Business Growth Series: Hiring the Right People


It is a truth more or less universally acknowledged by SMEs that finding the right people for the right roles in their organisation is one of the most difficult tasks they face. If it is true that any business is only as effective as the people who work for it, then it is even more the case in point when the business is an SME, defined by the European Commission as one which employs between 10 and 250 people. In a smaller workforce of this kind, the impact of each individual employee is magnified, for good or ill, which makes sourcing and recruiting exactly the right people all the more vital.

The second difficulty is the impact which the recruitment process can have on an SME, in terms of both time and money. A report written by Oxford Economics broke the recruitment process down to its constituent parts and found that replacing a member of staff can cost a company as much as £30,614, with the bulk of this accounted for by a drop in productivity whilst the new recruit is brought fully up to speed.

Other costs identified by the report included £767 for the time management spent interviewing candidates, £398 in advertising the role and £196 on the HR time spent processing the new appointment.  

Do You Need to Recruit?

  The first question to ask yourself, therefore, is whether you genuinely need to recruit someone new? Is there someone within your business who can step up to a new role, or can the duties of this new role be shared between two or more existing employees? If this is not the case then not only do you need to look outside the business for fresh blood, but you also need to review your past and current recruitment practices, as well as your ongoing staff development. The people you employ should have the depth, flexibility and ambition required to take on new roles and rise to new challenges, and if you do need to recruit then you should be looking to find someone who fits this template, as well as that of the particular post on offer.  

What to Look For

  It’s tempting, and relatively easy, to sit down with a sheet of paper and draw up a list of the technical skills which a new employee will require. What is trickier, and even more important, is to ensure that you’re looking for the right ‘kind’ of person. This rather more amorphous set of requirements entails finding someone who buys into the kind of business you are, your ethos and the way you relate to your customers and clients. Most technical skills can be passed on via training, but the right mind-set has to be there from the start.  

Where to Look

  The days of simply posting a job advert at a job centre and in the local press are long gone. Social media and the Internet now allow for myriad ways of reaching out to people, via sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Gum Tree and LinkedIn. Take advantage of your existing staff and their social networks and bear in mind that people who approach you via your website or other online presence have shown a degree of enterprise and are clearly aware of who you are and what you do.  

Hone Your Offer

  Make sure that the job your offering is described as fully, clearly and honestly as possible, ensuring that prospective candidates will be fully aware of both their own potential duties and the milieu within which they will be working. If you run the kind of SME which encourages spontaneity, free-thinking and creativity, then make sure that this is clear from both the job description and your brand image. A lack of clarity will only result in a stack of applications which are doomed from the outset.  

The Interviews

  This can be the most time consuming and stressful part of the process, so cut to the chase by staging only a brief first interview. If you’ve filtered the applications correctly then everyone attending will have the requisite skills/experience/qualifications, meaning that an initial short interview will simply be a chance for you to get to know them a little and assess whether they ‘fit’ with your SME. It’s really a question of trusting your instincts and selecting the candidates who stand out to go forward to stage two.  


  Stage two of the interview process will consist of a task designed to ascertain the abilities and skillset of each applicant in a practical manner. The details of the task will vary from business to business, but it could involve creating a presentation, writing a report or creating a piece of work relevant to the specific post and your wider business. The quality of the work completed can be used to filter applicants for a second round of interviews.

Once you’ve made an offer, and assuming it’s accepted, contact all unsuccessful applicants to inform them that they haven’t been selected this time, and always be willing to provide feedback. Not only is this basic good manners, but it also helps to drive up the reputation of your business, as well as guaranteeing good relations with people in your field who may, in the future, go on to become clients, suppliers or employees.