Why it’s important to create a predictable hiring process

Why it’s important to create a predictable hiring process

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

If an external hire is required to meet business needs, consider too that the best people are often already in roles and may cost you more, and so using boolean searches on LinkedIn can be a very powerful way to build the team you need.

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 diligence.

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!

If you want to see more about what I believe could help you sustainably scale your business, please watch this short case study I recorded – go.jamespotten.com

Creating a sports mindset in your business

Creating a sports mindset in your business

After so many inspiring sporting performances during the Olympics, with athletes truly at the pinnacle of their game, my mind got to thinking about legacy and in particular what learning we can take and positively apply in the world of business.

There really is so much in turning up and being ready…ready to perform. They say medals are won based on that tiny percentage of real estate – the bit between your ears. It’s truly a mindset and preparation thing!

I was fortunate enough to be in the British windsurfing team and competed in the Olympic trials back in 1995. My own sporting mindset, and indeed the ability to perform at my best, was in no small part developed by an amazing coach (thanks Chris if you are reading this!)

I was probably around the age of seventeen, with some raw ability and plenty of passion. Yet, without doubt it was my coach that elevated me to perform at my maximum potential. My coach made such a positive difference to my understanding of ‘what was happening when’; how to manage my thought processes and how to recognise when things weren’t going so well. He also taught me how to manage and learn from these moments.

Roll the clock on ten years, and I found myself applying many of the sporting mindset tools adopted from my coach into the world of business. Yes, they were indeed transferable.

In business, I was starting to go through some really exciting growth periods and in the hot seat leading within my own business. I was experiencing success, however, truth be told, it was hard at times and I was actually struggling with the pressure of leading a scaling company.

I remembered what it had been like to have a coach when I was younger and what a remarkable difference it had made to me in sport. It was around this time that I got a coach to support me in business (thanks Mike if you are reading this!).

This was without doubt a winning decision for me. The positives I experienced as a direct result of working with my business coach were many. The process helped me understand how I thought again; what was happening around me and also introduced me to group coaching – which I found incredibly powerful!

Group coaching gave me the opportunity to learn so much from understanding how other people in similar business roles to me worked their way through similar business challenges. It also helped me understand that the challenges I was facing in business were not unique to me and that others were in fact experiencing just the same.

It’s true to say that there really is so much in turning up and being ready to perform. Just as with athletes at the pinnacle of their sport, success in business is truly about getting the right mindset and the right preparation in order to WIN (or compromise with a win win)!

It’s no great surprise that medal winning athletes so often champion the influence of their coaches in their post performance interviews. Medal winning is a big ask when ‘going it alone’. And, I believe the same can be said in business.

In sport, I came to the realisation that the right coaching environment would play a large part in getting me ready to succeed. It would help me reach my pinnacle of achievement. In my own business, I found that exactly the same was true. Working with the right coach and being involved in the right group coaching made such a lasting difference to me in business.

And so, fast-forward to today and that’s all led me to what I do now, coaching other business owners to help them achieve their own pinnacle of success. Coaching, just like in sport, is a catalyst for both a winning mindset and being truly ready to perform in business as the best you can be.

If you want to see more about what I believe could help you scale your business, please watch this short case study I recorded – go.jamespotten.com



I felt compelled in these Covid times to get these words out into the world. When there are so many challenges mounting on our own doorstep in the western world, the needs of those in faraway lands gets drowned out. However, these forgotten communities require more support than ever. I’d like to highlight the great work of Deki.

It was Deki’s 10th anniversary last year and in that time, Deki has changed the lives of over 60,000 people. As Chair of Deki over the last five years we’ve seen some highs & lows and at times we have struggled to get the wider message of the mission to give people in Sub-Saharan Africa opportunity beyond poverty. Getting airtime for this message is now exponentially harder.

Deki was started by Vashti Seth, back in 2009 after her father’s death. She was inspired by her Dad sponsoring a child called Deki Dolkha in an orphanage founded by the Dalai Lama. Vashti went to visit Deki Dolkha in India and found that she was trapped in a cycle of poverty, reliant on the handouts. So Vashti created the Microfinance charity Deki to take a more holistic approach, providing loans to individuals like Deki Dolkha so they could work their way out of poverty. The charity focus became Africa and the first peer-to-peer lending platform in the UK was created, also enabling the lender to learn from the enterprising spirit of Deki entrepreneurs.

Our last field visit to Togo with the amazingly talented Deki team took place in November 2019. Our mission, to observe the work and build a deeper relationship with our Field Partner IADES and to measure the impact of the work they have been doing.

On the flight over to Togo we went via Accra, Ghana and I sat next to Peter, a Ghanaian who lives in London. His sage advice was ‘don’t think you will be able to solve all the problems, you have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk’ (…so wise. He’d only had to ‘listen’ to me for 4 hours!).

Lome, the capital city of Togo was bustling and the surrounding communities welcoming. Each time we arrived at a village, they would sing a welcome song in a large circle, we’d have a dance and then a lesson would take place. Song is a powerful communication tool in these communities and they carry important messages through the medium of songs such as saving money for a rainy day!

Some of the key challenges we heard during our community meetings were:-
– 1. Patriarchy/Polygamy – in Togo men can have multiple wives. There is also very little family planning, thus a man with three wives can have many children with each wife and not be able to afford to contribute to their upbringing (financially or time)
– 2. Health – there weren’t too many signs of malnutrition but if someone falls ill in the family, it is often the mother that takes out a loan to fund the treatment (see point 1)
– 3. Education – the government fund primary school but not secondary school. Many of the girls were not educated beyond primary school (parents have to decide which children they send to secondary and the boys are usually chosen). With little family planning, girls in their teens end up becoming mothers and the cycle goes round again and again (see point 1)

Changing the patriarchal society is a huge challenge but via our theory of change model we believe through education (SDG4) and providing the tools for self-determination, we can help lower the impact of extreme poverty (SDG1). I often refer to this diagram below to remind me of the steps needed to shift from equality, to equity to systemic change.

Change on this level requires government intervention but we focus our support through the grass roots and working with our Field Partners. We have been very fortunate to find Christian and his team at IADES who spend many hours with communities and their group leaders to help educate the entrepreneurs (90% are women) before money is received.

Since 2009 the world has changed & even more so since 2019. Deki has now implemented donating to communities, not lending to individuals as it became all too apparent that keeping the money in the country with the Field Partners helped to reduce the time to re-lend (a significant issue, especially in planting season when there is a small window to buy the seeds and get them in the ground). This will help support more entrepreneurs and increased the number of lives changed overtime.

Deki has evolved and is now responding to the Covid crisis by working with IADES to re-think how lessons can take place in a socially distanced safe way (they can still teach songs at distance). Also, to help with the imminent health challenges IADES are offering a MicroInsurance product that funds the medical treatment of family members in the event of an illness.

A success story. We went to see the first ever chocolate maker in Togo called ChocoTogo in Lome, that was created by a Komi Agbokou a chocolatier trained in Italy. Working through a cooperative, ChocoTogo now export to global markets. Togo’s cacao growers had been helpless in the face of prices set by international buyers but Komi is helping to change this. Through Deki/IADES we have helped create lots of micro businesses but now need to help those businesses form cooperatives so they can find routes to market in the same way ChocoTogo have. We now have a dedicated Togolese team member helping to accelerate this process.

If you have the time, please do take a look at the amazing work of the team at Deki.org.uk and remember that no matter which horizon we live, we are all experiencing the challenges of Covid together.