How to find the right employees for your small business

There comes a time in the journey of every small business when there is just too much work for one person and a succession of interns. And it is at this point that expanding the team is necessary, but how do you make sure you choose the right people?

Almost as important as the business itself are the people you employ to drive your dream forward. Hiring employees is crucial to growing any business, but for a small business it can be a daunting prospect. Can you really commit to another salary? Is there enough work for each employee? Can you be sure that workloads are not going to drop in the near future? 

Jitters aside, if your staff are overstretched; you haven’t been able to take time off in months or your team is lacking in certain skill sets, it is probably time to grow your team to keep your business moving in the right direction and maintain team morale.

A new hire can bring skills that take years to develop, enabling you to pursue new revenue streams and drive rapid growth. An addition to the team can also free up your time and give you the chance to focus on strategic priorities, instead of just the day to day. Sounds good, right? Now, where does one begin?

Start with the Job Description

How about with the job description – what exactly is the job you need doing? What skills are you missing in your current team? Start by outlining the everyday tasks involved in the position, and then think hard about the kind of person you want to attract and how you can word your description to bring them in.

Consider the importance of so-called ‘soft’ skills and values – not just education and experience. You are more likely to get an employee who is the right fit if you share similar core values and working styles. Think about whether you need a creator, a negotiator, an empathetic manager, or maybe a hyper-organised project manager and include this in the job description.

It might be that you need someone to work across different functions within the business (this is of course particularly relevant with small businesses).

“Looking for too specific a skill set can be a problem as quite often in small businesses employees will need to wear multiple hats (operations & finance etc.),” says Private Equity Portfolio Support Manager at Investigo, Mathew Peters.

“The smart thing to do is hire the person you think is best for the company and train them to be experts in the areas you need. Promoting them as professionals will foster loyalty and when a small enterprise starts up and it’s all hands-on deck; loyalty is by far the most important attribute.” Again, it looks as though the personality is almost as important as the skills new employees are furnished with.

Get Advertising

So now you have a job description, clearly detailing the type of person you want to hire, the skills they must have, and the amount (or the range) you are willing to pay, it’s time to advertise. Make sure to advertise the position in forums frequented by your ideal candidate. Push out the job ad on social media, and ask colleagues to do the same.

If you are advertising in an area you know little about, try and get an advertising (or preferably a candidate) recommendation through your network. It is also at this point that you might want to consider hiring a recruiter, particularly if you are so understaffed that you can’t see how you will find the time for the HR process.

Interview time

Once you’ve filtered through the CVs and cover letters that have come pouring in, it’s time for the interview process. How, at this point, can you find out what you need to know about each candidate to ensure you make the right decision? “You are going to be seeing them 40 hours a week, so choose someone who you can get on with. Chemistry is important,” says Dave Chaplin, CEO and founder of contracting authority ContractorCalculator. “Experience is important, but everyone gains that. What you cannot teach is tenacity – but you can spot it and hire it.”

Chemistry, character and fit seem to be the areas you want to explore during the interview. Dr Jill Miller, Research Adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, suggests using extra questions to help ascertain if candidates will be good fit. You could choose to discuss the interviewee’s hobbies; or perhaps ask them for an example of a difficult situation they have had to deal with, or when they have effectively demonstrated team work. Discussion areas away from traditional skills and experience-based topics will help explore the fit.

All in all, a carefully considered job description, advertised in the right places, and a slightly non-traditional approach to interview-questions should stand you in good stead for finding the right employees for your small business. So, get that job ad up pronto – who knows where a new hire could take your business.


Frances McMonagle
Originally from “Up North“, since moving to London a few years back Fran has made it her mission to make the most out of living in the city. She can usually be found with a green tea, coffee or cocktail in hand busy taking far too many photos.

Date published: 15 October 2019

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