Are you asking the right questions? A guide to recruiting

Interviews can be nerve-wracking all round – not just for the interviewee. Not all small business owners will have much experience with HR, and deciding which questions to ask and how to format an interview can seem daunting.

Hiring a new person eats up a huge chunk of a business’ budget, and it will cost even more if the wrong person is hired and it’s back to square one.

There are recruitment costs to factor in if you’re using an agency, it takes up employee time sifting through applicants, and then there’s a lot of hand holding and training once a new person has come aboard – it can really take its toll on a budding startup.

For businesses that are looking to scale up quickly, there’s another factor – will the employee be capable of scaling alongside it?

So, what can be done to ensure it is done right the first time of asking? The answer comes in two parts. Firstly, businesses need to make sure the person hired is qualified and capable. Secondly, there needs to be a good cultural fit for the business.

Guide to recruiting: Qualified and capable

Making sure someone is qualified and capable of doing the job sounds like the easy part – surely this can be done by simply glancing at their CV? Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

“Ensure you put together detailed job descriptions, that give a full overview of the skills required and daily tasks, as this will ensure you only receive applicants that are best suited,” advised Beatrice Bartlay, MD and founder of 2B interface.

“You should meet the candidate more than once as you can’t always gauge someone from the first meeting. You should also give them a trial of the key element of their job. This will help you decipher their practical skills and how they will likely perform in the role.”

If a very specific job spec is put together, it may be that someone ticks only 90 per cent of the boxes – but this doesn’t mean they aren’t worth interviewing. Even though they lack the relevant experience, does their CV suggest they would be capable of learning on the job?

Alternatively, maybe they tick every box, but the competition for talent is steep and startups need to be realistic about how much such employees should be paid and rewarded.

“Be honest with yourself and what the role is and what you want and need. Are you looking for someone who does not exist or who you cannot afford in the market? Review the role and responsibilities and try to be creative to make it more attractive e.g. can you offer a job share or more flexible working,” said Hopkins.

Guide to recruiting: A good cultural fit

Getting a good cultural fit is just as important as hiring someone with the right qualifications. Working in a small business, especially one with ambitions of fast growth, requires the right sort of mental attitude – these kind of companies need someone willing to take on lots of responsibility early on and adapt to the fast-paced nature of a scale-up.

“No matter how large or small a business is, it’s important that each and every one of its staff understands how, and where they fit into the overarching business. Making sure your job description outlines this is essential so candidates feel they will be making a contribution to the business goals,” said Bartlay.

“It’s also key to showcase your employee stories. Social media is a great way of doing this. This will help people to understand the company culture and how you nurture staff.”

There are other factors to consider when it comes to finding the right cultural fit. Try asking the candidate if they work better in louder, bustling workplaces or silent ones; do they work better as a team or on their own; what kind of things do they like to do socially? These types of questions can help gauge if they would be a good fit with the existing team.

Personality traits to look out for also include things like being work-shy or fickle – that certainly wouldn’t be good fit for a scale-up.

“There are some hidden stars out there, people who have been out of work for one reason or another, who go on to be great hires, but gaps in a CV often sound alarm bells. Someone who changes jobs every few months is definitely a risk, maybe they underperform or maybe they get bored, either way it’s worth looking out for,” warned Richard Hogg, founder of Jackson Hogg Recruitment.

Guide to recruiting: An attractive prospect

Lastly, before you making a job offer, a business owner needs to consider what they have to offer. The perfect candidate could come aboard, and it’s no use at all if a month into the job they realise it’s not all it was cracked up to be.

If a role is going to be challenging, make that clear. Likewise, if a salary is lower than industry standard, explain why and whether there are other benefits, such as flexible working or a chance to take on more responsibility and fast-track a career.

It’s easy for entrepreneurs to think their business is the best place in the world to work – but being thoughtful about what employees are getting out of it can help ensure a good match.

This article is part of a wider campaign called the Scale-up Hub, a section of Real Business that provides essential advice and inspiration on taking your business to the next level. It’s produced in association with webexpenses and webonboarding, a fast-growing global organisation that provides cloud-based software services that automate expenses management and streamline the employee onboarding process.

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