Why Recruitment for Small Business Sucks – Part 2

Some weeks ago I posted the recruitment experience of a small business owner. There were some common themes that came from his experience.

  • Losing a staff member without a resourcing plan created an urgency to replace the resource before it has an impact on client service, productivity and team morale.
  • Speed to market to replace a resource compromised process and better judgement in hiring decisions. Not the only theme but clearly one that stood out.
  • Whichever way you choose to recruit, getting it wrong can have long term financial impact on the business and cultural consequences within the team.

If you didn’t see the first post, it’s a quick, 3 minute read worthy of review before moving on.

We now look at what to consider when creating an in-house recruitment resource or outsourcing to a competent third party.

We’ll also introduce a recruitment philosophy that doesn’t compromise productivity. That is to build and manage an “Ongoing Talent Pool”.

Like most things in life, achieving the best outcomes only occur with personal and professional development, effort and growth.

whiteboardHiring with speed can be achieved but it doesn’t mean falling in love with a candidate’s compelling personality in the first interview & making an offer. If you do believe the individual satisfies your requirements, you shouldn’t dabble in due diligence & management of the process. Before we look at what you should do to improve your recruitment effort in the longer term, you still need to fill gaps in your team today.

A few “quick” tips when managing your current recruitment process

  • Don’t let industry experience alone influence your decision — Employers can sometimes negate the importance of cultural/team fit and only look at skills to get the job done. If it’s that urgent and you find the right skills set, then if possible initially consider employing on a short term contract. If you’re unsure, this offers a “try before you buy” approach and respects the staff member also. Clearly a difficult option for a candidate to consider if currently employed (i.e. resigning a full time position to accept a contract).
  • Foregoing common sense and appropriate assessment when the candidate seems appealing is perilous — The feel good factor in the interview is not a good indicator alone for a hiring decision. The “mirror effect” can be a problem also. That is, if the person is similar to you and you get on well with them, don’t assume they must be good at their role!
  • Do one of the reference checks yourself — If you’ve engaged a recruitment firm to support your business, it is still good to perform one of the reference checks yourself. If you are not experienced at completing reference checks, ask the recruitment firm for their template, what questions they ask and why. In a structured process, there may be “pieces” of an individuals past that require further investigation. Therefore unique questions of a past employer (not peer) should be asked where possible.
  • Complete reference checks before you’ve made the decision in your own mind to hire — We’ve seen this time and time again. You’ve gone through the process, everything looks great, you complete the reference check and a key past issue arises. It’s easier at this stage to just go, “it’ll be OK, clearly that was a past problem etc.”. You can end up manipulating the questions to suit what you want to hear if you’ve already decided they are the right person…..We have seen hiring mistakes made as a result of this.

Please reflect on the above statements in balance. We’re all human and therefore broken.

no one is perfect

No-one is perfect so expect every candidate to have challenges and flaws. It’s part of life.

The important factor here is to have the questioning skill to get to the bottom of any issue and determine whether it’s a show stopper or not.

To be or not to be, that is the question

To In-source or Outsource? Not as dire a question as Hamlet asks of himself, but still an important decision

In-source your Recruitment Effort
Do you want the recruitment effort to be a core part of your business? To do this, a business needs to make a conscious decision to create new resources or allocate existing resources to develop skills, implement then manage a recruitment strategy.

  1. Do Your Research — Don’t skip this step nor underestimate the importance and effort required to get it right. If you studied accounting and have been selling pharmaceuticals for the last 20 years, you wouldn’t expect to walk into BHP as a financial accountant and perform the role well. You played rugby at school but have only played touch football for the last 20 years, could you strap on the boots and play competitively (negating the fact you’re now 37 years old!)? Contrary to possible beliefs, recruitment is more than simply placing an advert on a job board, assessing the skill from a CV, interviewing and reference checks. The devil is in the detail and expensive mistakes can be made. To give you an idea of some of the mistakes hiring managers make, refer to the following link from Lou Adler. http://linkd.in/1oI3kLI This will give you an overview of the potential complexity of getting it right. Lou Adler is a successful business owner and recruitment consultant who shares his learning from experience over the last 30 years. Our team has learnt many lessons from reading his books and material.
  2. Where to Develop the Skill Set — Do you develop and learn through your own investigation and experiences OR do you engage a third party to teach the most effective way to improve your recruitment effort? The former is time consuming and can take many years. Search the web, read books, attend forums and meet with peers. Learning can come from many sources. Engaging a recognised consultant to teach you and your team is another alternative. This requires investment of both money and time. Ensure they have the capacity to work with you and coach you on not just the tools and process, but the correct methodology also.
  3. Identify and Nominate the key staff who will take responsibility for the recruitment effort. Based on how you choose to develop skills and knowledge, begin the journey. Not just recruitment process, but methodology — You can buy hair clippers on eBay but it doesn’t make you a good hairdresser. What we’re saying here is…. it’s great to have the tool (process), but without the knowledge (methodology)the outcome could be more than a bad haircut!

