Taking on your first member of staff is a seminal moment for any small business – but one that’s all too easy to get wrong!
A key indicator of your business success may well be the point at which you need to hire your first member of staff. This can be the most exciting time for a young company, but it also poses an often overwhelming challenge; you want the best person but you probably don’t know where to find them! There are so many options – you can go it alone, use agencies or explore technology solutions. But however you choose to hire, it’s so important to get it right – and while every new person will impact your business, setting the tone with that first hire is often the most crucial.
Remember too, we’re in the midst of the tightest labour market since the 1970s and there are currently approximately 810,000 vacancies in the UK. In a nutshell, this means candidates are interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them!
Many candidates will have multiple job offers, so it is essential that you demonstrate how brilliant the role with you can be in the job advert. Sell the opportunity with your company and outline what progression is on offer. Candidates nowadays often care less about the contractual basics and more for the intangible features and soft benefits. It’s really important that you are clear on how to communicate your company’s plans and goals, values and ethics, as well as any complimentary benefits such as positive company culture and flexible working. Many companies are moving towards a higher trust model, supporting working from home and even offering benefits such as unlimited annual leave.
Make sure that you are looking in the right places for the best candidates in your sector. There will be many specialist job boards for your industry, so make sure you choose the right one. Try to think like the candidate; where will the person that you want to be looking?
Another option is to use a recruitment agency. Finding a good specialist recruiter will help you enormously as it is their job to know the market. Finding one who can conduct a values-based search will not only ensure they find candidates capable of doing what you want them to do but also how you want them to do it - people that will fit your company culture. They can gain access to candidates that most employers can’t and they should know the best methods for your industry. They can also let you know what candidates are being paid at each level so you can ensure your package is competitive.
In order to find the right fit, you must conduct your interview effectively. Think about what you want to find out and what questions will need to be asked to establish this. Have a planned structure but allow the candidate to ask questions throughout too. Make sure that you are not just asking generic interview questions. Try to find out about the person so you can establish who they really are, what makes them tick and how they will compliment you and your team (without straying into areas that could be classed as potentially discriminatory, of course – you do not need to know if a candidate has or is planning to have children, for example!). It can often be a good idea to interview more than once. This not only demonstrates a commitment on the candidate’s side but also gives you the opportunity to ask more questions, follow-up on areas you perhaps didn’t fully get to the bottom to during the first interview and help you make a more robust decision. It’s also a good idea to have someone else with you so you can get their opinions and thoughts on the candidate too.
Be mindful of your process and record-keeping too. Some candidates may ask for feedback on the reasons they haven’t been successful, for example. All new staff will need to provide evidence of their right to work in the UK – why not ask them to bring it along to the interview, as this will save time later in the process.
Often when you are at the point of making a new hire, you are at full capacity and feeling the pressure to release that burden from yourself – as well as for the rest of your team. However, introducing anyone into a company is a huge decision and is not to be made lightly. Most importantly, do not stress. The right candidate will be out there and it’s not worth settling for less. Remember that each new employee is your own investment in your business’s future, so it’s vital to commit the time, effort and resources into getting it right.
Co-founder and Director of Petaurum Solutions, Adam brings over 30 years of professional expertise to the team from both the public and private sectors. With extensive experience of supporting businesses on their day-to-day HR issues, Adam has also designed, developed and implemented HR strategies in a range of organisations and sectors from PLCs to SMEs.