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SME Recruitment: Five Hiring Errors and how to Avoid Them

Are you determined to scale your business?

Have you thought about recruitment for your SME?

Want more than a lifestyle business?

Read on…

Scaling is messy.

SME Recruitment - messy

My favourite marketing writer says that scaling a business is messy AND stressful.

100% true!

From the nearly 200 businesses I’ve worked with, this is true in EVERY case.

If your business is not growing, it’s NOT as stressful as when your business is growing fast. Strange isn’t it.

As you scale, you have to make so many quick decisions, often daily and on the hoof.

Every different element of your business – finance, marketing, operations, hiring and strategy, they’re all in a constant state of flux. It’s a big challenge to keep making good decisions that are right for your business.

I’ve been working with a London-based manufacturing company for over 2 years, and it’s been quite a ride 😉

You name it, they’ve had issues in every single area of their business. It’s been fraught at times, but all their hard work and dedication has paid off. In the 2 years I’ve worked with them their turnover has more than doubled.

During my last meeting with them, we discussed hiring 3 new team members because they’re growing so fast. And those hires have GOT to work out.

If you want to scale, you HAVE to get good at recruitment.

As someone who has made every mistake possible when hiring, I have learnt the hard way. I’m now great at hiring people for myself and support my clients to hire well almost every time.

Here’s five scale up hiring errors and how to avoid them in your SME recruitment strategy:

1. Not linking your SME recruitment efforts to your marketing strategy

Stressed - Digital Marketing Help

When your business is growing, you have much less time to think about your marketing and business strategy.

There are so many other issues to deal with all the time.

When I work with entrepreneurs, I rarely see a well thought out approach to hiring. Recruitment agencies often fall short of the mark, and most small businesses are too small to justify having an HR department.

I see companies hiring a marketing person that they also expect to do sales, or I see salespeople that are expected to “muck in” and lead the marketing!

I’ve seen bosses hiring inexperienced junior marketing people, expecting them to drive the marketing. It’s a recipe for failure.

It’s incredibly painful when you hire the wrong person for the wrong job and it can easily be avoided.

A simple fix: Be 100% clear on your overall marketing strategy.

  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • What are the best marketing methods to acquire these ideal customers?

I talk with entrepreneurs who’re looking to hire new sales and marketing people in their business.

After not too long it becomes clear that they need to rethink who they’re hiring, so the hires are in line with their marketing strategy.

Yup, I’ve hired the wrong person for a role before.

This was someone who’d been successful in the corporate sector. I hired them to do administrative work, but there was an element of sales that I just assumed they could do.

They couldn’t.

They left the office and floods of tears. I screwed up!

Recruiting the wrong people is painful.

Align your hiring process with your marketing strategy from the beginning.

2. Hiring quickly, and hiring in desperation

SME Recruitment - hands

Hands up, I’ve hired in desperation twice and both times have been a disaster.

One person I hired quickly and without proper due diligence ended up having some personal issues.

They left the office one Friday and never came back. It took three weeks before they told me what was happening. Ouch. Very disappointing.

As you’re scaling, you WILL have to hire people quickly to keep yourrunning smoothly and all your customers happy.

As you grow, the last thing you want is to lose new customers and clients, because you can’t service them properly.

And yes, it’s an almost impossible trade-off. You need new people to start within the next month, so you end up rushing your hires and recruiting the wrong people.

This mistake will cost you:

  • One month, for the initial hire
  • One month to realise they’re not the right person and fire them if you’re lucky
  • One month to hire the next person
  • One month to settle in the new person successfully

One desperate fast hire has cost you 4 months.

I worked with a hospitality company and they hired a manager too quickly.

It cost them 6 months of hassle and untold stress.

However, it is possible to hire quickly and still get it right.

It takes focus and effort. The whole process of writing adverts and advertising, handling responses, reviewing CVs, initial interviews and onboarding takes time.

You may do a great job of putting the advert out there, with an amazing job description that attracts some good applicants.

However, in rushing to hire it’s tempting to skip adequately interviewing, testing and onboarding new hires and getting them to meet the rest of the team.

This can work, but I wouldn’t advise it.

Rushed hiring without due diligence doubles the chances of hiring the wrong person.

When hiring fast, you must manage every stage of the hiring process properly.

3. Not testing and interviewing people properly

SME Recruitment - CV2

Testing and interviewing people properly is only about one thing – reducing risk.

If you’re trying to hire the right person for the right role, and you create a compelling job description which is advertised in the in the right places, you will get quality applicants, along with inevitable poor quality applicants.

Helen, who works with businesses in my 1-1 programmes, always has a quick telephone call with promising applications. This instantly weeds some people out and means less wasted 1-1 interviews.

