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The hiring process for a sole trader

Being a sole trader doesn’t mean you have to work alone. If business growth means you’re ready to start hiring and building a team, congratulations!

We invited specialist marketing and digital recruitment agency, Forward Role, to share their advice on the hiring process for sole traders. Here’s what they had to say:

Sole traders are very busy people and the prospect of hiring new people into the team can be as daunting as it is rewarding. Here are a few pointers to make this process easier –

Things to consider before starting the search

Your first hire will be one of the most important hires you make, so make it a good one! There are a few things you should check before doing anything:

  • Recap your finances. Taking someone on involves much more than just paying a salary – there are taxes, additional insurance requirements, performance-related bonuses and holidays you’ll need to consider.
  • Assess your needs. Do you require someone with slightly different skills to the ones that you possess? Is admin taking up too much time or do you need to focus on sales?
  • Having assessed what you need, make sure you do plenty of research on the skillset you are looking to bring in. Make sure you’re scoping the role correctly and pitching it at the right salary level. What qualifications are required? Will you offer a performance-related bonus?
  • Write a detailed job specification. Start with a little bit about your company, your vision and you as an individual, because this is what they will be buying into. Then go on to describe their clearly defined responsibilities, and identify what type of person would fit the profile and do well in this role.
  • If you’re going to do some direct advertising, write your advert copy. A lot of the content for this should be very similar to your job specification.

Top 5 ways to find good people for your business

There are many ways to go about finding good candidates for your business, with social media and digital channels playing a large part, as you can imagine. Here’s our top 5:

  1. Network and attend events – some people are better connected than others. Take the time to talk to everyone you know about the role you’re recruiting for, to help widen your search and reach more potential candidates.
  2. Social media – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will be great ways to reach people. Post on every platform you use and tag people who may know someone who could be interested.
  3. Job boards and direct advertising – a good way to attract ‘active’ job seekers, but this will come with a cost and results aren’t always guaranteed.
  4. Referrals – ask around. Do you know anyone with a similar skillset who might be able to recommend someone, or at the very least, somewhere for you to look to focus the search? Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
  5. Use a specialist recruitment agency – this might be the most expensive way to fill your role, but it will save you a huge amount of time. They will use all of the methods above to find a good shortlist for you and more often than not, you will only have to pay for the service when your new employee starts.

How to get the best out of a recruitment agency

Hiring a recruitment agency to perform the search for you will save you a lot of time. They should also have a lot of experience doing similar searches in your area and an established network of relevant candidates already in place. If you have looked into this option and decided that this is the best channel for you, here are a few pointers to help you achieve the best outcome:

  1. First things first, how important is this vacancy to you and do you have a decent budget? There’s no point in driving the fee rates to rock bottom thinking you have a good deal and giving the role out to five different agencies, as this won’t motivate anyone to do a proper job on your role. Commit to one, maybe two, reputable agencies and pay a reasonable price for the service.
  2. Have you dedicated time to this? Although you won’t be doing the actual search yourself, you will need to; write a job description, meet and provide a thorough brief to the agency, describe the culture/working environment/personalities that will fit your business, review CVs, manage the interview process (it could be up to 6 x 1 hour slots with 1st and 2nd stages) and then factor in some potential negotiation at the end.
  3. Agree on everything upfront – fees, rebate period, payment terms, timescales, the process, etc. Make sure that at the end of the process, there are no surprises.
  4. Move quickly. Things happen at pace in recruitment, and companies are competing for the very best candidates. If there is a delay in the process, you’ll miss out on the talent because your competitors are moving quicker.
  5. Commit to the agency and they will commit to you. The more time you can spend with the agency building that relationship, the more invested they will become in you and your business, and then this will translate into time and effort spent on your role. It’s sometimes as simple as answering calls, responding to emails, reviewing CVs within 24/48 hr windows, and providing interview slots. If you “ghost” the agency, your role will end up falling to the bottom of their priority list.

The selection process

By this point, you’ve hopefully chosen an effective way to bring in candidates and you have some applications to consider. Their candidate journey starts here! At this stage in the process, remember:

  • To feedback on CVs and applications as quickly as you can.
  • The channel you choose to find candidates will determine the response. If you’re looking for a very niche skillset, bear in mind that you may not have the luxury of a shortlist.
  • If you’re using an agency, ask their opinion on the shortlist they have compiled for you and ask why they think each candidate is a good fit.
  • Read the CV thoroughly and in full, avoid the fluff and highlight the relevant areas for you.
  • The job description is a wishlist of everything that you need in the role and very few candidates will have absolutely everything that you require, so be prepared to be a little bit flexible.

The interview process

Once you have candidates of interest, the next step is to arrange to see them. Again, if possible, try to be flexible about when you can see them. More often than not, they will have a full-time job as well, so if you can organise something out of work hours to suit them, it will go a long way. When interviewing remember:

  • To prepare your interviews – what are you looking to achieve from this first initial meeting? A good personality fit/cultural match, relevant experience, interests, etc. Prepare your questions to make sure you find out what you need.
  • Good candidates are in high demand, so this process is a two-way street. You need to sell the company and opportunity to them as much as they need to sell themselves to you.
  • Move quickly, don’t delay the process. If you move slowly, the candidates will have their heads turned by other things and you’ll need to go back to the drawing board and start again. If you find someone you like, don’t be afraid to organise the next meeting there and then.
  • A two-stage process should be sufficient to find what you’re looking for. If you ask the candidates to do a task or presentation at 2nd stage to discover if they can walk the walk, you should be in a position to make a decision on whether they’re right for the job or not. Also, for the final stage, it might be a good idea to ask someone else to be in the interview with you for a second opinion.

You have a favourite candidate – now what?

Offer management is probably the most important part of this process. If it goes wrong, all your hard work will come crashing down and you might have to start again. Here’s how to have the best possible chance of bringing a candidate onboard:

  • Don’t leave anything to chance. Do you know everything about this candidate – Why are they looking to leave their current role? What is their current salary/benefits package? What are their salary expectations and notice period? What motivates them and what is important to them when making a move? All of these questions will help you to formulate the right offer, knowing that it’ll be attractive.
  • Once you’ve made the offer, it’s important to realise that the ball rests firmly in the candidate’s court and they may wish to negotiate certain aspects of the offer or discuss the inclusion of further incentives or conditions. This is normal.
  • Counter offers for good candidates is very common. Hopefully, you’ll have given them a great candidate experience and an attractive enough offer for them to ignore this and accept your offer.
  • Once you have a “YES”, move quickly to send a formal offer letter and contract out to the candidate and arrange a suitable start date.
  • Keep in touch during their notice period to keep them engaged – remember they haven’t started just yet! Maybe break up their notice period by inviting them out for lunch.
  • Organise a proper induction to make them feel like this was the best move!

The recruitment process is a complex one and, because people are dealing with people, it can sometimes be unpredictable. However, if you follow the process above, move quickly on good candidates, keep up the communication and treat them how you would like to be treated yourself, you should reach the desired outcome.

About Forward Role

No matter what the specialism, we have experts on hand across marketing, digital, analytics, technology, design & UX, including dedicated teams for agency, interim and executive search positions.

Forward Role is more than just a recruitment company – we’re an integral part of the marketing, digital and technology scene and we’re pushing boundaries across tech innovation & delivery to become the biggest and best in our space.

Call us on 0161 914 8499, or visit our website

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