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Essential business tips for recruiting the right team

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The seventh in our series of ‘Essential business tips’ covers recruitment.  Putting together the right team can be time-consuming and expensive, but having the ideal mix of skills at your disposal could make the difference between success and failure.  These tips will keep you on track when searching for talent.

Tip 1 - Be honest about what you can afford

Make key hires that can fill skill gaps and complement existing staff to help you reach the next level. -  Zac Williams, Founder and Director, GradTouch

Employing a full-time team member is a big commitment and may not be your best option.  Many smaller businesses choose to outsource certain tasks to freelancers who have the specific skills they need.  Working with freelancers means you can:

  • Use someone with the ideal combination of experience and expertise
  • Tap into their talents without having to put them on the payroll
  • Scale the level of input up or down to meet demand

If you are thinking about working with freelancers, you’re not alone.  A recent survey claims UK SMEs are now more likely to use them than to hire permanent staff.  You can find freelancers online – try sites like peopleperhour and freelancer.

Tip 2 - Hire the skills you really need

Growth is not just about profit; bigger budgets allow us to use skilled freelancers, increasing the quality of our output. -  Graeme Mc Gowan, Creative Partner, Jamhot.

During periods of rapid growth, it can be tempting to hire people quickly to fill posts.  But it’s important to make sure they fit with your company’s culture and values, and that you can offer them the challenges, career path and job satisfaction they’re looking for.

Now is the time to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your team. What does your business need to succeed?  It’s natural for small companies to be built around the product and skills of the founders.  But when you want to grow, you’ll need skills that are complementary to your own, bringing something extra that can take your company to the next stage.  For example, if you are a tech company with the potential for growth but lack business development skills, you’ll need to resolve this quickly.

Make sure you get the right guidance on employing people – particularly regarding statutory requirements.  A great place to start is  Real Business magazine has some sound advice, and warns against cutting corners when it comes to finding the right staff.  There’s also huge range of resources for small businesses on the CIPD’s website (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) about recruiting, developing and managing people.

Tip 3 - Explore all recruitment channels

Utilising specialist websites for your industry can give quicker access to appropriate skills. - Gary Cassey, MD, Cass Productions

Where will you go to find your new people?  A recruitment agency is an obvious choice, but they may come with high fees.  Most people search for jobs online these days, but large career sites often target major organisations and are not always cost effective for start-ups.

It’s worth considering alternative free or low-cost platforms and niche job boards like, which specialises in IT and tech vacancies. There are specialist sites for most industries now.  Don’t forget to utilise your network, too.  A lot of great jobs are filled by word of mouth, and head-hunting is more likely to be a result of networking these days than hiring an expensive firm to do it for you.  Consider professional networks like LinkedIn too – you can opt to use their job ad service, or simply post your vacancy in your own LinkedIn feed.

Customers are another key audience when you’re looking for new people.  Reach them via your website; e-shot them using your database, and remember social media is another great way to spread the word.  Post vacancies on your Instagram feed and Facebook page, and investigate ways to use Twitter for recruitment.

Finally, don’t forget home-grown talent.  Your current team may include someone who is ripe for development, and you may also want to consider incentivising staff to look for potential candidates when job opportunities arise.

Tip 4 - Scrutinise your applicants

99% of being successful is about having the right attitude. Those people can learn new skills. -  James Vizor, CEO, Rule Recruitment

There’s no shortage of guides on how to shortlist candidates, interpret a CV and conduct an interview.  But before you ask anyone in to see you, think about the type of person you want in your company. And, just as importantly, think about the type of company you have.  Your ‘employer brand’ is a reflection of your culture and, as such, your employees should find it attractive, understand it and identify with it.

It’s always good to learn from other entrepreneurs.  In a 2014 article for the Harvard Business Review, HR specialist Patty McCord explains how a culture of ‘freedom and responsibility’ informs the way Netflix attracts, retains and manages talent.  The Netflix approach shows you don’t have to be a traditionalist when it comes to recruitment and retention, but you have to be clear about what you do and don’t want

Richard Branson, knighted in 2000 for ‘services to entrepreneurship’, cites three of the most important traits in employees as:

  • People skills: relates to and treats others well
  • Risk-taking and grit: is not afraid to fail and is determined to succeed
  • Optimism: sees the best in others and sees the best in situations

By applying a little lateral thinking and being prepared to explore beyond traditional recruitment methods, your SME can attract and hire the talent it needs at the right time.

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