How Many Stages Should Your Recruitment Process Have?

Ensuring your business employs the right people is vital for success. Keeping your talent skilled and motivated helps drive productivity and profitability. So, how do you go about bringing on board new talent that will fit with the ethos and needs of your company? How do you attract the right applicants and then sift through them to select your new employee?

There is no one-size-fits-all recruitment process. The depth and breadth of a suitable process will depend on factors such as seniority of role, breadth of responsibility, depth of technical knowledge or simply how quickly the vacancy needs to be filled. What is a normal process in the public sector may not be the same in the corporate world, yet there will be many common steps.

Let’s have a look at creating the optimum recruitment process for your business.

Creating a job description and person specification

Vacancies are caused by many reasons. Someone leaving, promotion, business expansion or a change in strategic direction. In every situation, it is important to ask two questions:

  • What is the content of the new job that needs to be done?
  • What are the skills of a person who will be able to do this job effectively?

Even in the event of the replacement of an existing team member, it is likely that their role will have changed slightly. Thinking about these two questions will allow a better decision to be made both in terms of attracting the right pool of applicants and then choosing the right person for the job.

Attracting the right applicants

Targeting the right pool of applicants is never easy. If a pub needs someone to work behind the bar, then a postcard in the window or a casual chat with an acquaintance might be appropriate. As jobs become more specialised, the employer needs to know where a potential employee might be searching for jobs. Potential applicants may be actively looking for a new job, or simply dreaming of something that offers better pay and more fulfilling work.

Whilst there are general purpose websites that are used to advertise jobs, in highly specialised fields, such as cyber security, a head hunting or talent solution firm may be more appropriate. Intaso for example, have both detailed knowledge of their field and access to unfound and untapped recruitment resources.

Attracting the right pool of candidates is perhaps the most important part of the recruitment process. Done well, it also helps raise the profile of the employer, helping to showcase what they do and what they can offer as a company, either as an employer or as a business.

The application process

It is important to get the balance of the application process correct. Ask for too much, or irrelevant information and you put potential candidates off. Ask for too little, and you don’t have enough data to whittle down applicants to a shortlist of interviewees. A typical application process might use any or all of the following:

  • Cover letter, where the applicant can demonstrate their ability to communicate clearly and concisely, as well as expand on their motivations and knowledge of your business.
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV), giving a list of previous work and other relevant history, including education and qualifications.
  • Bespoke application form, where the employer can ask several pertinent questions, by which to judge the applicant’s suitability.

To maximise the chance of employing the right applicant, it is vital that the information asked for in the application process is relevant. What are the really important facts that you as a recruiting company need to know?

Deciding who to interview

Hopefully you now have a healthy pile (or database) of applicants for the job. Now you need a process to effectively filter the applications and create a shortlist to interview. It is not unusual for a role to attract many tens of applications, so a fast and efficient way of quickly discarding the unsuitable may be required. The ‘three pile’ approach, ‘good potential’, ‘perhaps’, ‘almost certainly not’ can be used for initial filtering.

If ‘clear communication’ is a really important skill for the role, then a poorly written cover letter may put the application in the ‘almost certainly not’ pile. Where a specific technical skill is required, quickly scanning the CV for candidates that have that skill, or indeed do not, will help streamline the process.

Once the initial scans have been done, evaluate how many applications you have in each pile. You want to end up with about twice as many ‘good potential’ applicants as you intend to interview. Further review of the application information will help decide who really has the potential and talent you are looking for.

It is worth making a brief note on the applicants that you are going to reject at this stage, just in case they ask. This helps demonstrate a professional and unbiased process, as well as acting as a double check that the right decision is being made.

The interview process

The interview is the first chance to see a candidate face to face. The number of interviews will depend on the breadth, depth and experience of the role. The interview panel should be made up of a team with the skills to make a valid and fair decision. For example, you may wish to include the eventual line manager, a technical specialist and someone from the HR team.

As with the application process, it is important to think about a set of questions or tests that are fair, effective and relevant. What information do you really need to know, to correctly identify the best person for the job? The questions and tests should sample both the breadth and depth of a role, as well as helping to evaluate hard and soft skills.

An aptitude test is an excellent way of allowing the candidate to demonstrate they have the skills they claim. Psychometric tests, to judge the character of a candidate, may be relevant for some roles. Sometimes such tests are included in an initial online application process. Open questions, such as ‘tell us why you want this job’ can help demonstrate a candidate’s ability to communicate, motivations, and ability to cope under pressure.

The result of the interview and testing process will either be to select a final candidate or to shortlist a small number for a further round of interviews. The latter can be used where there are two or three stand-out candidates, or where the needs of a wider team need to be considered. As with the interview process, keeping notes on why a candidate has been rejected will help demonstrate a professional and unbiased interview process.

References and negotiations

References are often used to provide a double-check on the accuracy of information in a CV. Whilst useful, they are not always used, especially if the aptitude of a candidate has been demonstrated in the interview process. Many companies or organisations, when being asked to confirm a reference, will only confirm that the person was employed between a set of dates, with no other qualitative information being given.

Once the decision to offer the job has been made and the lucky candidate informed, it is not unusual for a negotiation on salary, perks, or starting date to take place. It is important to strike a balance between wanting to attract the new candidate and not wishing to upset or set expectations amongst existing employees. Following the negotiations, a formal job offer contract should be sent out, with an expectation set as to when a decision needs to be made, and when the role will start.

Whilst you may wish to inform and thank most of the unsuccessful candidates, it is prudent to keep a ‘reserve’ candidate on standby, in case your first choice changes their mind.


The final step in the recruitment process occurs when the candidate becomes an employee and starts the new role. The onboarding process should help them understand company specific processes, ways of working and expectations of behaviour etc. This process can take a few weeks or even months, and often gives the new employee a link to someone in the HR team, to ask generic or process questions that a line manager may not be best suited, or have the time to answer.

So, how many stages should your recruitment process have? There is no right or wrong answer, only that there needs to be enough to effectively attract, filter and select the right person to fulfil the job vacancy and maximise the talent pool in your company. When it comes to Cyber & Information Security, Intaso can help you acquire the right person to meet your business’ needs. We look forward to hearing from you, and helping you fill that vacancy.