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Hiring the right candidate

One of the most crucial aspects of growing any business is hiring people that will add value to not only the job, but your cultural values too. Get it right and your business will prosper. Get it wrong and you will be taking one step forward and the proverbial three steps back.  At the time of writing this, July 2018, it’s never been so important to get it right, because of the deteriorating candidate availability and skills shortages. Having less access to candidates can have severe effects, and is restricting many businesses’ ability to grow. Although some companies are responding by raising starting salaries in an attempt to attract scarce talent, those who fail to hire will find it tough to grow. 

There is a vast amount of information out there when it comes to recruitment, some of it inconsistent and some of it ambiguous, so our advice is concise. The hiring of people is more often than not instinctive and emotional – but rationality plays its part. In essence, there are two distinct things that you are looking for: firstly, someone who has the skills, knowledge, and expertise to fulfil the role; and secondly, someone who will fit seamlessly into the team culture and ethics of your business.

Without question, hiring is not easy. It’s an emotional process, and taking into consideration that even our closest friends will to some extent, remain mysterious and unfathomable, it’s virtually impossible to get it right every time. The unknowableness of other people means it’s nearly impossible to correctly judge someone. The advent of AI will not help either. However, there are certain things you can do to make the hiring process a tad simpler.

Firstly, you will need to define the role in detail. Do not underestimate the value of doing this. It will help you evaluate each candidate’s skills and experience in a more effective manner.

You will also need to ask yourself quite a few questions, such as:

  • What core skills are absolutely vital to carry out this role effectively?
  • What short-term projects will I need this candidate to work on?
  • Where will they fit into the business in order to complement the existing team?
  • Will they bring a value-added service to existing and potential new clients?
  • What do I really need from a new employee, and is there a skills gap that they can fill?

Using an Interview wisely

The process you decide on to interview candidates is very important and should not be neglected. It is difficult to compare and contrast candidates, but if your process is consistent then the decision will be made easier.

We’d recommend asking the same questions to each candidate, as this will help you compare their skills and expertise. The questions must relate to the role, its responsibilities, and ways to assess a candidate’s previous work history – past behaviour is an excellent predictor of future behaviour.

Try not to interview candidates too far apart. If necessary and possible, keep a day or two free in your diary and interview each one back to back. This is an exceptional method of comparing their personalities, skills, and fit for your business.

Essentially, you’re looking for candidates who respect your profession, who are willing, honest, reliable, determined and will add value.

It can be prudent to be more relaxed and informal with candidates, to ensure that you see them in a true light. Some people don’t perform well in a structured and rigid interview process, but a more informal setting will let their true characteristics come through. Furthermore, if a candidate’s experience is limited, key personality traits such as energy, drive, tenacity, motivation, and determination may win you over. These traits could be better discovered in a freer setting.

 Interviewing tips

  • Avoid obvious or fantasy questions – such as “what are your strengths/weaknesses?” or “where do you want to be in five years?”. They’re dreadfully old hat, and most candidates are well prepared for these questions.
  • Spend time with your preferred candidate in order to better judge their fit with your culture and environment. A great idea is to ask the candidate to spend a half-day or a day in your office.
  • Introduce the candidate to other team members, particularly the ones they’ll be working with – their input is important. Gauge their opinions and explore any discrepancies with your own.

Questions need to unearth a candidate’s persona as well as their skills. Try asking:

  • Can you give an example of how determined you have been recently?
  • What would your previous boss and colleagues say about you?
  • How will you gain the credibility and confidence of others?
  • What culture and environment suits you?
  • How do you take direction, and how will we get the best out of you?
  • Why are you here?

The salary issue

Money is still a taboo subject, but it is imperative to discuss salary and expectations at the first and second interview stage. Over the last few years we have seen numerous offers (1 in 3 during 2017) rejected due to mismatches between salary expectations and what is offered after a final interview. This is mainly down to the lack of skilled candidates, and increasing pay pressure on companies. But it is down to the employer to explore a candidate’s salary history and expectations. Be open and honest about the pay scale for your opportunity. There’s no point trying to attract a candidate who knows their worth with a salary that is below market value.

