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How to interview employees for your small business

When your new business begins to flourish, there may come a time when you want to take on your first employee. After you’ve created a shortlist of possible candidates, how do you find out if they’re a ‘good fit’ for your growing enterprise? This is where the interview process comes in.

Carrying out interviews for your own business

Unless you’re a former HR executive, or are extremely intuitive, then interviewing candidates may not come naturally to you. The key to interviewing successfully likes in the preparation. And once you’ve determined what your goals are from an interview, you’ll then need to conduct the interview to not only find out as much as you can about the candidate, but also provide the candidate with answers to any questions they may have about you and your business.

Interviewing potential employees to join your start-up is fairly different from if you’ve ever had to interview people in a former life – as a traditional employee, for example.

As a business owner, you will inevitably have so much to lose or gain personally from employing your first members of staff. You have a complete knowledge of how your business works, and what you want a new employee to do, so you’re better primed than anyone else to pick the right candidate for the job.

Here are some things to consider to make the interview process go smoothly.

Employee interview tips

  • Have you got a clearly-defined role you want to fill? Although most start-ups will require a fair amount of ‘cross over’ between tasks,  you will need to provide candidates with an overview of the skills and experience you require, and what tasks they are being employed to do. If you’re using a recruiter to source candidates, you will certainly have to provide a reasonably detailed job specification.
  • Spend some time getting to know your candidate’s CVs. Identify specific questions to ask each candidate, not only to provide you with answers, but also to show the interviewee that you’re serious and have taken the time to do your research.
  • Write down a list of questions you want to ask the candidate. What experience and skills do they have, what are their career goals, and why do they want to work with you?
  • A good interviewer will be fluid with his or her questions – adapt them according to the answers given by the candidate, and not worrying if the interview goes off on a tangent for a while.
  • Make sure you have a dedicated area to carry out the interview in – preferably somewhere quiet, somewhere where you won’t be disturbed. Turn your phone off for the duration, so that you can concentrate, and out of respect to the candidate.
  • Be prepared to be interviewed yourself. You’re likely to be working more closely with your staff than you would be in a more traditional environment, and would-be employees will want to know what sort of boss you are.
  • Be a good listener. If you’ve asked a question, give the interviewee a chance to answer before moving on.
  • Don’t be afraid to ‘test’ a candidate – especially if they appear very confident in interview. Ask an ‘off the wall’ question, perhaps not related directly to your business, and see how they react.
  • Find out what entrepreneurial abilities your interviewees have. Are they self-starters, able to deal with the unexpected? Working for a small business, employees will need to possess certain extra qualities.
  • Ask the candidate why they want to work for you – what motivates them?
  • What general impression did you get of the interviewee – did they present themselves well, were they enthusiastic, and above all – did you like them?

After the interview

Many people say that you make up your mind about a candidate within a few seconds. This is often the case – you may just ‘feel’ that someone is a perfect fit, or quite the opposite. Of course you’re looking for a specific set of skills, but how you feel someone’s personality will fit with yours is more important than anything – especially for small businesses, where you’re likely to be working very closely with your team members.

Whatever the outcome of any interview, make sure you have a process in place to deal with the next stage. If you’re using a recruitment agency, they will guide you through the next steps – and ask you for feedback fairly promptly. If you’re recruiting directly, you need to inform the candidate whether you’d like to take the application further, or not.

And, once you’ve find the right person for the job, and they’ve accepted your offer, it is essential that you read up on your responsibilities when you hire your first employee.

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