Find out about Helen’s hiring masterclass at the British Library. 

If you’re not already doing initial telephone interviews with candidates, I suggest you start doing so.

At some point, you’ll have a shortlist of people, and you must do more than just interview them.

In the same way that many of the world’s smartest and most successful people don’t excel in exams, many talented people don’t excel in interviews.

Many years ago, I remember when myself and two others interviewed a candidate who performed exceptionally well.

We all liked him, and he got the job.

8 weeks later and he turned out to be an incredibly poor performer. The company director called him, “the great deception.” He had fooled us all.

SME Recruitment - CV

Two simple fixes can help you reduce the chances of hiring someone who does great during interview but ends up being a poor performer.

A. Get candidates to do a test

I recently worked with a health company who were in the process of hiring a full-time VA from the Philippines. They were very close to hiring someone who had performed really well during the Skype interview.

I recommended she give each shortlisted candidate, a written test that could be sent to them and then completed within a two-hour time period. It contained exercises related to what the person would be doing in the role.

The candidate who had done well in the Skype interview didn’t even complete the test and someone who interviewed less well on Skype ended up being given the job and has turned out to be a fantastic hire.

Years ago I brought someone into my business who did really well on the written tests, and then proceeded to have an unbelievably slow work rate!

Scaling businesses need people who can work fast and accurately. There’s even a special test that can help assess this, but that’s another story.

B. Get candidates to do a paid work trial

The candidate comes into your offices, meets with your team and completes some work that is representative of what they would be doing in the role.

Although not perfect, this will give you a sense of how someone will fit in with your team and culture as well as their ability to get work done.

At Grow, we give a 2-hour test at the interview stage AND a paid full day work trial. It works a treat!

4. Not advertising properly

SME Recruitment - Job ad

It frustrates me when I see companies not doing enough due diligence when advertising for new hires.

You’ve got to get the job advert right

Your job advert is not a job description. I see lots of job ads that are regurgitated job descriptions. This is a big mistake.

Don’t forget that you’re always selling yourselves to potential employees.

The most talented job seekers are always looking at a few roles.

You have to explain why someone should work at your company, what the opportunities for development and progression are, what the day-to-day working environment is like and what makes your company unique and special.

You must sell the benefits of why your company is a great choice.

On multiple occasions, I’ve seen Helen who works with our clients on recruitment, completely rework a previously poor job ad.

She would then place the better ad on the right platforms and end up with a much bigger shortlist of candidates.

You must advertise on the right platforms

There are loads of great platforms that you can advertise on, such as, and and they all have reasonable rates.

On most of these sites, you can do a CV search to see if there are specific people who would be perfect for your role.

It’s worth casting your net wide to try and find the right people and of course, using your networks such as Linkedin to share roles.

I see businesses trying to scrimp on adverts or working with a recruitment agency, who simply emails their database rather than paying for job ads.

This is not a good strategy. Less visibility means fewer candidates.

Pay the money to make sure as many people as possible see your well-written job ad.

5. Think about part-timers and the fragmentation of marketing

SME Recruitment - meeting

It might surprise you, but a £70,000 a year marketing manager will still need to hire in specialist experts to implement the marketing strategy.

I worked with a wholesale distribution company for a few years and helped them find someone who’d previously worked for a competitor.

This hire was super smart, super analytical and incredibly hard-working. He helped the business increase their turnover massively.

However, he had to bring in external people to do search engine optimisation, run Google PPC advertising, and run Facebook advertising.

You have to have a substantial turnover to bring in a marketing manager.

However, one thing that people often miss is that they could bring in a marketing expert part-time, at a much lower cost.

A part-time marketing person can lead the strategy and potentially do some implementation.

More importantly, they can bring in a network of part-time experts from places like or, or even their network.

Marketing is fragmented, and this means that people are specialising in different areas.

With the rapid growth and success of Facebook advertising, there are now plenty of specialist Facebook advertising experts.

Rather than hiring an expensive web agency, you can hire a fantastic graphic designer who knows how to design websites, and you can hire someone else to do the coding.

This is what we do at Grow. We pay $20 an hour for all our WordPress development in Ukraine. They do need a little managing though!

The fragmentation of marketing brings challenges, but there are plenty of fantastically talented freelancers all over the world.

You can hire people to implement specific marketing campaigns, everything from Mailchimp email marketing to Google Adwords.

This is why I created our Dream Team which is my personal network of marketing experts in different areas.

You can scale if you know how to find the right people for your team.

Want to find out more about scaling and SME recruitment? Contact us today!

Check out our Hiring Masterclass at The British Library.


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