Filling the Gap

Caroline Cooper shares nine tips for attracting and retaining new team members.

filling the gap
Photo: Getty Images

The past year has given people plenty of time for reflection. Whether they’ve been made redundant, or simply felt forgotten whilst on furlough, many previously loyal employees have made a decision to leave the industry. It’s possible some of your team members have had other thoughts about their career too. Is their current role (or redefined role) really what they want?

If this is the case you may find yourself needing to recruit, either now or as you get back to full capacity. If this applies to you, here are nine tips to help you get the best applicants.

1. Be the place to work
You can’t create a culture overnight where the best employees will want to work, but you can ensure you are doing everything to retain your reputation as a good employer. Your existing team should be your greatest advocates; if they feel valued they are far more likely to recommend you to others and spread the word that it’s a great place to work.

What does it mean to work for you? Ask your existing team members what they value most about working for you, so you can make a point of promoting this in your job ads.

2. Your purpose
You’ll want to attract people who are a good fit for your business; people who resonate with your purpose and values. The more you can demonstrate these in your recruitment process the more likely it is to get a good match. It’s quite possible they have changed over the past 14 months, if so now’s the perfect time for a review. Make sure to share any changes with your existing team too.

3. Career path
Demonstrate in your recruitment there’s potential to grow and develop. Give examples of the training and development opportunities you offer. That way you’re more likely to attract people who see the role as a potential longer-term career move, rather than people who simply see it as a fill in, or worse, somebody who is simply desperate for any job.

4. The role
It’s unlikely you’ll be replacing like for like. When you have a vacancy, it might be an ideal opportunity to restructure and open up opportunities for your existing loyal team members. It might also open up a bigger pool of potential candidates.

Ask yourself if this is a role that could be filled by a freelancer to give you more flexibility. If it is, it’s still important to get the right fit. Even if you keep the role as it is, upskill and cross train your existing team so you have flexibility and you’re not left in the lurch if you can’t recruit immediately.

5. An inside job
Let your existing team members know of any positions you’re recruiting for. Even if this is not a step up, it may present a new challenge for one of your existing team to keep them motivated or stretched.

If you do have internal applicants, treat them in the same way as your external ones – acknowledging receipt of their application, interviewing, sending offer letters/salary details etc. If internal candidates do not get the job, ensure you give feedback to help with their development and to encourage them to apply for future positions.

Bear in mind people know people like themselves, so your team is also a good source for finding candidates through their network of friends and family.

Business women having a discussion
Photo: Getty Images

6. Fresh blood
Rather than focusing on specific experience in similar roles, put the emphasis on transferable skills so you can widen the net to attract people from other industries. Think about other industries that employ people with transferable skills where there have also been job losses, such as retail, the airlines, or other sectors within hospitality.

Although your existing team and network can be a good source, introducing some fresh blood can bring some new perspectives and ideas to your business.

7. Be specific
There are certainly plenty of people looking for work at the moment. You may end up with hundreds of applicants for any one role but you don’t want to waste valuable time and resources sifting through wads of unsuitable candidates. Ensure your ad reflects the type of candidate you’re looking for, and let your personality show through so it resonates with the right people. If you want someone enthusiastic, dynamic and lively, make your ad enthusiastic, dynamic and lively too!

You’re not looking to attract anyone who’s desperate for a job; make it clear what you’re looking for so you narrow down applications to those who fit the bill of the ideal candidate.

8. Make it an event
You may well be looking for staff for a cross section of roles within your business. If so, consider holding a recruitment day. This enables you to make it more of an event and attract more attention.

It gives potential candidates who are unfamiliar with the industry or your business an opportunity to get a better feel for it and identify whether it is a good fit for them. And you get a chance to see each candidate over a longer period, so you can make a better assessment.

9. No regrets
You certainly don’t want your efforts wasted by your perfect candidate deciding at the last minute, or within the first couple of weeks, that the job isn’t for them after all. Start your induction process at the point they accept your job offer and let them know how much you’re looking forward to them coming to work for you.

Drip feed information that lets them know that they’re going to get a warm welcome. This might include a background to your business, your values and what’s important to you, current topical information, such as your reopening plans, an invitation to any team building, events or social activities happening between now and their start date, as well as a copy of their induction programme, and the point of contact for day one.

Doing all this before they start will make them feel more welcome and minimise the risk of any second thoughts.

In summary
Treat your recruitment time as an investment. Any team is only as strong as its weakest member and the quality of your team inevitably impacts your productivity and your customer service.

When you’re short of staff it’s easy to make a rushed decision and recruit the first people who come along. Getting the wrong people can be costly, not only in time and effort – the wrong person can have a detrimental impact on the rest of your team and potentially on your customers too.


About the Author
Caroline CooperCaroline Cooper is the Founder of Naturally Loyal and has over 30 years’ training and development experience in hospitality. Recognising that managers often get promoted into positions without much training, her key focus is on developing newly promoted and junior hospitality managers to lead and engage their teams effectively.

You can download her free guide, “Recruiting Superstars”, which contains 141 tips, tools and tactics for finding and recruiting your dream team, at

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