WW#005: Why Hire Habitually

So yesterday, I saw someone in the street who was the first person I ever had to remove from their role in a business. It got me thinking and reminded me just how hard that actually was. I think it’s one of the hardest things you’ll do in a business leadership role, having to go through that process of letting someone know that they are no longer going to be in that position.

  1. This encounter served to remind me just how important it became personally to try and create a repeatable process for hiring people in the businesses I was involved with. Your people are your business and, when you are building for high performance, getting the hiring of your team right is key.
  2. They say a bad hire can cost business dearly. In fact, The Society for Human Resources Management has produced a statistic indicating that a bad hire typically costs a business 5 times the starting salary for that role.
  3. So, getting recruitment right is so important. That’s why I always advocate getting the right hiring system in place as a business fundamental. Get it right and you can really get to understand someone from different aspects and different situations and ensure you end up with a business with the right people in it.
  4. Ultimately, an effective hiring process ensures we get the right people on the bus and the right people in the right seats on the bus. We don’t end up with the wrong people, and importantly, we also don’t end up hiring great people into the wrong roles

So, how can you create a repeatable hiring model that works?

Start by looking at how your business structure needs to look and what the current and future skills gaps are. If you haven’t already done so, I would advocate ensuring your existing team members have very specific roles and targets already defined and documented. Not only does this help in identifying gaps you’ll need to recruit for, it also helps create a transparent shared vision and culture internally where everything gels.

The foundations

  • Be agile building the ideal team structure you want, work out who you have that can fill that seat well with training, then work out what you need to externally recruit. Developing an existing employee to meet a future role need in a business is great if they have the capability but if the skills just don’t exist internally you’ll need to outsource until those competencies exist internally.
  • Be agile building the ideal team structure you want, work out who you have that can fill that seat well with training, then work out what you need to externally recruit. Developing an existing employee to meet a future role need in a business is great if they have the capability but if the skills just don’t exist internally you’ll need to outsource until those competencies exist internally.

Avoid shortcuts

The cohesive culture we are looking to develop internally needs to be reflected in our hiring process and we can achieve this with an extensive, repeatable and fair selection process. In fact, it’s true to say that short cutting any hire will only create internal resentment. Also, your team will usually look to the latest hire to understand what the new good looks like (so hiring well really matters).

Getting the external hiring process right

It’s important to take the time to consider how you will attract great talent. Review your recruitment advertising. Do you project your passion, values and what applicant needs to know to buy into you? Do you project the passion you have from your business culture versus brand? These elements are often intertwined but ensure you help people understand exactly who you are and why you are here!

I have already alluded to the importance of culture and values…they really matter. Ensure your recruitment process takes this into account. You also need to think about whether you are looking for someone to follow your existing system or to come in and create or change things up. It’s also important to consider how you could implement ‘blind CVs’ to ensure any bias is removed during the sifting process (and throughout).

The interviews

Within your hiring process, you’ll establish your procedures for an effective first sift and for the initial interview. It’s fair to say there’s different schools of thought on who should lead your interview process. Should it be your top leader, the person the candidate would work directly for etc?

‘A players hire A players and B players hire C players ‘

To some extent this is true, but if you create a system where you can train people up in-house this isn’t necessarily the case.

As part of your interviewing process, I recommend some focus on how the candidate responds under pressure (this could be achieved using some simple questioning techniques where you are effectively asking the same question in three different ways – reach out to me if you want a few suggestions on this!) Understanding how they work and react when the going is good will only tell you so much…focus on whether they have what the business needs when the going gets tough. This will be far more enlightening.

The value in technical and team interviews

I would also always advocate a technical interview, where appropriate, to deliver a deeper understanding on the candidate’s ability to do the job. Because we understand the importance of culture and also the negative impact internally on a short-cut hiring process, I recommend allowing for a team interview in your process. Creating an environment where you truly get to see how the candidate engages with the team and vice-versa is really valuable.

Of course, we haven’t yet mentioned other tools and strategies that can support our hiring process. Many can be really useful, but my key message here would be that they often risk some bias and are most useful when used for the right

reasons in the right hands (such as personality profiles).

One thing I would strongly advocate, from personal experience, is to ensure effective character references before any formal job offer is made. Ability to do a great job is one thing, but use one of those search tools to ensure you’ve done your due dilige

Making the hire and effective on-boarding

When it comes to making the offer to your preferred candidate, use the opportunity to create a positive bonding moment. For this very reason, in my opinion the candidate’s new line manager is best placed to deliver this good news.

First impressions count and creating a clear, effective on-boarding process will help your new recruit settle quickly. Ensure you get your on-boarding right. What will your new team member experience in their first hour on day 1? What will they experience in week 1? What should month 1 look like and why? What about the first 3 months and 6 month windows?

Take the time to consider what your on-boarding stage really looks like in your process and ensure you make on-boarding a high value experience for your new team member. Creating purposeful and positive experiences quickly will build trust, connection and motivation and is far more preferable to the day 1 ‘thumb twiddling’ we’ve all experienced at some point in our working life. Remember how that felt?

Ultimately, your people are your business. And, if you every want a reminder of why its so important to spend time building the recruitment process properly, remember that it’s so much easier to build an effective, repeatable recruitment process than it is having to remove someone due to rushing the process!

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James Potten


On a mission to democratise entrepreneurship by providing access to best practice, helping startups sustainably scale up.