HR & Management

5 tips for hiring the right employee for your SME

9 min read

15 October 2018

Features Editor, Real Business

Ensure you hire the right candidate at the start and avoid the financial and emotional burdens that can occur if you don't.

Trying to hire the right employee to fill a position is difficult for any company. Even the biggest corporates with seemingly unlimited financial and HR based resources can struggle to find the right candidate.

It’s no more pleasant for these corporate giants if a candidate doesn’t work out.

Before the employee has even left the hallowed-office-halls, the whole recruitment process begins anew.

– Except with increasing pressure on line-managers for ‘failing’ in their judgment of said candidate as well as on HR teams to find the right person ‘this time’.

For SMEs, it’s even harder to find the right candidate

With limited staff numbers and financial resources, its often SME owners themselves that have to act as boss, recruiter, and interviewer when they are looking for a new employee to join their company.

This is not only exhausting but, also, –  very high pressure.

This is because a new member of staff will have un undeniably impactful effect, for good, or even for bad, on a smaller team such as an SME.

So the happiness of the entire team rests on the shoulders of the over-stretched business owner to pick the right person, but here’s how they can make a start.

1. Make sure the job description ‘fits’

This is the first crucial step. Business owners and their senior staff should make sure the job description is thorough and detailed.

Leave no space for interpretations or questioning by candidates. In short, make sure the job description does what it says on the tin.

This will stop the chances of a candidate coming in and claiming that their role has been altered in some way following their employment in the company.

Think of the job description as what should be a watertight legal clause that cannot be misunderstood by an unruly employee, or able to be shifted in anyway to suit them if they do not get on in the role.

“Putting out a to-the-point job description means you will attract potential employees with the relevant and applicable skills to excel in the role.”

This also means you will attract the candidates who are actually interested in the role on offer and will be more likely to be satisfied in the role and stay on, should they be employed.

2. Have your team ‘on-board’

The next step is to hold a series of meetings with your employees that are involved in the recruitment strategy.

The clue’s in the name here, you need to make sure you have one!

Ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding the kind of candidate that is needed to fill the role and that everyone is happy about the kinds of tasks they need to complete to support the team properly.

Any unclarified points about a particular employee’s role and obligations may lead to tensions within the office after they are employed, and in particular between more senior staff.

“These tensions can extend to other members of staff who feel that they need more support from the candidate, or may feel that another employee is reaping all the benefits of this additional support.”

This can also create increased anxiety in the new employee, who may feel unclear about the breadth of their new job role, and who they should be reporting to.

3. Save time and ‘pick up the phone’

After you’ve arrived at a shortlist of candidates (cross-checked via a concise list of relevant team-agreed skills of course) hiring managers should arrange a casual 5-10 minute phone call with these candidates.

Doing so, managers will quickly assess if the candidate is the right fit for the company culture and if they have a basic working interest in the role at your company.

– This cuts down on wasting time interviewing unprepared candidates in person.

This way, you only have to take a couple of candidates to interview stage.

This allows you the time to conduct lengthier meetings to challenge, and get under the skin of potential employees who make the ‘short-short list’.

4. Ask the right questions

This is where employers should do their homework ahead of interviewing candidates as much as potential candidates themselves.

“Don’t waste valuable time asking vague questions such as asking candidates have been doing professionally since leaving university.”

Doing this will only encourage a garbled mega-narrative from a nervous candidate who will literally rattle off their CV verbatim style.

– And before you know it, times run out, the interview is over, and you need to jump on a conference call.

Instead, take the time to prepare some critical questions.

“Asking ‘tougher’ questions will not only challenge candidates but should also encourage the brightest and the best to analyse their own skills and attributes in response to the questions.”

Doing this will encourage candidates to think creatively, instead of answering questions robot-style.

This process should also encourage them to reveal their true personality, which is a great gauge for how well they will fit into your company on a social compatibility level.

5. Go ‘James Bond’ and dig into their backgrounds

We understand that SMEs, and in particular, their owners, are high on responsibilities and short on time.

But please, do allocate and prioritise sufficient time to allow you, or your senior staff to undertake crucial background checks when lining up final candidates for a role.

This should include chasing up referees and even directly contacting the last company that the candidate had attended.

When it comes to stated vocational skills a candidate may have, even suggest sending them a test in which the candidate must draw on this particular skill as part of the remote interview process.

This will be a non-confrontational way to dissuade candidates who are cheeky enough to bluff certain credentials.

Although the screening and fact-checking process will take time, it’s going to save you a hell of a lot of lost time later down the line should you hire the wrong candidate.

A candidate who fakes their CV will be one that will struggle in a new role to which they’re under-qualified  and will result in wasted hours, poor quality work, and stressed, and frustrated, line managers.

Next steps

So if you’re a business owner reading this and tearing out your hair, lamenting to the cloudy skies and asking why you keep hiring the wrong employees, well the five methods to stop it are simple and listed above.

– All that’s needed from you, and your team is to take the time out to prepare properly.