Staffing in a Small Business – Getting it right

A large business or workplace can more easily absorb hiring mistakes.  A small business doesn’t have that luxury.  Every issue gets accentuated and the cost to your business can turn out to be exorbitant so get it right in the beginning and avoid the unnecessary angst that a hiring mistake inevitably causes.  While this article is targeted at the small business owner, many of the principles apply in all hiring situations.

Tips for hiring the right people

Get your foundations right

Often things go wrong when a business doesn’t have the right foundations in the first place.  These include not having the appropriate structures and policies for managing people and a lack of awareness of the type of culture that you want in your business.  Issues to think about:

  • What is your organisational structure?
  • Do you have job descriptions that clearly sets out expectations?
  • Do you conduct performance reviews regularly?
 To use or not to use a recruitment consultant?

If your business can afford a recruitment consultant, the temptation will be to use one.  The benefits are clear – the consultant pre-screens your applicants and provides you with a shortlist, saving you a lot of time and hassle.  However, the consultant cannot read your mind and if you are not clear in your brief, you risk getting a shortlist of inappropriate people.  Recruitment consultants also have one priority in mind which is to place a candidate as fast as possible.  Experience has shown that they tend not to look outside the square and often, outside the square is where you find gems.

I prefer taking the recruitment process in-house.  Yes, it is time-consuming and sometimes painfully tedious but can be worthwhile if done right.  Having gone through the recruitment process yourself at least once also better equips you to deal with a recruitment consultant.

Image by vishnu vijayan from Pixabay

Short-listing candidates for interview

Some practical tips for short-listing:

  • Pay attention to the cover letter.  If you are using a recruitment consultant, ask for cover letters to be provided with the resumes.  Often cover letters are either overlooked or considered unimportant.
  • Sort your candidates into three piles – “interview”, “maybe” and “no”.  If you exhaust your “interview” pile, you can re-visit the “maybe” pile.
The Interview Process

One of the most common interview mistakes made by employers is not reading a resume thoroughly.  This is unthinkable if you are serious about getting the right people but unlikely to be a mistake that you would be making if you are conducting the recruitment process yourself since you would have had to review resumes in order to short-list your candidates.

Here are some common Q & As about interviews:

  1. How long should an interview last?
    I suggest aiming for a two interview process and allowing 20-30 minutes for the first interview.  When you are down to a handful of candidates for the second interview, you can afford to invest a bit more time e.g. 45 minutes or more.
  2. What sort of questions should I ask?
    Generally, ask open-ended questions i.e. questions that won’t end with a yes/no answer.  Ask questions that help you find out whether the person is suitable, not questions just for the sake of an interview.  Standard questions like strengths and weaknesses are not particularly useful unless  you go a step further and tease more information out eg. “tell me about a time when…..”strength”….. helped you…… Pay attention to the story itself and unearth more information.  A variation on the strengths/weaknesses questions is to ask the candidate how his or her co-workers would describe him or her and then press on with “why?”  Provide real life scenarios and ask the candidate how they would react or solve the problem.  I have in the past provided unsolvable (but realistic) scenarios to test for creativity and thinking outside the square.
  3. How do I wrap up an interview that isn’t going well?
    This happens more frequently than people realise and some interviewers get stuck going through the motions because they don’t know how to cut an interview short.  Remember, as the interviewer, you are in control and it’s ok to stop an interview.  A pleasant – “ok, I don’t think you are the right fit for us but thank you for your time” is an appropriate way to terminate an interview.
Things to Watch out for
  • #1 – Unexplained gaps in resumes
  • #2 – Answers that seem superficial
  • #3 – Lack of preparation for interview e.g no research done on your company
Reference Checking

By the time you get to this stage, you’ve probably already decided to hire the candidate, but don’t just go through motions.  Reference checking may save you a lot of grief down the track.  If possible, get more than one work reference and preferably from a direct manager or supervisor.  Ask the referees questions such as:

  • Does John have any developmental needs that will help him in this position?
  • If the referee is a former manager – What tips would you give John’s future manager about the best way to manage John?
  • Would you hire John again?

Occasionally, you may get to the point where you are deciding between two candidates.  Reference checking may help with the final decision.

Letter of Offer

Your letter of offer should contain not only the terms and conditions of employment but any expectations of the employee.  Is your employee expected to contactable outside business hours?  Is your employee expected to work on weekends?  Will there be travel involved?  While these instances may be occasional, it is still useful to specify them to avoid issues of expectations later on.  Interestingly, this is particularly important in management roles or roles that are deemed to have “management responsibilities” even if the title does not include the word “manager”.

Another useful inclusion is expectations with regard to behaviour and if you are clear about the culture of your organisation, this will be easier to articulate.

If you have a documented Code of Conduct that employees are expected to follow, include a reference to this in the letter of offer and link its acceptance to the acceptance of the employment offer.

Last Words….

The ball is now in your court.  Good luck!

About the Author

Coach Mi

I'm a business coach passionate about helping women make the impossible possible! Do get in touch. I would love to have a chat to see how I can help.

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