Recruiting Guide.

Over the course of my professional career, I have been involved in recruiting thousands of people across ten countries and three continents. I have seen recruiting operations of various scales and been involved evolved at various points in the process.

I’ve decided to share some of my insights from these experiences and the rest of my twenty years in leadership roles in order that at least one person out there gets off on a better footing than they might otherwise.

This guide is aimed at anyone who is managing, recruiting, and hiring people. You could be the leader of a team within a larger organization, you might be a business owner/operator, or you might in fact be an aspiring HR/Personnel professional.

The insights and examples contained here are what I have found to work across multiple sectors and when hiring people at a variety of levels of seniority.

I personally gravitate towards the term Personnel rather than Human Resources. I know this nomenclature was phased out in the 90s. However, I am very keen to ensure that people are orientated around the person, and not just seeing humans as a resource to be used. So I’m bringing it back.

Getting recruitment right can save a lot of time and heartache. As much as anything the recruiting process is time for setting expectations and communicating the company (or team) mission. There is a deck you can download this page that provides a more streamlined version of this content.

This article (and the deck mentioned above), covers the following:

    • How to describe and define roles
    • Writing job descriptions that drive results
    • Some guidance on interviews
    • Why consistency is critical to being a great interviewer.

Finally, we get into what kind of activity constitutes a meaningful onboarding process. This is where recruiting turns into development. 

"When defining roles , you really need to start with the core goals of the business."

defining roles.

When defining roles, you really need to start with the core goals of the business. 

What are the key organizational objectives (whether this is revenue goals, profitability targets, customer acquisition targets), and the key strategic levers within the company? The way you position to the market. It could be product development goals, it could be the whole gamut of integrated marketing communications that you have planned for the year. They could be in fact recruiting goals themselves.

From understanding what needs to happen throughout the year in order to achieve those goals, you can work backwards to what role this candidate would play in getting those things done (and done well). 

From here you can start to structure what their average week or month might look like. 

I genuinely encourage you to sketch this out on paper or screen and work out what the necessary activities and milestones are throughout every week or month. 

For Main Street Arts Club we put together a rotating schedule of key activities and responsibilities that repeats every three months. It is in line with the key goals of the organization (revenue goals, events goals, client goals). 

It’s also important to consider when and how the role intersects with other parts of the business. There will typically be various stages to a process that goes right the way across the business. The person in the role you are hiring for owns one or more stages of it. 

These points of intersection necessitate certain activities to be done at particular points in the calendar and not at other times. For example, if a graphic designer needs to produce twenty infographics a month and then these need to be handed over to the social media team that in order to be organized and signed off on by senior management by the end of the … you get it.

There’s this kind of daisy-chaining of tasks and sign-offs that needs to be taken into account. 

You should be able to get down to at least the of level of the half day in terms of what a typical month is gonna look like for any role. 

In this way it becomes less abstract and the role starts to become a definable accumulation of actions and habits. These actions and habits need to be included in the job description, and the interview guide that you are going to write. 


A lot of people go about structuring their JDs from the standpoint of the organization. What does the organization want or need from this person? What are the qualifications they have to have? Or people dive straight into responsibilities. 

Don’t do this. You’re not really putting your best foot forward by structuring your job descriptions this way. 


Quickly dispense with the essential information such as the name of the role, the company name, the sector, and perhaps a one sentence description of what the company does (if it’s not a it’s not a well known business or business model).

Then you want to get into selling the role and the company.

Otherwise why should they bother reading the rest of the job description? 

Often, in order to sell the company, you’re talking about the overarching mission of the company. It could be an exciting stage in particular for this company. It could be a role with lots of scope for progression. It could be a role that has lots of scope to be defined by the incoming candidate. It could be a role in a particular location, whatever there is to sell the company and the work that they will be doing. 

I think it’s important then to get into core values in any JD. Explain the core company values that everyone should be striving for. 

Now, if you are a business owner or founder, and you have not created this list of core values for your organization then you need to do this right now, it’s absolutely fundamental. 

