Hiring new staff is never fun. You’re usually already short-staffed because either someone has left or the workload has increased to the point where you need another pair of hands, so it’s not like you have spare hours just sitting around. Instead, you need to hire fast, hire well and not pay too much.

As we all know when it comes to project management, you can have two, but not three of those at one time. The question then revolves around what gets sacrificed, which in my experience is sometimes all three. But often it’s the ‘hire well’ part, otherwise known as the ‘fit’. Just because someone has done really well in another job, or is a gun at interviewing, does not mean that they are going to be a great hire for you.

So, what to do about it? Well, you want to only deal with people who want the job. We all have our quirks, and the more honest you can be about them in your job advertisement and role description, the better. Most people aren’t going to be right, so why have them go through the interview process? If they can see up front that they don’t want to work with you, that’s for the best. Time saved all round.

This means that your job ad has to be honest. If you are really hands-off, and won’t have time to give much direction, then make sure your job ad clearly conveys that you need someone who can take a brief and run with it, who can figure out themselves what needs doing and just get on with it.

On the other hand, if your style is hands-on and everyone in your business likes to discuss everything before making a decision, then be clear in your job ad that your office is a collaborative one, and that the successful person can expect to have lots of input into their projects as well as have the opportunity to have input into other work.

In the end, you want your job ad to put everyone off, except the perfect candidate.

Now that you have a really clear job ad that will only be attractive to people who are likely to be a decent fit, the next thing is to cast the net wide. As well as the usual channels – Seek, Indeed, LinkedIn – why not email your network and ask for their personal recommendation? Not only will they know people that might be suitable, but they also know you so they are less likely to send someone your way who’s going to clash with your personal style.

And then onto interviews. Hopefully, having a really targeted job ad means that you will interview less people who aren’t right, but of course it still happens.

How do you know which person is right? I like to say that on the spectrum of bad to perfect, you should only hire when they are perfect. And to be clear, perfect doesn’t mean that they’ve done that exact job before, it means that they are going to enjoy coming to work in your office and you’re going to enjoy having them on your team.

It’s quite common to interview someone who has all the right answers, but you still have a funny feeling about them. If everything looks right but just feels wrong, then don’t hire.

If you’re desperate, then maybe offer a four-week contract so you can see what they are capable of. But even then, don’t forget that an extra person in the office will send you backwards (in time, money and brain space) before you start to see the benefit so be very, very careful.

It’s easy to get desperate as time drags on and you can’t find the right person, but don’t let that desperation push you into bad decisions. Your business, your time and your existing staff members are important, so you should only let new people in if they are going to improve the overall ecosystem that is your firm.

Sarah Penn is the CEO of Mayflower Consulting. Her firm focuses on the intersection between client experience, staff management and regtech. Prior to founding Mayflower in 2013, Sarah worked at Macquarie Bank as a Division Director across a number of business areas including super, funds management, mortgages and financial planning software.
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