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Top Tips on Hiring Staff for SME Owners – Part Two

Last week we published some information for SME owners here in the UK with advice on hiring staff.  Because we know many of our readers are sole traders, we’ve decided to publish some guidance for small business owners who have never before been in the position of having to recruit and interview workers to help them with their business activities.  Last week we looked at how to define the job description and some ideas of where to advertise when looking for staff.  Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the interview process, an activity that many small business owners find a daunting experience.

The first thing to remember is that the interviewees are likely to be more nervous than you are!  The first step is to make sure you’re well prepared for the interview by using the job description and person specification in the job adverts to list some standard questions to ask all of the candidates.  If you ask the interviewees a set of standard questions, it will help you to compare and contrast the applicants. 

Take a look at the applications you’ve received (as well as any CVs) and then highlight any specific questions you may have for each individual.

Prepare an interview assessment form to use during the interview – use ticks or mark each point out of 5 or 10 to make this easy for you whilst you’re actively listening to what the interviewee is saying.  If possible, have somebody else present during the interview to take notes for you so that you can concentrate on what each candidate is saying – this will also help you to gain a more objective view of the candidate.

Leave space on your form to make any notes on experience (qualifications should be listed on the application), motivation, communications skills, enthusiasm for the type of work and any competencies required.

Welcome the candidate and try to relax them at the beginning of their interview then open with a short overview of your business and how the job would fit in to your overall business operations.

 Closed questions should be avoided where possible – they require a simple “yes” or “no” response and should only be used to clarify information. 

Use open questions beginning with “how”, “who”, “why”, “what”, “when”, “do you . . .”, “talk me through a time . . . “.  These require detailed answers and will give you a clearer idea of how the candidate approaches their work.

Don’t forget to ask practical questions towards the end of the interview, such as:

  • If hired, when would you be able to start work?
  • What is your salary expectation?
  • Do you have any holidays planned?

Don’t forget to give each candidate an opportunity to ask you questions, to clarify any details of to bring up issues not already covered in the interview.  This often results in an opportunity for you to differentiate between equally good candidates and get a better feel for who would be the best “fit” for your business.

At the end of each interview, summarise the selection process, recap what you’ve covered, what the next stage is and how long the selection process is expected to take before a decision is made. 

Next week, we’ll have some more useful information on hiring staff for small business owners.  Why not follow us on Facebook or Twitter and you’ll get a notification as soon as the advice is published.