Future People

In fast growing SMEs recruitment can become a reactive, rushed process with the founder’s personal style, vision and values taking precedence over future skill requirements. Interviews are informal and getting someone ‘to do the job I need today’ takes priority over proactively looking for the competencies needed for the business to be successful tomorrow.

Taking a forward thinking approach to interviewing doesn’t need to be complicated. Interviewing against a list of predefined competencies or behaviours gives valuable insights into an individual’s preferred style of working and will help predict future success.

So, beyond technical know-how and market intelligence what are the additional competencies that interviewers for fast growing SMEs should be looking for in job applicants?

  • Initiative – Do they actively influence events rather than passively accepting them? Delve for evidence that they have identified an opportunity and acted on it. Can they demonstrate they are prepared to question the ways things are done and experiment with alternatives to find new ways of improving efficiency, reducing cost or enhancing outcomes to help the business grow.
  • Mental Agility – Can they think rapidly and creatively under stress? Question for evidence of when they have anticipated or quickly adapted to uncertain or changing situations. Look for how they have improvised when faced with obstacles. They will need to demonstrate they are comfortable with complexity and can examine problems carefully to be able to handle the ever changing environment they will be working in.
  • Interpersonal Skills – Do they expresses themselves clearly and articulately and in a way that generates and reassures confidence? Look for examples that they have influenced others views and have been confident in explaining ‘what ‘ and ‘why’. SME’s need people who can communicate effectively with all stakeholders regardless of role.
  • Adaptability and Flexibility – Can they modify their own behaviour to reach a goal and remain effective in a changing environment? Look for evidence that they can see the merits in other people’s perspectives and that they incorporate others ideas and suggestions into their work.
  • Drive and Commitment – Do they believe that their work and the work of the business is important? Look for evidence that they have taken on stretching challenges that others have backed away from, that they take accountability for their tasks and are prepared to stand up and be counted. They should be able to demonstrate that they have a consistent ability to achieve results and take personal responsibility for their own standards of performance.

When interviewing a candidate always question for examples and evidence of what they have done in the past. Use questions that start with: “give me an example of a time you did …”, “tell me about a situation when you were faced with ….?”  or “when was the last time you demonstrated you could do ….?”.

Always look for concrete examples of behaviour not hypothetical answers to ensure that the people selected have the aptitude to grow with the business and add value not just today but tomorrow too.

Samantha Brook is Managing Consultant at Tomorrow’s Future Ltd

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