SME: Steps to take before you place a job ad

Placing a job ad

By Kate Southam

Getting a hire right is essential for any organisation but especially a small business.

Often recruitment is squeezed in around a hundred other tasks business owners must do. However, the more thought and preparation you put into your hiring plans the higher the chances are that you will make a decision that helps to grow your business.

To make things easier, I have created a few simple steps to follow right at the very beginning of the hiring process that can then feed into creating a winning job ad and preparing for candidate interviews.

Objective Review

Spend a little time reviewing the success of your last hire. Ask yourself some tough questions and be as honest as you can with your answers.

How did the incumbent perform in the role? Did the person provide feedback about how the role could be better supported such as the need for equipment, tools, or training? Did you act on this? What can you do to ensure the success of the next hire? If you managed out the last person, what happened? Was it a hiring selection issue or a management issue? Did you hire someone that needed supervision when you wanted someone who could manage themselves? Did you specify you needed a self starter and then micro manager the person? Can you improve your own management style? Did you hire someone on the understanding they would get constant supervision and then leave them to their own devices?   

Job design       

Every time someone leaves your organisation they create an opportunity for you to review and re-design a job role to better serve the needs of your business.

Are there tasks assigned to the role that are no longer required? What tasks can you add to better support the growth of the business? Consult other staff members. Could a customer facing role or a sales role be more productive if certain routine tasks were transferred to your vacant role?      

If the role is a new one, write out all the tasks and responsibilities you want to assign to the new hire. You can add and subtract duties in the months to come but start with a written description of the role. Think of the technical skills and or qualifications the person will need to do the job well.

List the desired attributes the person will need for the job as well. It is important that you align these to the job itself and not just list personality traits you admire.

If the job role requires a lot “business as usual” then hiring an entrepreneur like you could be a mistake. An entrepreneur is a risk taker and adventurer – not traits you would necessarily want in a book keeper.  

Consult employees who will interact with the role – not just the person – but remember, like you, some of their suggestions could be subjective or motivated by self interest so keep that in mind.

Pack away the baggage

The last person left for a reason. Maybe they were terrific but needed a bigger pond to swim in or he/she was a performance nightmare. You need to review the whys and lessons learned and then move on. If you just rush headlong into the new hire you might be seeing each candidate through a lens of fear.

Recruitment experts say many managers hire based on fear – the fear that their next hire will be like their last hire. Stereotypes will blind you to a good candidate. For example every young female candidate will be like the former employee who left to go back packing around the world. Or the middle aged man so set in his ways he wouldn’t embrace much needed change. Good preparation and keeping an open mind are essential to hiring the right person.

Kate Southam is the Editor of, the weekly newspaper and online column, Ask Kate and the employment blog Cube Farmer 

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