Do you REALLY know what you're hiring for?


I am speaking to employers and business owners all the time.

As part of our popular RecruiterMatch offering, before a prospective client is matched with the most suitable recruiter, I will often contact the business owner or hiring manager to really drill down on their specific hiring needs.

Believe me this saves a lot of unnecessary stress and frustration (not to mention wasted hours) for the employer and the recruiter if both parties are fully aware of what’s required right from the outset.

So let’s assume you’re thinking of engaging a recruiter for a new role within your business. Now rather than me giving you a call (as much as I’d love to pick up the phone and speak to you), let me ask you a series of questions now to help us both understand what you’re really looking for.

What do you think you’re after?

I had a small business owner tell me the other day he needed a “receptionist who would also do some bookkeeping“. What he probably didn’t realise was that it’s not easy to find a receptionist who is also qualified to do bookkeeping. And it’s practically impossible to find a bookkeeper who’d be happy to be distracted by having to answer incoming phone calls.

The position you have in mind should ideally be one that you can fill successfully and not one that is either impossible to fill, or one that will result in a revolving door situation as candidates quickly realise they’re not cut out for your ‘hybrid’ job at all.

What are the most important duties or responsibilities?

In the above-mentioned ‘dream position’, when I asked Brian to talk me through what he believed the successful candidate would spend most of their time to doing, it turned out he was actually looking for an office manager. I asked him how many calls come into the business every day and believe it or not it was less than 10! As for customers coming into office? Never! So he certainly didn’t need a receptionist at all.

Why do you actually believe you need to hire a … ?

It’s amazing what this question can reveal. Brian is clearly a very busy man (just like any business owner). But just because the phone rings 6 or 7 times a day, it doesn’t mean he needed to hire a receptionist. Brian was feeling stretched in terms of keeping all the other balls in the air … stock control, managing his website, going to meet his clients, invoicing / bookkeeping etc.

Is it really a full-time role?

What we quickly realised was that the supposedly critical invoicing / bookkeeping element of ‘the job’ was something that could easily be outsourced to an off-site bookkeeper. And once we ascertained that an office manager (as opposed to a receptionist-bookkeeper) would certainly be able to answer a few incoming calls, Brian then discovered that he probably only needed somebody in the office between about 10:00am and 2:00pm every day since he was out on the road every afternoon.

Gosh this role would be perfect for a Mum (Mom!) wanting an admin role that she could work around her kids’ school hours“. Brian’s words. Not mine.

Can you realistically afford to hire a … ?

Once we’d agreed that Brian would go to market looking for a part-time office manager, I then gave Brian a ball-park figure in terms of what he’d have to pay someone in such a role.

Brian? Are you still there? Hello?

He was mortified by the salary I’d suggested – even pro-rated for a part-time role!

He admitted he wouldn’t be able to afford that sort of money for at least another 3 – 6 months.

What are some other alternatives?

If I hadn’t asked Brian these few quick questions, I believe he would have expected the impossible.

Whether or not he ultimately decided to use a recruiter or he had tried to hire for this role himself, he would never have been able to find someone … for a whole host of reasons.

The original role he had in mind was pretty impossible to fill; it turned out that he didn’t actually need someone full time; and the most critical part was that he didn’t have the budget to pay new employee. I hadn’t even come to the question on whether he actually had a budget for recruiting!

If you’re looking to hire, ask yourself the questions I asked Brian. You too may find that part of your ‘critical new role’ can be outsourced. If you don’t have the budget to make a new full-time (or even part-time hire), perhaps you could consider getting a temp in for a few weeks just to get on top of things.

You might even be able to get an intern in to help you if there’s an urgent project you just can’t make time for.

The main point I have tried to make here is to never rush into making a hire.

If you plan to engage a recruiter, hopefully they will ask you a series of questions similar to the ones I have included above. At least they will get you thinking along the same lines.

After all you don’t want to rush into the recruitment process, write a job ad, have your inbox inundated with applications, meet a whole lot of candidates, only to then realise that you’re after somebody entirely different. That would really be a complete waste of your time.

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