Best practice recruitment for small to medium businesses

It’s clichéd but it’s true: business is all about people. Get the right people to work for you and you will have success. Recruiting can be hard work and costly on time especially if you get it wrong. Take my advice, don’t be daunted and concentrate on getting it right.

Candidate interview

I have employed thousands of people during my career and my golden rule to recruitment is:


This may sound like a strange thing to say, but many interviewers have doubts about a candidate yet still employ them. You get a sixth sense when a candidate walks into the room. If they come across as curt or over confident, shy or too quiet that's what they will be like in the workplace! Your gut feeling is always right so when you are discussing someone post interview and you say "I liked them, but..." it's a no!

Having more staff does not always lead to more success! Success in your business should be judged by a good cash flow, consistent turnover and growth in profits. More staff means more wages, employers NI contribution, pensions, bigger offices and overheads.

If you have the need to recruit, then do so but you must sanity check your costs and decide how much the person has to contribute prior to you making a penny in profit. My rule of thumb is each person has to bring in 130% of their wage value, otherwise they are a waste of money.

1. Set a clear role

Understand what you want from this new member of staff. Remember a good team is made up of different characters which can be tested in the interview but objectives should be role related. Script a simple but effective job description and set out what the business needs from this role. Doing this will ensure that both you and the candidate have a clear understanding of the expectations from day one.

2. Consider your timings

You need to put time aside to find applicants, interview, induct and train, so ensure you understand this prior to commencing.

If you are short on time you might want to consider using a recruitment consultant. They may appear to be expensive but weigh this up against the cost of you not fully focusing on your business. It's preferable to stick to a set fee, but many consultants will work on a commission basis, especially with higher-tiered positions. Don't forget, you won't pay unless you appoint.

3. Interview, interview again and then triple check

  • It is really important that you have a two-stage interview, and never interview alone. Even if you are the only member of staff ask a friend whose opinion you respect or a business contact to interview with you. If you have no experience of interviewing remember they are there to sell themselves not to hear you pitch your business.

  • Prepare questions but start by getting them to talk about what they do and question them on each aspect.

  • Expect measurable examples of previous experience and achievements.

  • Sanity check their reasons for leaving a job as this often gives clues into performance. If they jump roles every six months to a year is this because of progression or underperformance?

  • Use the second interview to test their memory, do their answers match? What do they remember about the role and your business?

  • If you think they are right for the role, ensure you make a reference check with their last two employers.

4. Get off on the right foot

As the recruitment process takes time, it is crucial that you ensure your new employee hits the ground running. The following tasks should be completed before they start:

  • Set up their desk or work space

  • Set up a company email

  • Purchase all the kit they require such as a laptop and mobile phone

  • Send an internal memo announcing them to other staff

  • Ensure within their first week you introduce them to all key staff

  • Plan out their first week so they have structure and you cover all the basic training they need.

The legals!

  • Always ensure you give them an offer letter outlining employment details

  • Always issue a written contract of employment within the first three months

  • Always ensure they have a probationary period of either three or six months to ensure you can road-test them

  • Always give them a written copy of their job description

See a check list of recruitment dos and don'ts.

Want to find out more about our Shop Insurance?

More details