Your business has the best chance of success if you hire the right people to work for you. Skilled, enthusiastic and flexible staff will help your business run and grow smoothly. But how do you hire the right employees?

Hiring is part of your job

As a business owner or founder, your vision for your company affects everything. It's part of your job to find and hire employees who will share that vision and take your business forward.

Even if you intend to outsource to contractors and freelancers, this is still important. Whether you're hiring a permanent staff member or trying to find someone to do short-term contract work for you, it pays to get the right person.

With a little thought and planning you'll be able to clearly determine your requirements, find candidates and narrow down your choices. Eventually you should find the right employee for the role you're offering. Here are some useful tips to help you make that decision.

Plan your hiring strategy

This should be part of your business plan. Think about where you expect your business to be at various stages over the next year, and how many employees you'll need in order to get there. For each new vacancy, consider the following points:

  • Prioritize what you or your team actually need
    Make lists of the tasks you want each new employee to take on.
  • Hire people with complementary skills
    Think about operational versus ideas people and sales skills versus creative ability.
  • Be clear about what you can afford
    Look into market rates and offer a suitably competitive salary within your budget.
  • Decide if you want a part-time or full-time employee
    There are pros and cons to both, so research this before deciding.
  • Is your business at the growth stage?
    Small, growing businesses can benefit from hiring flexible people able to take on multiple roles in the company.
  • Is experience important to you?
    Larger companies tend to require deeper, specific expertise and experience, though flexibility is still useful.

Small businesses have to budget carefully, which is why good quality cloud accounting software is so helpful. Use it to plan your budget and see if you can afford to hire someone new for a particular role. Balance the cost of employing them with the increased revenue they should bring to your business.

Consider your culture

Your company has a culture: a way of approaching business, a way of thinking and operating that's unique. This affects the way your business operates and the way it's seen by customers.

You, as business owner or founder, have a big influence on your company's culture, but so do the people you hire. So consider these points before you start hiring:

  • What is your company culture now?
    Ask your employees (perhaps anonymously) or customers how they view your business.
  • What do you want your culture to be?
    Think about successful companies and how they do business. Try to copy their good points.
  • Do you want to hire someone who will fit into your company culture?
    If your team is running smoothly you might want someone who will fit in perfectly.
  • Would you consider hiring someone who might challenge your company culture in a positive way?
    Group-think and confirmation bias can hold your business back. Someone who can challenge your business culture might get you out of a rut.
  • How will you define your culture in words when you're recruiting?
    It can be difficult to explain your culture to someone new, so take the time to prepare.
  • How will you evaluate an individual's suitability to your company culture?
    Think about the interview questions you might ask.

You, as business owner or founder, have a big influence on your company's culture, but so do the people you hire.

Good culture is more than just putting pool tables or a 'relaxation zone' in your business premises, especially if your employees are too stressed or overworked to use them! It involves helping your staff develop as individuals and also as part of their team.

Find candidates: Six recruitment agency alternatives

You could use a recruitment agency to try to find candidates for you. With their wide reach they can locate people who might not otherwise hear about the role, but they usually charge quite a lot. For an important management-level position this might be worthwhile, but there are other options:

  1. Use your LinkedIn account
    Search for people in your location and industry with the right skills. Update your profile to let people know you're hiring.
  2. Talk to local business agencies
    Make sure you network socially in the real world. You may find yourself introduced to the ideal candidate.
  3. Add a We're hiring! link to your website and email signatures
    Ensure it links to a page with up-to-date job vacancies and contact details.
  4. Advertise on job websites.
    These will charge, but usually not as much as recruitment agencies. You may receive some unsuitable applications from job-seekers taking the 'scatter-gun' approach, though.
  5. Ask your business partners and clients
    Tell them the type of person you're looking for and see if they can refer anyone to you.
  6. Use your social media accounts to announce that you're hiring
    The more places you advertise your requirements, the more likely you are to find candidates.

The amount you spend on advertising the role will depend on your budget. Keep track of costs in your accounting software, to make sure you don't over-spend.

Make a short-list of applicants

Filtering applicants into a short-list can be time-consuming and requires a lot of thought. Look through each application and think about whether the person fits the criteria you've specified.

  • Consider their qualifications
    Are they relevant to the role? Are they up to date?
  • Look at their work experience
    Have they moved around a lot? That's not necessarily a cause for concern but it might indicate potential problems.
  • What's their background in your specific industry?
    How much time have they spent working in environments that are similar to the role you're offering? What relevant knowledge do they have?
  • Check their posts and behavior on social networks
    You'll probably learn more about their background, maturity and life skills. Don't be too harsh here, because everyone needs to let off steam occasionally, but any recurring issues might need to be taken into account.

It's also a good idea to check references before the interview stage, as it might save you time if something negative turns up.

Questions to ask when you interview candidates

Draw up a range of questions about each candidate's career and skills. Include some open-ended questions so the candidates have the opportunity to talk about themselves and their goals. For example:

  • Ask them about their successes
    Encourage them to talk about their achievements, even those outside work. A well-rounded individual should be a useful addition to your team.
  • What do they think about your company?
    See if they've done their research about your business, as it'll give you an idea of their commitment.
  • Enquire about hobbies and interests
    Employees with good work-life balance tend to be more productive and creative than those who are fixated on their careers. Find out what they read, what they watch, how they learn new skills.
  • Go for a walk with them
    Perhaps give them a tour of your premises or take them out for a coffee – and talk while you walk. You'll get a better idea of their personality than you will in a formal interview environment.

Encourage them to talk about their achievements, even those outside work.

Make sure you follow all legal requirements regarding privacy, discrimination and fairness during the interview and recruitment process. Check local legislation to ensure you don't make any costly mistakes.

What to look for so you can hire the right person

Hiring the wrong person can be expensive in terms of money and emotional stress, especially if you have to fire them soon afterwards. So take the time to get it right. Some more things to consider include:

  • Personality
    Is this person going to fit into your existing team or will there be a personality clash? In a small business this can be a critical issue.
  • Flexibility
    The ability to adapt to new and different tasks is a valuable skill.
  • Problem-solving ability
    Look for someone who uses logic and lateral thinking to overcome challenges.
  • Communication skills
    Knowledge is of little use unless it's communicated. You need someone who's approachable and easy to talk to.

As well as these points, try to hire someone who fits in with your strategy and core business values. And make sure it's someone you can trust.

Above all, use your instincts

As a business owner you sometimes have to go with what feels right, because that feeling is the reasoning of your unconscious mind.

The right person will almost certainly feel right to you, as well as ticking all the boxes for experience, qualifications, skills and personality. If you have doubts about someone's suitability to the role you're offering, it's probably best not to hire them.

Once you've hired the right people you can start to build them into a working team that will function efficiently and take your business forward.

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