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The Small Business Guide to Hiring the Best Employees

There comes a time in many a sole trader’s life when going it alone is no longer feasible. If this is you, congratulations! You’ve got enough business for two, so you must be doing something right. Need someone to balance the books? Want help with the admin work you’re drowning in? After a marketing whiz or someone skilled in converting leads?

Whatever the case, hiring employees in small business is a big deal. At this stage of your business growth, you can’t afford a bad hire. You need the right person to keep growing. Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of everything you need to know. Follow these steps for the best chance of success with your first hire. Let’s get into it!

Be clear on what the job is

Even if the job is only for a few hours a week, write out a proper job description covering all tasks and areas of responsibility. This will allow you to get clear on the dividing line between their work and yours. It will also enable you to figure out exactly what you want done. It doesn’t have to be an essay. A dot point list that you can both agree on and refer back to will do for a start.

Consider your company culture

Your company has a culture: a way of approaching business, a way of thinking and operating that’s unique. This affects the way your business operates and the way it’s seen by customers. You, as a business owner or founder, have a big influence on your company’s culture, but so do the people you hire. So consider these points before you start hiring:

  • What is your company culture now? Ask any current employees (perhaps anonymously) or customers how they view your business.
  • What do you want your culture to be? Think about successful companies and how they do business. Try to copy their good points.
  • Do you want to hire someone who will fit into your company culture? If your team is running smoothly you might want someone who will fit in perfectly.
  • Would you consider hiring someone who might challenge your company culture in a positive way? Group-think and confirmation bias can hold your business back. Someone who can challenge your business culture might get you out of a rut.
  • How will you define your culture in words when you’re recruiting? It can be difficult to explain your culture to someone new, so take the time to prepare.
  • How will you evaluate an individual’s suitability to your company culture?
    Think about the interview questions you might ask.

Good culture is more than just putting pool tables or a ‘relaxation zone’ in your business premises, especially if your employees are too stressed or overworked to use them! It involves helping your staff develop as individuals and also as part of their team.

Write an awesome job description

Once you’re totally clear on what kind of hire you need and who you want for that role, it’s time to write your job description. This is the chance for your small business to stand out in a sea of job openings at well-known larger companies, so don’t follow the lead of the many job postings that consist of a single dull paragraph followed by a pile of dry bullet points. Instead of getting your requirements across as quickly as possible, take the time to paint a colourful and detailed picture of who you’re looking for and why someone would want to work for your business. Think of this as like a dating profile for your company: it should have charm and character. While you’re at it, say something about your company culture: Are you a group of passionate hard workers who go out together every evening? A relaxed crew who clock out at 5 p.m. because you want to go home to your families? Tell your story so people understand what your company cares about.

Hire someone you get along with

This is beyond important. It doesn’t matter if someone is crazy-skilled, if you don’t like them as a person you’re asking for trouble. This arrangement will be almost like a partnership. You’ll probably be working closely day in and day out. Make sure you get along well. Consider hiring someone you already know. A bit of banter and fun can go a long way to making your job more enjoyable. Just make sure they’re reliable and passionate about the industry too.

Hire someone you trust fully

Prioritise trust

Running a small business is stressful enough without managing an employee you don’t trust. So how do you figure out if you can trust someone? Ask yourself these three questions. Firstly, is this person invested in what happens to me and my business? Secondly, do they carry out the tasks that they say they will, on time and consistently? And lastly, is this person actually competent in the areas they have claimed to be? Try and work these out before committing. Tip: Contact their referees and ask similar questions.

Get to know them first

It can be tempting to make a decision on the spot when it comes to hiring someone. Don’t do this. Spend a bit of time with them first. Take them to lunch. Give them a tour of your business. Ask them to do a trial period. This is a huge decision and it’s best to be as well-informed as possible. Try to get a read on their personality and what they are passionate about. You want someone who is genuinely keen to work in your industry and whose personality aligns with the views and values of your business.

Consider a probationary period

The probationary period is a time frame during which you decide whether the employee is meeting your expectations. If a performance plan is created for the new employee, ensure you set a review date well before the employee’s minimum employment period ends. This will ensure you have enough time to review the employee’s performance, decide whether you want to keep them and, if not, terminate their employment before their minimum employment period expires. Also note that the Fair Work Act sets a minimum employment period that an employee needs to serve before they are able to make an unfair dismissal claim: 12 months – for small-business employers with fewer than 15 full-time equivalent employees; or 6 months – for all other businesses.

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Want more tips? Check out our 2019 Recruitment Handbook