How to make sure you get the best person for the job

Jan Vykydal

Interviewing and hiring new employees can be stressful, especially if you’re hiring for a position you don’t know much about. It’s easy for someone who comes from a background in sales to hire someone else for a sales position, because the interviewer knows what to look for. It’s often much harder for that person to hire a web developer or a financial officer because they don’t know what those jobs entail.

Managing and hiring is tricky in small businesses because the setting tends to be informal, and owners usually don't have the time or money to focus on formalising their management practices. There are guides available, though, which offer helpful tips about how to establish a rapport, how to remain objective during interviews and how to prompt follow-up questions.

Dr Susan Mayson, who conducts research on employment relations and human resource management in small firms at Monash University, says to start, it’s important for business owners to be familiar with the legislation that governs employment relationships, such as the Fair Work Act. Here are some other things to keep in mind.

Know the job

“The most important thing to keep in mind when conducting an interview is the job,” says Mayson. Do you have an up to date job description? Is it clear and objective? “Interviewers need to be informed about the job requirements and prepare questions relating to those,” she says, but be careful about asking questions that go beyond job requirements – they can be discriminatory.

Help – I don’t know the job

Do some research. A lack of time and resources may make that difficult, however, so searching for someone through your network is something to consider.

Limiting the applicant pool to certain kinds of people limits the ability to include a wide range of applicants.

Looking for a team player

It’s tempting to go with your gut and look for “someone like me” when hiring, says Mayson, but be careful – that can lead to claims of discrimination. “From a human resource management perspective, limiting the applicant pool to certain kinds of people limits the ability to include a wide range of applicants and have a good chance of finding the ‘right’ person.”

Oh no – I don’t like my new hire

One of the problems with having informal policies is employers sometimes don’t realise they can’t fire people just because they don’t like them. They need to give employees due process, or they may be accused of unfair dismissal. If you’re unsure about a hire, says Mayson, put them on a probationary period, but make sure the period and your expectations are clearly defined.

Do some scouting

Having an employee meet the candidate before the formal interview can be informative. Also, don’t be afraid to look for candidates through your employees’ own networks. “These candidates know about the organisation and the work (from their friend), and they tend to do well because they do not want to disappoint the friend who introduced them,” says Mayson.

Jan Vykydal

Jan is a Sydney-based writer and editor whose work has been published in a stable of titles including the National Post, The Daily Planet and Edmonton Examiner. He is currently Editor at ShortPress.