You may well be part of a larger organization that does not have this kind of overarching values component, or at least not one that is palpable within company culture. 

This is something you can do in parallel. If you run a team within a larger organization. You can still set up values for the team, however you will have to work harder in order to really imprint them upon people if they’re not being echoed in the official company literature. 

Next up, core competencies. This is something again that you might not necessarily be equipped with by your company. 

If this is because you are a small company who is slowly finding their feet, building themselves up doing only what is mission critical and this is why you do not have this structure around recruiting and performance development, that is fair enough. You can start now. I hope that this helps you put something together that works for your business. 

However, if you are part of a large organization with multiple levels of seniority and your HR department has not furnished you with a structured, usable guide to defining and managing performance, then you don’t have a great HR team. If you’re in a large organisation, HR owes you this. 

This feeds into performance development at every level of seniority. It is essential that businesses are able to identify the core competencies that underpin the behaviours and performance that you’re actually seeing day to day.

In the context of the job description, you want to list out the core competencies with a concrete real-world example of what demonstrating each competency looks like. 

For example, ‘communicating issues with a timeline at a sufficiently early stage’ or ‘addressing diversity misconduct in the moment’, make it real, show them what doing these things right looks like in real life. 

Now it’s time to get into the deliverables, and go into detail. 

You should have a really good idea of what the deliverables are by this stage. Otherwise you have to ask yourself, should you be hiring this person? If you’re not absolutely dialed in to exactly what role they need to play and what value they need to bring to the business, why do you need them? 

As much as anything, setting expectations for performance starts now. If they’re the successful candidate, then they’re taking cues from everything you do, starting from the moment they meet you. 

If a candidate is still reading at this point, you’re certainly not going to put them off. They’re in it to win it. So have at it.

In terms of requirements and qualifications, only put what you know that you can absolutely put your hand on your heart and say categorically that they are absolutely non-negotiable. 

With this rapidly evolving job market, and with roles coming into existence on an almost daily basis, it can be very hard to know what the absolutely fundamental conditions are for success. 

I think that there is a certain amount of interpreting the tea leaves that you need to assume has to happen when you are looking at candidates’ past experience or qualifications.

"With this rapidly evolving job market , and with roles coming into existence on an almost daily basis, it can be very hard to know what the absolutely fundamental conditions are for success. "


Running interviews is not for the faint hearted. There can be a hell of a lot riding on the successful placement of a new team member at any level of seniority. 

I personally like to initiate conversations about a non-work subject and try to get a handle on where they might lead the conversation if left open. This should also help them feel at ease.

It is essential to have some form of culture question or questions. One very easy and highly recommended approach is to ask the interviewee to paraphrase one of the company values. I often ask people to pick their favourite value, or one that they particularly like, and then paraphrase it and explain why it’s important, and what impact it should have on the business. 

Now, assuming that your company values aren’t so complex and esoteric that they can’t be easily understood, this is something that any decent candidate should have a good chance of doing successfully. 

You also want to ask competency questions. Simply ask them to give examples from their own experience that demonstrate one of the one of the core competencies that you have decided are essential for your organization. 

Almost every role I think will need a skill question or two. A technical question to double check that they have the requisite level of technical know-how. 

And then probing questions. Always be ready to dig a little deeper.

You won’t necessarily get the kinds of answers you want the first time then answer. 

For example, if the question is ‘tell me tell me tell me about a time when you demonstrated creativity in a workplace’. Maybe they tell you that they came up with a new method for filing application forms at their previous business. 

What they might not volunteer is how that change was managed. What the intended end result was vs. what the actual end result was. So use probing questions to really drill down, and for your sake make sure that you are getting comprehensive answers to anything that you’re asking. 

There is no fixed number of questions that you need to put in your guide for each of these. I think that it is a matter of asking enough so that you feel that you’ll definitely get a read on whether the person you are interviewing is in fact a great candidate. 

It is important to be mindful of the fact that in any interview, the candidate is also interviewing you.

I’ve heard this said a lot, but I think that often the real depth of this is often overlooked. 

