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Monday 15 July 2013

Recruitment is Key to Small Business Success

Recruitment of new staff is a big investment and full of risks; getting it wrong for any small business and especially for micro businesses, that is less than 10 staff it can be catastrophic. Despite this, for most small businesses the recruitment process, if it exists at all, is chaotic and usually based on he or she was cheap,  or they were recommended by a mate I trust.  Why do we do this, for the most part its because the business owner has little or no experience of recruitment and there is little trust in recruitment companies or the service they provide. 

English: Recruitment Process Map
English: Recruitment Process Map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So what can we do to reduce the risks. In preparation for recruitment of a new employee, as the owner of a small business you should have two things; a job description so you know what role they fulfill and a list of competencies that you think the person requires to be good at their job. So for example if you are employing a receptionist, they should be helpful, polite, have easy to read writing for reading notes, and a voice which is easy to understand over the phone.

Armed with this information you now have some criteria you can investigate when interviewing during the recruitment process. I can already hear some of you saying its a receptionist I haven't got time for that. I have two answers firstly, the receptionist will be the first point of contact for your business for your customers and prospects having a receptionist who is short tempered or even rude can have a serious impact on your business. Secondly, if you were spending £14000 and upwards on a machine I'm sure you wouldn't go and pay for it without bothering to check if it could do the job.

The first thing to ask I would suggest, which may come as a surprise to many, is will this person fit into my organisation. Whilst capability and relevant experience is very important making sure they will work well within your small team is very important indeed. Recruitment of a disruptive employee can do a lot of damage to both morale and productivity whilst at the same time take up a lot of management time and it may take several months for the business to recover. As you might expect the smaller the firm the bigger the level of disruption. 

Having decided on fit, my second suggestion is that you interview more than one candidate, this at least gives you some context for your decision to recruit. Often I have found that the comparison candidate has turned out to be the best fit for the business. 

Thirdly, make sure you ask all the candidates the same key questions during the interview, so you have some consistency in your feedback information and that you take notes so that you can compare the candidates. This is particularly useful. When there is some time between the two meetings. You'll be surprised how unreliable your memory can be especially with details.

Fourthly, do the unexpected during the interview as it helps you get valuable information, for example don't ask the typical questions like "tell me about yourself". Ask instead "what is the one thing you've done to date that you're most proud of or regret the most?" A key characteristic of a good employee is the ability to think "on their feet", you'll find more about a person by throwing a "curve ball" than you will by asking the predictable.  I recall one colleague deliberately made the first interview with a potential recruit as chaotic as possible to keep them off balance. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this extreme interview strategy but as a small business going through the motions at interview will increase the likelihood of a poor result.

Lastly and a very common stake made by small business owners, don't take a candidate just because they are the only one you can find. I've heard all sorts of rationalisations from business owners why they should take the person even though they may not be "perfect"

For a high growth business keeping the up quality of your recruits is a vital component of continued success, keeping the quality level high for new employees is a key success criteria. If you can't find what you want, I'm afraid that taking the "next cab off the rank" is rarely a satisfactory solution. 

Exigent Consulting provides specialist services for Managing High GrowthBusiness Turnaround, and Mentoring to the Small and Medium Business. We help business owners improve the profit performance of their business.