At the start, most firms find staff among friends, acquaintances, and people they have worked with before. It's a great way to begin because you usually know exactly what you are getting. However, you may soon run out of names from your little black book.

Sixty to 80 percent of computer jobs are filled without having to resort to outside recruitment organizations. Recruiting yourself will save you significant amounts of money, but it takes up a good deal of time. In writing your own ads and interviewing every likely applicant, you will very quickly learn the following:

♦ A slight change in wording can make a great difference to the caliber of applicant you attract.

♦ Interviewing, far from giving you any sense of power, is a tedious process.

♦ You may not be as good a picker as you always assumed.

It's not actually that you are a bad picker, but people who want a job can be very clever about creating better impressions than they can live up to. Unduly smartly dressed people, for instance, can sometimes still be incompetent. The best applicant is often that person with the best motivation to do the job.

Whenever the job is a sensitive one, it is a good idea to have three interviewers present when you make your final selection. Someone else on the panel will usually pick up things you don't spot while you are concentrating on some other aspect. The ability of some people to pick up unconscious signals is phenomenal, but don't expect to uncover more than an interviewee is willing to reveal.

If possible, offer the applicant a day's working trial (perhaps on a Saturday). You will discover more in the first 10 minutes in the actual work environment than during the entire interview.

It is also good sense to maintain a file of near misses. The better applicants usually find other jobs within weeks, but you can sometimes come back to them a year or two later, and they are great to call on if you get let down almost immediately.

If the appointment is particularly critical or if you need a number of people at once, you may need to call in a headhunter or a recruitment agency. These external recruiters save time by providing you with a pre-screened short list of better people than you might find yourself because they can call on a greater selection. If they are unable to deliver on more than two above-average candidates, you're better off doing it yourself.


In prosperous times headhunters operate at the top of the market supplying CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, and other very senior people. In bad times they drop their sights further down the corporate ladder. They seek people proactively from known, screened clients. Good ones may be responsible for all the senior appointments in a client's career. Fees are typically 30 to 50 percent of first year's salary. Due to the caliber of staff they source and place, the screening process is rigorous. Good head-hunters take the time to find out what you need.

Recruiting Agencies

Agencies that specialize in the area for which you have a vacancy are a better bet than those who operate as a general labor exchange. This is mainly because the specialists offer themselves up to those agencies. They then match applicants to vacancies. Recruiting agencies normally charge the equivalent of the first three months' wages. The fee is normally waved if the person doesn't last out his trial period. For bulk recruitment tapered fee structures are often negotiated. The quality of their screening varies with the interviewer and branch.


The Internet rendition of the recruitment firm is the online job site. What they lack in personal attention they make up for in numbers. If you are able to write a sufficiently specific job description, they are worth considering.

Job Ads

The ideal job ad would attract just one applicant—the man or woman you really want. Help wanted ads don't need to be long. They just need to be interesting and pertinent. Read your competitors' ads and ask yourself, "If I read that would I be interested enough to give them a call?"

If you are advertising in a local paper that people read regularly, there is no need to repeat the advertisement, as the number of new readers each week is usually low. If the ad is going on the Internet or into a national publication, this is less of an issue.

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