Setting out on a recruitment project for a new hire can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be,
Laudale MD Alec Laurie shares his top ten tips for SME businesses, breaking down the recruitment process intos simple steps ensuring a positive outcome.
1. Start with Why.
Get clear on the reason you’re recruiting – the problem you’re trying to solve and how this appointment helps you to achieve your goals. Once you’re clear on this everything else seems easier – your business case to make the hire, deciding on your interview questions, how you market the opportunity etc. If this is a replacement for someone who is leaving, it is a like-for-like backfill?
2. Do some research.
3. Get clear about what you can offer (financially and contractually).
I too am a small business owner, so I get that sometimes things are fluid. But it really pays to understand up-front what you can afford to pay, whether or not you need someone full or part time, what benefits and bonus you can offer, etc. Do the maths before you start to engage people. Your message to prospective candidates will be more fluid and credible, and you’ll avoid wasting your own time going through a recruitment process.
4. Define your selection criteria
…document them and work out a simple way of assessing candidates against them (we find a simple 0-2 score system for each point works). Be specific with yourself, and with any colleagues who are involved in the interview process, about what you’re looking for and how you intend to measure it at interview. Why is this important? Because hiring on ‘gut feel’ is unreliable (there’s a stack of research-based evidence on unconscious bias). It’s a tough one to balance in a small business, because culture fit is so important, but hiring someone primarily because you like them can be disastrous.
5. Make a plan
…and be clear with your hiring team – your colleagues involved in the interview process – about what their role is. Literally creating a timeline can be helpful. If you’re aiming to interview in the 3rd week of February, but Lisa is on holiday that week, then it’s best to work around that now. Having a clear roadmap to a decision, including how many interviews, the format of these, and any other hoops to jump through, will minimise disruption to business-as-usual, and create a seamless candidate experience.
6. Use the right channels
We can’t all afford recruitment consultancy fees. And luckily we don’t all have to – it can be a complacent way of recruiting for some businesses. Have you maximised all channels? Job advert on your website, outreach on social media, referrals from friends, neighbours, parents at the school gate, current and former colleagues, links to other businesses and industry networks, universities etc… Cast the message as far and wide as possible that you’re hiring. Be as creative as you can be.
7. Tell your unique story
Why did you set this business up? If you’re not the founder, why did you join? It’s a safe bet that 9 out or 10 small business stories are more compelling and human than your average corporate spiel. And why is it great to work there? There are things you take for granted that people outside of your business would love. You offer flexibility around families, you have a dog-friendly office… whatever it is, make this messaging the fabric of all of your communications.
8. What about geography?
So you’re based in the Outer Hebrides and you want a social media guru. Or you’re competing for talent with a major city like Manchester. Think about how you’re uniquely positioned to navigate this. Can this role be based from home? Are you an attractive option for someone who doesn’t want to sit in traffic or on a packed train into Manchester? Once you’re clear on this, use it to shape your search.
9. Maximise your talent pool
We’ve all heard of the War for Talent, but the fact remains that most businesses are only really making their opportunity accessible to a segment of the total market. Look at every opportunity to bring in the right skills. ‘Returners’ are a huge, largely untapped, pool of highly qualified people, for example. Think about whether your search is truly diverse and inclusive in every sense of the terms.
10. Make it a great experience
Finally, but most importantly, do the little things well. Treat candidates like you would customers. Be on time for interviews, smile, get back to people in a timely way, give them feedback, etc. People have invested their time and money to come and meet you about a job with your business. Make them feel valued – whether they’re successful or not. And when you’re ready to make an offer, commit fully and free from ego – make the candidate feel wanted, not lucky to be joining you. After all, it’s a small world and your reputation matters.