It feels like a big deal to hire your first employees. Maybe you’re past that point and while you have a staff team, you’re about to move into hiring an unknown person. 72% of SME founders already know the half dozen people they bring on board: family and friends, colleagues from the same industry, they don’t so much recruit as solicit known talent to come and play on their new team.

Then it’s the leap into the dark – placing an advert or using an agency to seek out employees who aren’t already familiar.

Before getting into recruitment, check whether you really need new staff, or just new ways of doing things. Alternatives to employment include:
• Changing the company structure to free up people to do what isn’t getting done
• Sharing out extra work amongst the current team
• Training or retraining a current employee for a new task
• Asking part time staff to go full time
• Overtime or flexitime to provide cover
• Using temps for busy periods.

All these reduce the cost of actual employment and the risk of getting the wrong person.

On the other hand, perhaps you really do need another person or group of people onboard. In that case, define the work they need to do, and check your assumptions with another member of the team who can confirm that your view of the task is accurate and performable. Many entrepreneurs tend to assume that employees will work as many hours as the boss, be as committed and arrive with a similar skill set. None of these assumptions is necessarily the case.

1. Check out legal requirements. Are you registered as an employer?

2. Who is going to supervise the employee? Does that person have the necessary HR skills to be a manager/supervisor? Should they be involved in the selection process?

3. What selection criteria will you use? Write down interview questions and use the same format with all the people you interview. Ensure that you ask behavioural questions that examine how somebody performs, not just procedural questions that find out what they can do. They may have a double first, but how did they cope with examinations? Perhaps they speak four languages – doesn’t mean they are confident meeting new people and persuading them to buy your products. Dig deep into who they are, not just what they are.

4. Give interviewees a chance to shine or ship out. For example, on your company website, ensure there are pictures of your current team in their normal state of dress for work. If the candidate turns up dressed wildly above or below that standard, they may be trying to impress (or fail) rather than wanting to fit in. A good candidate will do their research and show up dressed slightly more formally than the named individuals on your website – it shows respect and a desire to conform to company culture. A poor candidate will show up dressed as they think best and expect you to adjust your ideas, and your organisation, to their dress code.

5. When you’ve make your choice, check out legal requirements again. Is your proposed hiree eligible to work in the UK?

6. What assessment system will you use to check you have chosen the right person?

This simple system takes a lot of the guesswork out of selecting employees and can save time in the recruitment process.