The people you employ can make or break your business. Here’s how to go beyond the polished CVs and scripted answers to find the best talent.
Be open to squiggly careers: Don’t get hung up on job titles on CVs: they only tell you a small part of someone’s story. “Careers today are characterised by change and ambiguity; they feel altogether ‘squigglier’ than those of previous generations,” says Sarah Ellis, co-founder of career development company AmazingIf. “Look for skills that are useful and relevant for building a business: spotting opportunities, solving problems and overcoming challenges.”
Hire people who don’t look like you: Fact: companies with more diverse teams make more money. They are more innovative and creative. And they make faster, better decisions. Look for talent in unlikely or overlooked places, make sure your job specs are unbiased and inclusive, and avoid “mirror hiring”.
Get out the office: Take your potential candidate out for a coffee or on a tour of the office so you can see how they interact with others. Are they curious? Do they fit your company culture? You can tell a lot about someone from their manners. Ask your employees to help with the selection process: they’ll be working with the new recruit so their opinion should matter.
Don’t be too formulaic: To stop your interviewee from going through a rehearsed patter, throw in a couple of leftfield questions. Try Virgin’s “If you could be any cartoon character, who would you be and why?” or Amazon’s “How would you solve problems if you were from Mars?”. Startups need employees who are creative and can think on their feet.
Employ people who are better than you: Don’t let feelings of superiority or jealousy get in the way of hiring people who are smarter than you. David Ogilvy, the legendary founder of global ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, used to give new managers a set of Babushka dolls. Inside the smallest doll, they’d find the following message: “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”
Kate Bassett is a freelance business writer and editor and former Head of Content at Management Today magazine. She has interviewed some of the country’s top business leaders and her work has appeared in the Telegraph, City Am and the Sunday Times.