Top 5 tips for recruiting A players

When I started up Euroffice and XLN Telecom, talent acquisition wasn’t my top priority. Over the years I’ve realised that small businesses in particular cannot afford not to have top quality team from day one. Successful companies are no different than sports teams, where the team with more A players is more likely to win.

Here are the top five things I learned from my previous mistakes in recruiting:

1. Pay for the best. This may not be what you want to hear, but you need to pay if you want the best workforce. A true A player will have more options than other candidates, and can afford to turn an offer down if the salary isn’t right. If you can’t compete with the salaries on offer from big employers, you could offer your candidates equity in your company – this is a unique advantage of being a small business.

2. Cast a wide net. Don’t rely on one recruiter, it can help to use up to 6. Recruiters usually like exclusivity but this tactic will bring a lot more candidates your way. For every ten candidates, there may only be one A player, so the more people you consider, the better. The time and money you invest in finding the right employee will pay off – never underestimate the cost of hiring the wrong person.

3. Structure your interview process.
This is a key way to drill down through all those candidates to find your A player:

Start with a quick three point CV review to quickly rule out candidates if their CV contains any of these clues:
– Job hopping. This shows that the candidate either lacks the loyalty to stay in the job or the skills to keep the job.
– No promotion history. A good candidate will know how to work their way up in a business.
– Unexplained gaps between jobs. Of course, many candidates will have taken time out to raise a family or to travel, but beware of inconsistencies and gaps on CV’s.

Use phone interviews to eliminate C players. This will avoid wasting time with bringing unsuitable candidates into a face to face interview The key things you can determine in phone interviews are:
– Reasons for leaving previous jobs. Repeated reasons can set alarm bells ringing
– Their attitude, energy levels and enthusiasm for the role
– Their product/industry knowledge

Finally, use a face to face interview sort the A players from the B players. In an interview you will be able to see their competence, confidence and creativity as well as getting a feel for the real person.

4. Ask the right questions. Don’t just rely on a Q&A format, make sure the candidates demonstrate their skills at some point in the recruitment process. If it’s a sales job, get them to pitch to you. If it’s a creative job, get them to send examples of their previous work along with an opportunity to solve a real business problem creatively.  Also, don’t be tempted to rely on references or recommendations from mutual friends. The latest concern is LinkedIn, where many people give out endorsements just to get one back.

5. Sell your company. Recruitment is a two way street – you want your new employee to be excited about the prospect of working for you. Create a buzz around your company and applicants may spread the word, leading you to that A player you’ve been looking for.

After learning from past mistakes, these are the steps I have taken to turbocharge my latest business venture and find the right workforce the first time around. Using these tips I have put together a great team at bOnline, something which has taken me years of trial and error in the past.


Anthony Karibian is CEO of bOnline. Find Anthony on Google here or follow bOnline on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn,

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