Monday, October 31, 2016

Thinking about hiring new staff for your business? Read this first

The perils for a small business of getting recruitment wrong

Congratulations if you're thinking about recruiting additional staff for your small business - it means you must be doing something right to have experienced a growth in demand for your services or products!

small business blog postHowever, hiring new staff brings some risk. Selecting the wrong person can create conflicts and strains within your existing team. A poor employee also has the potential to damage the brand of your business and jeopardise the goodwill you've established with your clients.

But having said there are risks in selecting the wrong person - let me add there can be greater risks in failing to bring in additional resources to support your existing staff who may be struggling to cope with the growth in demand. The last thing you want is good staff getting burned-out - because they have been the back-bone in supporting your business through the challenges and frustrations of"start-up".

You might perhaps be feeling I'm having a bet each way here - saying there are risks both for and against recruiting new staff. ......The main point is that any hiring steps you take are taken with your eyes open.

Of course, there's always the option of hiring a new staff member on a temporary rather than permanent basis, say for 4 - 6 weeks -  as a bit of  a trial to assess how it all goes. A limitation of this option however is that quite often, good capable people tend to be looking for more stability and might not be attracted to apply for a position advertised only as a temporary role.

Hiring tips for small business

So, if you've decided to recruit, here's some quick tips that can help -

  1. Clearly define the requirements of the job you're looking to fill. Write down a list of the typical daily duties and from these, identify the types of skills and experience a person would need to be able to adequately perform this work. When you look at the list of skills someone would need - you might perhaps prioritise these skills as either essential or desirable. There's a fair chance you will find that applicants do not tick every box of your requirements - so it's important to know which skills you are prepared to invest some training time in developing the right person. The list of job duties, combined with the list of necessary skills and qualities you are seeking, becomes the basis of the "Job Description" that you will provide to people who express an interest in the job. This will also include a brief description of the nature of your business and the employment conditions associated with the job.
  2. Before you incur the cost of advertising the vacancy through the media - whether that's the local paper or community radio, or maybe listing the job in an online platforms such as Seek or CareerOne - try simply placing news about the vacancy on your website (eg."We're Hiring"). And ensure you tell your network about the vacancy....... In the same way that many of your sales come from word-of-mouth referrals, so too can suitable applicants find out about the job simply from people knowing someone, the friend of a friend "who might be interested". One of the attractions for many people to work in a small business is that it's close to home - so let your customers know you've got a vacancy - and your suppliers, and any local sporting or community clubs that you're a member of. 
  3. Usually, you will ask people who express interest in the job to submit their resume and a cover letter - in which they explain how they believe their work experience meets the job requirements. Hopefully you receive enough applications to be able to select the best few to interview. 
  4. When you are interviewing, be careful you don't naively accept as fact everything that candidates may have written down in their resume or cover letter. You need to ask questions to reassure yourself that the person has the experience and skills that they claim. It is not uncommon for applicants to misrepresent what they have done in the past - and so you need to ask sufficient questions that require the interviewee to demonstrate to you that they do possess the knowledge and understanding of the systems and procedures they claim to have used. 
  5. Be sure to carefully check referees. It's not enough to know that someone  might possess the right skills to perform your job - you also want to check they have the personal qualities to fit in with your team. So gather information from referees around their reliability, their punctuality, their initiative and especially their ability to work cooperatively with co-workers. In a small team, chemistry is important - so before you offer a candidate the job - maybe have a couple of your staff also meet with them and have an informal chat, to confirm they are comfortable with the interpersonal style of the applicant. 
  6. Keep in mind that sometimes you might be interviewing a capable person, who is simply nervous and not good at selling themselves at interviews. So take some time to set the interviewee at ease before asking the more proving questions. You might consider deliberately keeping the interview "informal" and do it over a coffee, so as to have a more relaxed climate. For people who are re-entering the workforce (parents returning to work now their kids are school-aged), the interview is a daunting experience 
Although there can be the temptation of rushing to fill a vacancy when you're busy, it's never-the-less wise to take the extra time to find the right person. 
Sir Richard Branson says "It's better to have a hole in the team, rather than an asshole in the team". 
And one final tip. There are many small business owners when making their hiring decisions who will place more importance upon an applicant bringing a good attitude and a proven work ethic - ahead of them necessarily having all of the required skills. They will say to you that "It's much easier to train someone to improve their skills than it is to get someone to improve their attitude"

The above tips are designed to get you thinking about some of the common hiring issues and challenges  - for a much more detailed list of  essential tips, take a look at "How to Conduct the Job Interview" and also "Interview Questions to Ask" Finally, here's a short video clip in which the speaker shares some really good additional ideas that touch on the use of social media to advertise the vacancy - and the need to check with your accountant about the best business model for hiring (eg. permanent versus contractor staff)


About the author
Brian Carroll is a qualified psychologist and the founder of a Melbourne based corporate training business, Performance Development. He brings more than twenty years of experience in delivering Recruitment Skills training for hiring managers.