Tips to help you avoid hiring donkeys in your small business.

Tips for Small Business


Whether you're hiring a permanent hammer hand, apprentice, foreman, sales manager or part time bookkeeper, it pays to get the right person. A great employee can transform your life while a bad one can wreck it. To make sure you avoid the donkey and hire right first time, here’s a few tips.


Recruitment tips


Firstly Never Stop Selling

Whenever or wherever you may be, any time you’re talking about your business is a good time to remind people why your company is different, why it's a great place to work and why your customers love you. You never know which conversation will lead to new business or a new employee.


Plan your hiring strategy

Shooting from the hip is never a good idea and this is especially true when it comes to hiring employees. Instead try to have a hiring strategy session once a quarter or once a year at least. The purpose of this session is to;


  1. Figure out what you actually need - where are the bottlenecks or constraints in your business and what do you need to make them go away? Make sure you’re certain throwing more people at the problem is the right answer. No point adding more staff if your business systems cant keep up.
  2. What skills does that person need - if it is a people issue, what skills would the person need to help your business go faster. Does your business need complementary or similar skills, operational or technical?
  3. What can you afford to pay this person - ideally this rate would be within spitting distance of the market rate.
  4. Do you want a specialist or a generalist - depending on lots of things (such as the role and the age and stage of your business) you might want someone with a very special set of skills or you might want a generalist. Either way, you want a great attitude as skills can be taught but attitude cannot.


Cultural Fit

Whether you planned it or not your company has a culture that defines the way people behave and how the business operates. The boss has a big influence on your company's culture, but so do the people you hire. So ask yourself these questions before you start hiring:

  1. Do you know what your culture is now?
  2. Do you know what you want your culture to become?
  3. Do you want someone who will fit or challenge (in a positive way) your culture?
  4. When you are interviewing - how will you describe your culture and how will you test their cultural fit?

If you can't answer these questions you are not ready to start recruiting


Finding candidates

You could use a recruitment agency to try to find candidates for you but because that's often not a great experience let's assume you would prefer to use alternative options. The 4 best alternatives are as follows;

  1. Tap your network - send an email out to your key suppliers, partners and sub contractors. Its super simple to write 5 bullets about the type of person you are looking for and how they can reach you. Then send a short note out to some key contacts asking for them to circulate it within their network.
  2. Self promotion - get a We’re Hiring note on your website and facebook page and add the same five bullets about who you are looking for and how they can get in touch.
  3. Associations - contact the local rep for the relevant trade association or union. Lots of organisations such as Master Electricians Australia have big apprentice programs and huge regional networks they can leverage.
  4. Seek - if all else fails, get an add on or or This will cost you but it will also generate a whole bunch of applicants  quickly, some of which will be unsuitable but you trade speed for quality.


Short Listing applicants

Filtering hundreds of applicants into a short-list can suck! I try to use a two step process.

Step 1 - create a long list by quickly reviewing each application and thinking about whether the person fits the minimum criteria you've specified i.e. experience, location, technical qualifications.

Step 2 - create a short list by reviewing each long list candidate in detail. Look into specific role or industry experience, job frequency and duration, and google them to check on any posts or behaviours on social media.


Interviewing candidates

Now you have a shortlist (no more than three) you can move to interview stage. Before you grill them its important to have a list of 10 questions. The whole purpose of the interview is for both parties to find out more about each other. Ideally you want the questions to get them to talk about themselves, their previous roles, technical skills, likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests.


The particular questions are up to you. This website will help. The important thing is you get the candidates talking and that you ask each of them the same questions. At the end of the interview you should immediately score each candidate out of 7 across a range of variables such as Culture Fit, Technical skills, Experience, and Communication.


Ideally all the interviews should be basically back to back to give you the best chance of comparing and evaluating them. Once you’ve scored them you should have your answer. If two score almost the same then potentially put them through another hurdle such as morning tea with the team or a job related test.


Once you are ready to make an offer - pause. Look deep within your gut and decide if it feels right. The right person will almost certainly feel right to you, as well as ticking all the boxes for culture, experience, qualifications, and communication. If you have doubts about someone's suitability to the role you're offering, it's probably best not to hire them.


Once you’ve made the offer and its been accepted you need to start writing a detailed onboarding plan for their first 90 days - but that's for another blog!