Small business advice: hiring your first staff members


Many small businesses start out as just one or two people to keep operating costs low and to give the business a chance to get off the ground before having to take on the additional cost of salaries. When it comes to hiring your first staff members it’s essential to do it in an effective and cost efficient way. Ideally this means finding the right candidate first time and incentivising them well enough to ensure they stay and help you to grow your business. Your staff are an investment, so you should recruit them with the same savvy and commitment as anything else you’d spend energy and time on in the name of your business.

This article covers some of the most important things to consider and plan to help you find the best possible candidates in your industry, and to do it in the most financially efficient that way you can.

Attracting strong candidates

You can’t assume that the best candidates will find your vacancy unless you ensure it gets in front of them. It’s really important to do your research about the kind of person you want and then go to them – that is, make sure your job is listed and promoted in the kind of places where it’s likely to catch your ideal candidate’s attention.

Part of the trick to attracting the right candidates lies in how you write the job specification, how well you describe the role and whether or not you manage to make your business sound like an appealing venture to be a part of. We discuss writing job specs and the hiring process in more detail later.

Think outside the box in terms of how you can reach potential candidates – attend networking events, use social media, speak to contacts who might know people you’d be interested in meeting, list the job on niche specific job boards, speak to universities; get the word out in any way you can think of! And make sure you highlight all the reasons why this opportunity is worth getting excited about.

Keeping the costs down

Some places where you may want to list your vacancy can be pretty expensive – it costs a few hundred to list a job on the Guardian for just a week. So you also need to think about free or cheap options that could be just as fruitful. Word gets around quickly on social networks like Twitter, so it is well worth pushing your vacancy through free and heavily used platforms like this.

Universities have job boards which their graduates are likely to be checking regularly (especially in the months leading up to and immediately following graduation), so make sure you get listed on those.

When you are running a small business, you can afford more time than money. So be proactive. If there are events you could attend, or other opportunities where you might be able to meet potential candidates, make time to go along and build your contacts. It may be more labour intensive but it could help keep your recruiting costs down.

Describing the role

When people do find your vacancy, you need to sell it to them. Be very clear about what the job entails, the kind of business that you are, what your goals are and what the candidate will get from joining your team. As well as putting together an attractive benefits package, make sure you highlight additional benefits that aren’t part of a specific package. For example, what is the working environment like? If you have created a workplace that is enjoyable, creative and collaborative, tell the applicants about it. Give details of the kind of progression and development that the successful applicant can expect to see during their time working with you. This will increase the chances that excellent candidates will apply for the role.

Creating a job specification and application form

When you write the job specification, be clear about what the role entails. If part of the role will involve developing the business, lay out your expectations for the level of responsibility the successful applicant will take on. You should also think carefully about the kind of skills and characteristics you need your new staff member to have.

If you create an application form, make sure you give each candidate the opportunity to show you what sets them apart from others who may have similar experience or qualifications. If you just ask for CVs and cover letters, you should be clear about what kind of information you are looking for to be able to whittle down your pile of applications to the most suitable candidates. It’s also a great idea to ask for a bit of information about the applicants’ interests outside of work – this is one way to start figuring out who might fit in best in your team and gel with everyone else in the business.

The interview process

When it comes to interviews, have your questions prepared and make sure that they are going to lead to insightful conclusions about each candidate. It’s a good idea to have a couple of people in the interview, and don’t be afraid to follow a tangent if you think it’s going to help you reach a decision. If the job you are advertising requires particular technical skills, include a test so that you can check that each applicant definitely has the ability to do the role.

Lastly, it’s totally ok to hold second (or even third if necessary) interviews to make sure you have found the right person. If you do hold multiple interviews, make each one slightly different so you get different insights each time. For example, you could hold a second, less formal interview to try to ascertain more about the applicant’s personality when they are in a less pressurised environment.

With a carefully planned and executed approach, hopefully you’ll track down your ideal candidate and see your business continue to grow. For more information on recruiting staff for a small business you can read this guide that I found recently from Barclaycard Business.

2 Responses to Small business advice: hiring your first staff members

  1. Michelle says:

    Hiring your very first staff members seems very tricky. It would be hard for me to lose control, but most successful businesses have workers 🙂

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