ad will help you attract better qualified candidates, so you won’t have to sift through dozens of irrelevant applications. It will also make your onboarding process smoother, since your new employee will have a clearer idea of what to expect.

Encourage employee referrals when hiring

A lot of companies have a structured employee referral programme, where existing employees can recommend candidates from their networks.

Since your staff already understand the company’s culture and values, they should be well placed to recommend people. This can reduce the time and cost per hire, and improve the quality of applications.

It’s up to you how structured you want to make your referral programme. One option is to test it out by reminding staff to share job ads on LinkedIn. Then, if that works well, incentivise more referrals by formalising the programme. Most businesses offer a cash bonus if a referral is hired and stays in a position for several months.

Establish a buddy system for onboarding

An onboarding buddy system is a great way to ensure your new employee has a positive experience in their first few weeks.

While regular one-to-ones with managers can provide direction and support, new employees often face dozens of small, niggly problems in the first few weeks. Maybe they need to know log-in details for an account or aren’t sure how to set up their email signature.

A lot of new employees get anxious that they’re asking too many questions or feel embarrassed about needing help with relatively simple tasks. Setting them up with a buddy provides another point of contact who can answer questions and shed light on company procedures and culture.

Recording training sessions has reduced the amount of time Rachael Corson has to spend onboarding staff

“Onboarding is really important. Their first week new employees get a handbook and core training on subjects like GDPR, hair science and product. It takes a huge amount of time the first time around, but we’ve used Loom to record the sessions. Now it’s a few hours out of my day.”

Rachael Corson, managing director of Afrocenchix

The cold hard facts

Employee referral programmes often result in better hiring outcomes, as research shows.

Referred candidates are more likely to accept a job offer, stay at your company longer and perform at a higher standard. As a result, your business can reap the benefits of increased productivity and less time spent on recruitment.

Take the next steps to improve your hiring and onboarding

Visit and download our action plan