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Are you recruiting the best person for the job?

Community pharmacy employment rates are booming. Longer hours and an ever-widening range of services has led to an increased requirement for pharmacists and pharmacy assistants, yet many multiples report a reduction in vacancy rates (The Pharmaceutical Journal 2007;278:769–70).

This situation is excellent for the profession as a whole, but for independent pharmacies that must compete with large multiples to attract the best candidates, recruitment can be a challenge.

Risks of recruiting

The recruitment of any new employee requires an element of risk. A candidate may over-exaggerate his or her experience or qualifications.

In addition, a candidate may appear suitable on paper or perform well at interview, but this does not guarantee an ability to perform well in the job.

The situation can be made worse if the manager responsible for recruitment does not have the knowledge and skills required to find the best candidate.

Often, the final selection decision may be the result of a “gut feeling” about a candidate. This introduces an element of subjectivity that is difficult to justify and potentially incorrect.

Recruiting a new member of staff is an expensive process. According to a recruitment survey undertaken by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, the average cost of filling a vacancy is £5,000 per manager, and £2,500 per technical member of staff. Therefore it is imperative to put measures in place that minimise staff turnover and ensure that the right candidate is recruited.

Human resources support

There is much an employer can do to increase the likelihood of selecting the right applicant. In larger companies and organisations, a team of human resources (HR) staff is usually responsible for recruitment and selection and provides advice on best practice.

Smaller companies often cannot afford the luxury of a HR specialist, let alone an entire team. Instead, such companies can choose to outsource the administrative element of the recruitment process to an agency, allowing the manager to focus purely on the selection process.

Jane Lumb, training manager for Numark Ltd, says that pharmacies that belong to groups such as Numark can benefit from access to a HR support service. She explains: “We offer structured training support…and access to a range of HR support materials and documents.”

Proprietors and managers who do not have access to external HR support need to be aware of the four basic stages of the recruitment process:

• Writing job descriptions
• Screening applications
• Producing a short-list
• Assessing candidates

Job descriptions

Successful recruitment requires matching the right candidate to the right job, and this process starts with writing an accurate job description. This should be written after completing a detailed analysis of the tasks required to perform the vacant post and may require discussion with the existing post holder. It should answer the following questions:

• What are the key duties of the post holder and what will he or she be responsible for?

• Where will the post holder fit into the company’s structural hierarchy?

• Who will the post holder report to?

• How will the post holder contribute to achieving company objectives?

In a job application pack, the job description is often accompanied by a list of personal specifications that describe the attributes that the applicant should possess before starting employment, in order to perform the job satisfactorily. This is likely to include:

• Transferable skills
• Competencies
• Previous knowledge
• Qualifications
• Appropriate experience
• Personal qualities

These requirements are often separated into “essential” and “desirable”, to determine which are the most important.

Many companies send out equality monitoring forms with job application packs to help them examine their success in attracting a diverse group of candidates.


Potential candidates are usually asked to apply for a job by either filling in a standard application form, or by submitting a curriculum vitae (CV). There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods.

The application form offers a standard, format for information and gives the employer more control over the information that the candidate provides. This challenges the candidate to interpret what the employer is looking for and to ensure his or her experience and ability is communicated effectively.

If applicants are invited to apply by sending in their CV, this gives them control over what information is included, which may allow them the freedom to showcase some creativity. However, the range in quality and content of applicants’ CVs can make it difficult for the employer to produce a short-list of strong candidates. Consequently, application forms are often preferred.

Producing a short-list

After the applications have been collated, the strongest applicants for the job must be short-listed for further assessment. This is accomplished using an agreed set of selection criteria.

The criteria should be objective and should relate to the advertised requirements for the post. Also, the information required to determine whether each criterion is met must be retrievable from the application form or CV.

Some employers use a simple scoring method to assess applications. This may involve attaching a “weighting” to each criterion and using a minimum score to select the candidates for further assessment.

If a personal specification has been designed for the post, applicants could be sorted initially by whether they meet the “essential” criteria, and then by whether they meet the “desirable” criteria. New criteria should never be introduced at this stage, to ensure that no candidate is discriminated against.

Once a short-list has been produced, successful candidates should be invited for further assessment (eg, interview). This stage of the recruitment process will be discussed in the next issue of Retail Round-up.

Attracting candidates

PeopleIn buoyant economies, the balance of power in recruitment shifts from the employer to the candidate, so employers have to work hard to impress.

Time and money may need to be invested to communicate your “brand image” (eg, mission statement, culture and values) to the outside world.

Jane Lumb, training manager for Numark Ltd, believes that there are advantages to working for independents compared with large companies, and that these should be emphasised when recruiting.

She suggests that multiple organisations are “more likely to pigeon hole you into one type of role”, whereas working for an independent offers the opportunity to:

• Work closely with the community
• Build up personal knowledge and relationships with customers
• Work across a wide variety of areas

Citation: Retail Round-up URI: 10006976

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