“Always sell the challenge”: 3 ways small businesses can find the right person for the role

workplace culture

Carly Greenwood (SmartCompany) discusses staff hiring and retention with (from left) Performia’s Gareth Jekel, Envato’s Amber Johnson and Culture Amp’s Christian Miran.

People are an organisation’s greatest asset. Finding the right people for your business is one of the most important choices you can make — and one of the hardest to get right. 

Hiring is expensive: the cost of hiring starts to add up when you include the job board listing, paying for advertising and costly recruitment agencies. Don’t forget the time you spend screening, interviewing and background-checking applicants. This is time and money you could be spending growing your business — getting it right is imperative.  

A bad hire also affects employee morale and can even cost you customers. Then you need to factor in the cost of replacing a poor hire; by this stage the recruitment costs have skyrocketed. 

SmartCompany spoke with Performia Australia director Gareth Jekel about how small business owners can find the best person for the role — without having to learn the hard way. 

Save yourself the time and money; Performia can help you avoid a bad hire. Find out what they can do for you today. 

Avoid common mistakes   

We spend huge amounts of time and money to find the best person for the role, so why do so many small business owners rely on gut feel when making hiring decisions? 

“From my experience, the first mistake is thinking that hiring is like a lucky dip: sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t,” Jekel says.  

He says to set yourself up for success, clearly outline the requirements of the role, illustrate what success looks like in this position, and set clear expectations and deliverables. 

“This allows for an attraction and screening process based on productivity, and not just experience and education.”. 

When writing a job ad, it’s easy to think the more applicants you get, the better quality candidates you’ll have to choose from. This ‘spray and pray’ method doesn’t always produce results. 

“Job ads are not about getting lots of applicants, they are about screening out the applicants you don’t want to work in your business, and motivating those that you do,” Jekel says. 

When a candidate has progressed to the interview stage, your focus as the hiring manager should be speed, precision and tangible results. 

“Start the interview discovering what value the candidate has added to previous employers, in real dollars and percentages. No business wants a person that cannot clearly demonstrate how they have added value in the past,” Jekel says.

Screen for the right attributes

If you feel like your approach to hiring is more haphazard than holistic, you’re not alone. Many business owners are unsure of what to look for when screening resumes.  

“Nearly all businesses screen resumes the same way. They screen for relevant experience and education, but experience and education are rarely linked to productivity,” Jekel says.

Instead of looking to prior experience when selecting candidates, Jekel suggests first checking how productive someone will be. 

“Interview questions need to start with checking real, measurable results, with the candidate talking in percentage and dollars.” 

Jekel also urges small business owners to have a “ruthless reference checking regime” when screening candidates. This determines if your star candidate is the high-performer they promise to be — or if their claims are too good to be true.  

Always sell the challenge 

The secret to attracting motivated, hard-working people to your business? “Never sell the job” according to Jekel.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, Jekel says it’s important to not sugar-coat the role in the interview stage. 

“Make a point to be very honest with how tough the position will be, how disorganised your business is, if that is the case.”

“Productive people like honesty, challenge and know that they will be rewarded if they produce well.”

Hiring the right person doesn’t have to be hard or a mystery. Performia have the exact steps you can implement to hire the right people and build productive teams.


Performia is a global HR consultancy specialising in recruitment tools and strategy with offices in 29 countries. Performia services include strategic recruitment advice and training on hiring processes.

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