Your conduct and level of professionalism in the interview can in a significant way set the bar for performance, should the candidate ultimately join the company. 

You would be doing your organization a solid by exemplifying as best you can the kind of discourse and presentation that you will ideally like to see in everyone on your team. 

Be consistent. By creating a standard interview guide for each role, you can hopefully ensure that the interview is both fair and productive. Interviewing people can be exhausting and your energy levels shouldn’t be the reason why someone doesn’t get a fair shake. 

So do yourself a favor, write a proper interview guide and follow it to the letter. Boring? It can be. But doing half-assed interviews typically draws out the recruiting process, which is the exact opposite of what you want. And it has the potential to undermine the process entirely. 

You might be the smartest person in the world, but if you get a curveball relating to an urgent personal or business matter, or your hot water goes in the middle of the night and you’re up all night trying to get an emergency plumber, or whatever else might be playing on your mind, you won’t deliver the same performance in the interview.

On days when we’re 100%? Sure, we can come in and deliver exactly the same interview from memory twelve times in a row. 

However, in order to protect our future selves, we need to write solid dependable interview guides that we can follow to the letter and ensure that we are not only doing due diligence from the standpoint of doing an optimal job of recruiting people, but also that you’re doing the right thing in terms of inclusion and fair hiring practices.

One last tip on interviewing, know the role. You need to be able to paint a picture for them. What does the weekly ebb and flow of their week look like? Even if you’re hiring experts in a certain field, it is productive to have a very detailed idea of what each day would consist of. If you’re the one who wrote the job description you should be an expert on this.


The first day on the job is absolutely critical in terms of setting expectations and making sure that people have a great experience working with you. 

Set them up for success. Set aside all thoughts of KPIs or long term goals for just a moment and look at the day from the standpoint of the incoming team member. 

How can you set up the day so that they get the absolute best chance of being badass in that role? What does that look like? And also, in terms of their enjoyment, there’s a huge amount of potential energy in the first day or days of working with a new business. You can choose to tap that energy, or not.

Is going to be amazing dream job vibes? Am I going to love coming into work every day or not? And what kind of account am I going to be held to? 

You own this experience for your incoming team members.

Get your technical ducks in a row. 

You should be focusing on the work. Just assembling the tools makes for a pretty dull first day, whereas the first day should be about getting stuck in. 

This about how it would make you feel to get the palpable sense that everything was set up. Everyone was ready for them. There was a place for them. 

If you’re in a physical office, ensure that they have their own desk, ensuring that it’s ready and tidy, ready to go. 

Set yourself up for success. Again, it is worth your while to structure a standard onboarding guide no matter what size of business you are, and follow it to the letter. 

A lot of this will be the same across roles. There will be a fair amount of general need-to-know information. 

One of the big topics should be communication protocols. Be very clear about how your people should organize their internal and external communications. Identify which communications channels are to be used, and where applicable, be clear on what topics belong in which channels. 

I have another guide on communication protocols, and how to get how to go about designing the optimal system for you. But suffice to say you can’t leave it entirely open around how people should communicate with each other. 

As for shaping the incoming person’s week, you owe it to them to furnish them with your best take on how their time should be organised. Give them a proposed schedule plus any significant upcoming milestones.

They’re coming into a new organization. The assumption is that you’ve been looking at the business for far longer than they have, and from the inside, rather than the outside.

You should have a very good understanding of how the new role will intersect with existing teams, processes etc., and you should have some fairly clear ideas about how best to allocate time across the week, month, or quarter. 

This should be your starting point (at least in the early days) for how they organise their time.

I hope that you can get some value out of this guide. 

I would be very interested to hear from anyone who tries out any of these tips, how they get on with them, what helps, what doesn’t.

Oliver Osborne, Founder & Creative Director

Oliver is the founder and creative director of Osborne Holdings and its subsidiary companies, Main Street Arts Club and Eyes to the Front. He writes about the intersection of marketing, culture, management, and whatever strikes his fancy in his distinct British verve.

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