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The 6 secrets for attracting and selecting the right people for your start-up

How can you attract great people while saving time and money? Jane Sunley, CEO of talent management experts learnpurple, gives you the answer in six simple steps

Being a great place to work and enjoying an outstanding reputation goes a long way when organisations are looking to attract the talented people they need to grow and prosper.  For start-ups however, getting to this stage is a work in progress and can only be achieved by getting your culture and values right from the off and ensuring your business is people-centric – putting your people at the heart of the organisation.

Before then however, in order to grow, recruitment is an inevitable. So how, as a new business, do you attract talented people while saving time and money? Here are our six secrets:

1. Write a clear job description

Before getting to the stage where you receive unsolicited applicants from people who want to work for you, there will be times when you will need to recruit.

The most important step in recruitment is really understanding what you want and need. Writing a very clear job description which also includes an ‘ideal' skills, knowledge, experience and attributes list, is the only way everyone can be clear about what the new person will be there to do. You'd be very surprised how many businesses fail to do this. Existing people's opinions often differ about what's required and then they wonder why their joiner is not meeting expectations.

2. Link the job advert to culture and values

Once you are sure you know what you need; write the job advert. One of the main reasons organisations receive large numbers of unsuitable applications is because the job advert has not clearly explained what the business is looking for. Keep it short and simple; using this opportunity to really sell your business to the jobseeker and explain ‘what's in it for them' (this is vital). Also make sure it reflects your culture and values – after all, people who will not fit your business on these levels will find it very hard to prosper within your organisation.

3. Use the ‘purple' sifting method

When starting out, time is always a scarce resource. There's no need to waste it trawling through pages and pages of waffle-filled CVs from large number of potential applicants. Simplify the application and sifting process by only asking for a one page CV and 10 bullet points as to why the applicant is the perfect for the role.

If the candidates can't be bothered to follow instructions, condense their CV or take the time to write really good bullets; then immediately sift them out of the process. In our experience this applies to about 80% of the applications and therefore really cuts down the work while helping to identify the right people.

Bullet points are very telling as it will give you an idea of whether a candidate ‘gets' you as an organisation and would thrive within your culture. Also, people who have writing skills tend to be able to think clearly, logically and communicate well.

4. Plan the perfect first interview

A well-planned, structured interview can be a thing of beauty. Before the interview sit down and really think about what you want to cover, things you want to find out and how this fits in with the time allowed (usually 40 – 60 minutes).

Writing down some standard questions keeps things fair and consistent. Use the job description, information from the CV and bullet points, the culture of your organisation and any other relevant factors to put these together. Make sure you ask a mixture of question types – clear, unambiguous questions, open ones, situational examples, and Columbo (those really dumb questions which allow for further probing in a non-confrontational way).

The interview should also be used as an opportunity to start talking about your values and ‘the way we do things around here'. This makes it clear what would be expected and should the potential candidate feel uncomfortable with your culture and values at this stage; it gives them the opportunity to think carefully about taking a role within your business.

All the way through take notes so you can remember the important details and use this as a brief for the second interview. You could take these on an iPad, laptop or written notes; either way your end goal is deciding whether they should be taken to the next stage of the interview process.

5. Take it to second interview

Second interviews provide the opportunity to dig deeper, making sure you are appointing the very best person for the role and your business – the one who is going to help you grow and improve the bottom line.

Have them carry out an exercise, for example a presentation or producing a written document. The interview should also be more in-depth, testing the candidate's attitude, skills and knowledge.

We would also strongly recommend the use of psychometric testing, especially for senior appointments. At learnpurple, our second interview questions always include those based on the outcomes of an online psychometric test. The candidate completes this in advance of the interview, which allows for us to prepare our questions effectively. In our 10-year history, we have ignored the psychometric results three times and each time it's been very much to our detriment.

6. Make an offer!

Once you've found your preferred candidate (or maybe a shortlist of two) you may want to invite them into your office to work with you for a day or two before the job offer is made. This will allow you to get to know each other on a different level, and provide them with the experience of working for your business so they can be sure it is really what they want.

We always say that if you're not jumping up and down with excitement at the prospect of a candidate joining, don't make the job offer. Think very carefully before picking up the phone – are you excited, will they support your business, and is this the best person for you? If the answer is yes to all three then make that call!

Jane Sunley is CEO of talent management specialists, learnpurple , and author of people bible, Purple your People – the secrets to inspired, happy, more profitable people which can be purchased here . This article is based upon the chapters four and five.


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