Before you start the hiring process, know the market value of your role, as well as the going rate for your industry. It’s equally important to get the job title right, and content of the role. Simply put, if it is wrong, you will attract the wrong people. Roles that are advertised with a specific salary or banding will negate potential problems. When advertising a role with negotiable salary, you may find a lot of bumps along the way, and more worryingly, a very long hiring process.

We strongly recommend that salary issues are discussed and explored in some depth, or you may find yourself wasting time interviewing people that are outside your salary bands. Perhaps the hour has come, where new thinking may need to apply, and the salary for a role should be based on what the role involves, and an offer is not based on the applicant’s present salary.

Be honest

Be open and honest about the role and company. No-one is perfect and neither should they profess to be. Discuss the positives and negatives; if you focus on the former, you will be setting yourself up for a surprise and sudden resignation.

An astute interviewer should provide job applicants with candid company information before an offer is made. A realistic job interview balances the positive and negative aspects of the role. Evidence indicates that applicants who have been given a realistic and honest job interview hold more realistic expectations about the role. This, of course, results in fewer unexpected resignations. Presenting only the positive aspects of the role may entice an applicant in the early stages, the magic won’t last.

The culture

A cultural fit is often equally as important as a candidate’s ability to do the job. It is important to assess potential employees in terms of how well they would fit into your company’s culture.

You want to hire people whose values are consistent with those of your organisation, or at least a good portion of those values. If you hire candidates who do not fit your culture, you will most likely end up with new hires that lack motivation and commitment.

The best applicants want to be part of a successful, innovative, and forward-thinking company. If you want people to work hard and care about your company, you should be loyal to them. Reward them appropriately. A structured career path, promotion prospects, pay rises, and other perks all have an important part to play. Not only will it entice people to work for you, but entice them to stay for the long haul.


Do not underestimate the value and importance of providing feedback, be it positive or negative. Although there is no actual obligation, it is particularly appropriate, if a candidate has attended two or more interviews. It creates goodwill, and a candidate will appreciate an honest and constructive analysis of their performance.

Providing feedback will also create a positive impression of your company and can only help you with future recruitment.

The offer

Once you have decided who you want to hire, move swiftly to provide a verbal and written offer. A delay will cause concern to your preferred candidate and may expose them to a counter offer. Do take on board that remuneration in the digital and marketing sectors has been growing steadily. So it’s important that your offer is in line with market conditions, otherwise, you may lose your preferred candidate. Quite clearly, there is no need to be held to ransom, and if your candidate is solely focused on salary, and nothing else, they’ll soon be off to the first highest bidder. Furthermore, paying a much higher salary to a new employee will cause internal problems. However, in today’s market, you do need to be in line, or above current market conditions.

The offer letter is normally provided once a verbal agreement has taken place. The more senior the role, however, the more time you may need to allow to negotiate additional benefits, notice periods, and start dates.


These fall into two categories – past work experience and personal. References from past employers can be valuable in the hiring process but they are becoming harder to acquire.

Personal references, on the other hand, are easy to acquire but, in truth, are essentially worthless. There is no valid reason to believe personal references will help you identify a high performing employee. Understand that friends are unlikely to write anything negative about a person.

Employees previous employers have also become more reluctant to offer insightful information. They now end to offer minimal information such as the start date, length of employment, and job title. When considering valid information about an employee’s past performance, you should be aware of how that performance took place in an environment with a different culture from that of your own company. Different people perform better in different environments. An excellent performance in one environment may not necessarily transfer well to another. Be aware that different people perform better in different environments and cultures.

Nothing should discourage you from doing a background check, of course, but you consider if it really adds value to your decision.

We also advise that the employer takes up the references directly and not via an intermediary. Hearing it from the horse’s mouth (so to speak) is better than second-hand information!


We realise that you will have invested a huge amount of time in starting and growing your business. The success of your business will also depend on the people within it, and how they approach their job through the good times and the bad. Once an employee is on board, the key is to marry the company’s goals with their personal goals. Envision a journey that you two are taking together. The result is an employee with aspirations who will see that their current role should be performed to the best of their abilities. The credibility this establishes will do more to solidify their intention to stay more than any gift or pay increase.

Although recruitment is time-consuming and takes effort and dedication, when you get it right it will have been an excellent investment of your time.