A guide to hiring the right candidates

Hiring the right candidates is an ongoing challenge that can affect your whole business. Particularly if you’re a small or growing business, even one good hire can set up your future success. As Steve Jobs put it “A small company depends on great people much more than a big company does.” Getting it wrong can be costly too. Surveys have found that poor recruiting leads to 10-25% of staff leaving within the first 6 months, meaning you have start the process all over again.

To help you hire the right candidates for your business, we spoke to our Talent team for their advice. Read on to find their top tips for interviewing and onboarding.


Sell your company

You’re competing with every other company to hire the best staff. As a small business you may be more limited on salary, but this is rarely the only motivator. If they get multiple offers, showing off your business as a great place to work can make all the difference.

The interview starts for the candidate as soon as they arrive. Odds are they’re nervous and keen to impress you. A smile and offering them some refreshment can really put a person at ease. Make them feel welcome and they’ll feel more able to answer your questions.

As well as assessing technical skills, sell the role as an exciting opportunity. If you’re passionate about your business, this is the time to let it show. Interviewing is a two-way street, they’re trying to see if your company is right for them too!

Don’t discriminate

Aside from obvious legal and ethical reasons, discrimination is bad for business. Diverse teams have been shown to be more innovative. A mix of different backgrounds and viewpoints are better able to think around a problem to find the best solution.

You also need to be aware of what you can and can’t ask. Questions like ‘where did you grow up’ or ‘where have you travelled in from’ may seem innocuous, but if the candidate thinks they’re being discriminated against as a result, you could be in trouble. Any questions around age, marital status or children are a strict no go.

Be prepared

A little bit of preparation from you goes a very long way. Make sure you’ve read their CV, noting down questions you have on their experience and any projects they may have delivered.

If there’s more than one interviewer, or they’re having multiple interviews, make sure each person knows what topics they are assessing or focussing on. Repeating the same questions isn’t productive and can give the candidate the wrong impression.

Define your values

You’ve written a job spec, so you know what you’re looking for in an applicant. Now look at what core values you want everyone in your company to share. This may seem like something for Silicon Valley, but hiring based on clearly defined values will help you find candidates that will stay with your business, and be motivated to drive it forward.

Discuss your values with your staff, find out what motivates them. Then think what questions you can ask to assess whether a candidate shares your values? This will help you get a more rounded understanding of the type of person you want.

Ask open questions

In an interview, closed questions (those with only yes/no answers) are your enemy. They will interrupt the flow of the interview and won’t give you the information you need. Ask open questions, then drill down to specifics as you go.

Don’t ask irrelevant questions either! Think how each question you ask will assess the person’s ability to do the role.

It’s okay to be silent

In an effort to make people feel at ease we often fill silence with conversation that isn’t always relevant. Give your interviewee a chance to answer questions by pausing after you have finished. Not jumping in at the end of their sentence can also give your candidates room to explain their point more fully.

Plan how you are capturing your interviews

Keeping track of all your candidates and interviews can be time consuming. You need to have an organised way of staying on top. Applicant Tracking Systems can be a massive help to both small and large companies. There are loads on offer at budgets to suit all, and they can help you keep a record of who has applied for which role, who the applicants met with and the feedback from each interviewer.

In accordance with the GDPR legislation, make sure you’re storing any notes on candidates in a safe place. Anyone who interviews with you has a right to request any data you have kept on them (even notes scribbled on a CV print out).

Give feedback

Think of all your applicants as brand ambassadors. If they have a good experience and a clear resolution to their interview process, they are likely to mention it to their friends and share good reviews.

There are sites like Glassdoor, where candidates can give you reviews on your interview process. Remember, you’re competing with every other business for the best staff, and while you may not be that bothered about your Glassdoor profile, the candidate you want to hire might be. So give constructive feedback, be courteous and leave a good impression.


Now you’ve found the right candidate and they’ve accepted your offer – job done right? Actually, almost a third of office workers in SMEs say that despite accepting the initial offer, they’ve gone on to take a different role.

Of those, 51% went with a better offer, while 33% said that a poor follow up and bad experience after the offer put them off. You can still run into problems once they’ve started too. 42% have quit a job within the first six months, with culture, feeling unwelcome, or the job not being as they expected being the key issues.

By following the interview steps above, hopefully you’ll be able to avoid some of these problems before they arise. However, here’s a few more tips to help your new hires settle.

Stay in contact

Radio silence between job offer and start date will make candidates feel uneasy. Stay in touch and give them more information about your business or the role. By keeping them engaged and getting them excited, they’ll be less likely to go elsewhere and be able to hit the ground running when they start.

Get the basics in place

20% of staff don’t have a desk on their first day, while 22% have no computer. Not only will this make them feel unvalued, it’s a massive waste of time for your business. You’re paying them from day 1, so get them set-up before they arrive.

Create an onboarding plan

It can take weeks or months for a new starter to get completely up to speed with their role. To help them get there as quickly as possible, set out a programme of activities to give them the understanding they need. Do they need to shadow anyone? Which suppliers should they meet? What reading or reports do they need to get their heads round? Getting this done in advance will be more efficient and make them feel like an important part of the team.

Talk to them!

Regular check-ins are important with all staff, but with new joiners it’s particularly important. Make sure they understand their responsibilities, give them feedback and help nurture them. This is the point where they need most support, so make sure you or other colleagues can provide it.

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