How you can make the right hire

  • 18 May 2021

By Steve Smith, Managing Director EMEA at Sterling

When it comes to hiring there’s always risk involved, and small businesses are no exception. In fact, a recent Score survey found hiring new employees is the biggest challenge for 42 per cent of SMEs, while Monster reports that 62 per cent of small business owners have made a wrong hire in the past.

With the cost of a poor hiring decision at entry level around £5,500 to £8,000, rising to over £31,000 for a more senior role, it’s understandable that companies want to do the utmost to make great hiring decisions – so, how can small businesses do this?


Be clear on what you want

In the first instance, employers should determine exactly what skills they need their new hire to have. This should be clearly laid out in recruitment adverts, with any job spec thoroughly detailing the duties and skills required for the job. The more detailed this is, the greater likelihood of suitable candidates applying for the role.

Select the right team

Having the right hiring team is also essential. This group should include the direct supervisor or manager of the role you are filling, as well as someone of a similar position to the one in question. In addition to this, teams should include a diversity of opinion and experience, in order to prevent building homogenous workforces, and gain access to as many perspectives as possible. Finally, it’s important to select personable staff for your hiring team, as this could have a large bearing on candidate experience.

Interview for cultural fit

Of course, it’s not all about skills when it comes to identifying the best person for the role – it’s also vital that an individual will ‘gel’ with the wider team and thrive in the existing corporate culture. During the interview, asking questions to assess organisational fit can be an excellent way to establish whether or not an employee will flourish at your company.

These could include:

• What type of culture do you succeed in?

• What values are you attracted to?

• What is your ideal workplace?

• How would you describe our culture based on what you’ve seen?

Background screening

A thorough background screening process is crucial to making a great hiring decision. This can range all the way from basic criminal record checks to in-depth investigation of a candidate’s history. Any screening policy will need to be clear-cut and consistent, outlining objectives, processes and types of background checks for positions and industries.


Social media has undoubtedly become a more widely used tool to screen candidates as business owners tap into these platforms to vet candidates. It’s crucial, though, that you don’t allow protected characteristics such as race, gender or religion to influence your hiring decision as it can leave you exposed to a potential complaint.

Create a good candidate experience

Creating a good candidate experience is an essential step towards making a great hire. This can be achieved in a number of ways, from having efficient background screening process to ensuring that you provide consistent contact and feedback to candidates. It’s important to remember that the best candidates will also be assessing your company during the hiring process. Therefore, do all you can to ensure that you don’t disillusion employees with a poorly run process.

Check references

Reference interviews can provide an invaluable insight into a candidate’s work ethic, strengths and weaknesses. Regardless of how well an individual has come across face-to-face, you should always be diligent about checking references. You can glean a lot of information from reference checking and it’s important to listen to what is being said and, perhaps more importantly, how it is said.

Consider gamification

Gamification, where aspects of the hiring process are converted into short games or activities, is showing a lot of promise in helping companies recruit great candidates. Through these ‘games’, employers can learn how well candidates perform job-related tasks, or whether they will adapt to company culture – making it easier to identify individuals that show real potential, even if they don’t have all of the preferred technical skills.

One example is Google’s Code Jam, a competition where programmers put their coding skills to the test in a competition for a $15,000 prize. From this competition, Google essentially receives a shortlist of qualified candidates.

Don’t rush it

While many are aware of the dangers of a having a position open for too long, rushing a decision for a new hire could be equally as detrimental. Therefore, it’s important not to attempt to fill a job too quickly. Don’t hire until you are certain you have the right candidate.


While there may always be some form of risk when hiring, these recruitment tactics will not only help you hire the best candidate, but also find one that is likely to stay with you for the long-haul. By following the steps above, you can better ensure that you build a pool of high-quality applicants, and bring employees onboard who truly add value to the business.

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