How to make hiring employees painless

Dan Martin
Former editor
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Hiring the right people is vital to take your business to the next level. In this guide, Lee Perkins, managing director of the small business division at Sage, explains how to make recruitment as painless as possible, and outlines some key issues to consider to get the most out of becoming an employer.
If you run your own business, you're probably used to doing pretty much everything — whether dealing with customers, handling paperwork or just making yourself a well-deserved cup of tea.
But there’s a limit to how much one person can do. If you’re looking to grow your business, sooner or later you’re going to need to think about getting someone else on board and what that might involve.
It can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be. And it could be the start of something big.
1. Attracting applications
Armed with your job description and person specification, you’re ready to start looking. So how can you find potential employees?
  • Existing contacts and casual applications. It can be tempting to employ a friend, or someone who just happens to get in touch asking if there are any jobs. There’s nothing really wrong with that, but make sure you check how well they match your requirements. Would you be employing someone if you didn’t know them?
  • Your own website. If you’ve got a website, it’s worth advertising any vacancies there. Okay, it may not bring a flood of applications, but at least you know that anyone who gets in touch is interested in your business — and that’s a good starting point.
  • Social media.This is a great way to engage with people and it's also a good source of potential employees who already have an interest in you and your business
  • JobCentre Plus. It’s free to advertise a vacancy, and you can get advice too. Call 0845 601 2001.
  • Advertising. There are plenty of other places to advertise, though you’ll generally need to pay. Local newspapers are a good way to reach people who live nearby, or you can advertise nationally with online job boards like, and
  • Recruitment agencies. If you've got more specialist requirements, it may be worth considering a recruitment agency. Be clear about what they will do for you and how much they will charge as costs can be high.
Wherever you're looking, it comes back to the same question: is this somewhere that the kind of person I want to employ is likely to be looking for a job?
2. Effective interviewing
The interview is a key part of deciding who to employ. You can make yourself an effective interviewer by following a few simple do’s and don’ts.
  • Prepare a standard list of questions in advance, designed to check how well each candidate matches what you are looking for.
  • Think about whether it's worth testing anything. Rather than just asking someone how good a salesperson they are, ask them to sell your product to you.
  • Review the application letter and CV before each interview so that you can identify any particular information you want to check or gaps that need explaining.
  • Start with a little small talk to put the candidate at ease. "How was your journey? "Would you like a cup of tea?"
  • Aim for open questions that will encourage the candidate to talk rather than a simple "Yes" or "No" answer. Listen to what they say!
  • Be ready to answer any questions they may have and to sell the advantages of working for you.
  • Make an impartial assessment as soon as possible after the interview.
  • Ask leading or pointless questions like "Are you reliable?" as the answer will tell you nothing.
  • Make snap judgements. It's easy to find yourself liking someone who shares your interests but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be good at the job.
  • Ask anything potentially discriminatory e.g. questions about whether someone is planning a family are not allowed.
  • Jump to a decision. Interview all the candidates before you pick the best.
3.  Making it work
The great day arrives and your new employee turns up for work. Planning is essential to help get them off to a good start.
  • Help them settle in.
Work out all the basics they need to know, from where the toilets are to any vital health and safety information. Don’t overload them with too much information at once, spread it over the course of a week or two. And get them involved in actual hands-on work as soon as possible.
  • Organise training.
At the minimum, you’ll need to show them the ropes and do a bit of hand-holding as your new employee gets to grips with their new role. It’s worth thinking about whether they need any more formal training too, even if you have to pay for it: you want them to be as productive as possible.
  • Build their confidence.
Aim for quick early wins by starting off with a few relatively straightforward tasks which the new employee can successfully complete.
  • Be a team.
Think about how you can work together effectively rather than just trying to offload all the unpleasant jobs. Lead by example - ready to pitch in and help out when something needs doing.
  • Motivate them.
Make a conscious effort to praise their achievements. Let them know how they are contributing to the success of the business.
  • Manage performance.
Involve your employee in agreeing what their key aims should be. Hold regular reviews to discuss performance, deal with any problems and identify opportunities to make improvements.
  • Communicate.
Encourage your employee to come to you with any problems, questions or ideas — not just as part of performance reviews but whenever they need to.
  • Keep it legal.
Provide clear guidance on issues like health and safety. Consider using a professional service for any support you need.
It's up to you to give your employees the tools, training and encouragement they need to do their best.
Good luck, and remember, recruiting someone is just the beginning.


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By Penguin
05th Dec 2012 12:19

 Excellent and succinct advice, Lee. I just wanted to add a bit about recruitment agencies. As an ex-recruitment agent, I now, amongst many other things, offer advice on recruitment to local small businesses. Regarding using agencies specifically, there are MANY excellent recruitment agencies out there - and there are MANY terrible ones too. I have had experience of working in two good and one bad, and using one bad to recruit. You're so right about being clear what to expect from them; I'd just add: 1) Go and see them, or have them come and see you, if at all possible. Give them a chance to get to know your company and your job, and who's likely to be a fit. Have a proper conversation with them about your company and your job, and see if you really think they understand your needs before agreeing to accept CVs of them. 2) Make sure you have a clear, upfront contract from them!

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