Having dealt with small business for over 20 years, our experience is that it’s difficult to create or bring in-house without scale and the ability to fund a dedicated resource. If your recruitment needs are rare, then the time and cost of performing the process to get the best outcome is not feasible. Outsourcing is your best option.

roadOutsource your Recruitment Effort

If you’re not prepared to create it in-house or feel it’s not a core part of your business, then you have one other option — outsource it to a competent third party you trust has the knowledge, skills and intimacy of your industry and business to perform the function for you.

Many recruitment firms will provide a transaction. That is: to source people from the market of their available talent and present them to you. Few are capable of delivering small business solutions more than the transaction.

Step 1 — Choosing the right group to work with

Firstly, you should question and analyse whether they are the right group for you. This applies whether you looking to engage a group to support you to build your own in-house mechanism or outsourced function.

As stated above, in the analogy of hair clippers, there’s tools and there’s methodology. Tools based questions include the “HOW & WHAT”. e.g. What is your fee structure? What time frame is required to complete the assignment? How do you organise and manage your search? What psychometric test do you use to shortlist candidates if any?

The example questions below are more related to the methodology and beliefs. Here are some of the important “WHY and WHO” questions.

Why are you in recruitment? What drives you to be successful at what you do? Who do you represent in the recruitment process? The client or the candidate? Why do you believe that?

Step 2 — Create and manage an Ongoing Talent Pool

In-house or outsourced, your business or the recruitment firm needs to create and manage an ongoing pool of talent. One that is specifically for your business.

Here’s the rub.

This only works if the person supporting your business knows your structure, culture, goals. This is very different to building a database.

One night stand or courtship

one night standThe recruitment process can all too often be like a one night stand.

With personal relationships, we don’t meet someone today and choose to marry or commit to a long term partnership tomorrow. If the intent is long term, we generally like to get to know who they truly are. There is a courtship.

Imagine the pain from the waning attraction and separation after 6 months. All because of haste and initially viewing the relationship through rose coloured glasses.

In many cases, isn’t this exactly what employers and candidates are actually doing?

A Common Story

A staff member resigns, there’s a need to fill that resource gap otherwise pressure is placed on the balance of the team. Client service could wane.

The employer places an advert, they choose the applicants to interview after an initial phone base screening. Complete an interview, do some bench marking against other potential candidates, maybe some testing and reference checks and wham bam, an offer is made!

Why not start the process today that will have an impact on your business next year and the years after that. Build an Ongoing Talent Pool. This is what good recruitment firms do.

What’s the definition of an Ongoing Talent Pool?

talent pool

Awareness — a systematic and ongoing process of identification of potential candidates that are suitable for your business (attitude, attributes, ability and desire to learn, cultural fit).
Courtship — meetings and assessing without the expectation by either party that it’s a job interview. The ongoing proactive management of the relationship by the business or recruitment firm.
Proposal — a need arises for a new staff member. You have a group of people who understand your business, like who you are & what you stand for. They already have one foot on the bus & you want them too. The offer is made.
Marriage — Embedding the staff member in the business. Orientation and training. Managing any challenges with open and honest communication.

This is an ongoing process of engagement and management . The right method, focus and tools required can not be underestimated.

If this is completed effectively, rarely is there a recruitment need that can’t be immediately met in future. A well managed, genuine relationship with a pool of potential staff members means there is always a pool of talent that is capable and willing to jump on your bus.


On reflection of our experiences and what we’ve shared here, the key points to consider are below.
  • Choose to outsource or build the recruitment effort in-house. Either way, it takes commitment, time, money and effort. It means potentially changing the way you currently recruit.
  • If you want to create the resource in-house, take the time to build a robust process and manage a talent pool. This will take time and the best way to accelerate your internal competence is to engage a consultant in this space to support you.
  • If outsourcing, it’s more than just a transaction each time you need someone. It’s the due process and ongoing management of your talent pool. There are key questions you need to first ask a recruitment firm, then proactively manage the experience.
  • Provide good orientation and manage the new team member effectively with open communication. If they don’t fit the culture and/or the skills don’t meet expectation (including development), then it’s better to support them to understand this and look for alternatives. It doesn’t always mean they are a poor employee, maybe just the wrong fit for your business.
  • Exiting a staff member is not easy for most managers and difficult decisions are required in business. If treating your staff like family is more than rhetoric, then engaging in open conversation with poor performance is necessary.
  • If you were to improve your quality staff retention rates, this has an exponential increase on improved productivity and the reduction of emotional pain experienced by management and staff.

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