What entrepreneurs and owners of fast-growth businesses look for from new hires

Recruiting for fast-growth businesses is a key component to maintaining development, but is a task fraught with issues involving time, talent pool, resources and intuition.

There are always a few key components that business owners look for when hiring for their businesses, ranging from a solid education to relevant work experience.

In the last few years, much has been made of better preparing those coming out of secondary school, sixth form or further education for the working world due to the increasing competition for vacancies. Gone are the days when a simple degree would guarantee a first job – a wider range of skills are now needed.

The quality of new workers entering the workforce is largely dependent on the kind of education being received at schools and universities, with any further training and education then becoming an added cost for companies.

Additional training is a trend currently being employed by a number of companies in the UK, aiming not only to cultivate a more skilled workforce but also engender a longer commitment from staff.

Jobseekers looking for vacancies need to put together the best possible balance of qualifications, experience, references and research. This is leading many to look for alternative sources as a way of building a stronger CV.

Steve Spriggs, managing director of London-based bespoke private tuition consultancy William Clarence Education, has noted a rapidly growing number of candidates approaching them regarding professional help, assessment centre days, mock interview help and even CV help.

‘Our client base varies widely from 11+ and Common Entrance parents at the beginning of their journey in education, to A-Level and UCAS help into top universities, and now career driven individuals who are still looking for an advantage,’ he says.

‘Graduate schemes and internships are becoming arguably more competitive than normal jobs due to the opportunity they present as a “stepping stone” into a large multinational firm. As a result we have developed a team of professional tutors with real first-hand experience of interviewing at top firms, either sitting and passing interviews or conducting real interviews themselves – with many of them still working at top firms.’

Changing times

The UK has also experienced a shift in where first-time job seekers are looking to enter the workforce. Graduate schemes at accountancy firms or a step into the square mile are no longer the de-facto choice. The growing popularity of working for an entrepreneurial growth business is impossible to ignore.

So for those out there looking to join a tech start-up, nimble marketing firm or business services company, what are employers looking for? And for those in the fortunate position to be ramping up hiring, what are rivals or others in the market looking for from perspective staff?

For VoteHere.com co-founder and managing director Raj Verma, education is a lot less important than passion in the interview room. He also looks out for confidence and common sense, assets he believes are key for an entrepreneurial business.

‘The ideal hire is well rounded and confident with a proven track record of demonstrating resilience,’ he adds.

‘I have found this quite difficult [to find], and my key strategy to combat this is to always be looking for new talent through networking events and university schemes and referrals.’

Fellow technology and digital entrepreneur Adam Ludwin, who set up Captify and serves as chief visionary officer at the business, it is more of the same. He and the business are on the prowl for personality and experience, with sociability, teamwork and strong work experience also given more weighting.

‘The people that shine through are those that show they’ve researched our business and proved themselves in some way, be it work experience, part-time jobs or previous roles – and are passionate and enthusiastic about what we do,’ Ludwin explains.

The Captify business is a digital advertising technology firm centred on search retargeting – namely making sure brands are positioned in front of the right consumers.

Hiring issues for the venture capital-backed company have involved making sure that the start-up culture is maintained. With a diverse range of talents such as sales people and developers in constant demand, Ludwin says that Capitfy has developed different techniques for specific roles to get ‘inside the thinking of candidates’ and gauge more effectively their strengths and weaknesses.

More on recruitment:

Moving away from the tech space, which has experienced an explosion of recruitment, and into the freight market brings with it different set of requirements.

At Baxter Freight, a company set up six months ago, the company has already set in motion a sales training programme that can turn a raw product into a shining employee.

Outlining the process, Baxter Freight finance director Steve Rafferty says, ‘Our experience has taught us that as long as an individual has a reasonable level of basic education it is personal qualities and inter-personal skills that are most important.

‘Accordingly our recruitment process is designed to engage with the applicant face-to-face and to assess factors such as their confidence, communication skills, drive and ambition.’

Since founding Baxter Freight has brought in fifty people, with another fifty on the horizon, fast work considering bringing in the wrong type of person can be toxic for a new and growing company. Rafferty says that the rapid increase in graduate numbers in recent years has produced a large number of people who, aside from the educational benefits of their degree, are confident and independent.

This, he believes, has stemmed from the necessity to have a part-time job so that the increase in tuition fees can be supported – bringing with it discipline and an ability to prioritise between work and study.

However, the call for help isn’t just limited to fresh graduates – with some seasoned professionals requiring very niche tweaking to CV’s and interview technique for high level roles from people who have already done it themselves.

The rise of self investment is a sign that education is being taken very seriously and the older more established generation are taking their younger counterparts head on. Head of Tutor Placements at William Clarence Education Penny Watkins says, ‘We have been working with high level tutors for some time across all disciplines, but due to the amount of requests for niche industry help such as law, accountancy and banking, we have been looking for tutors with specialist knowledge. They can offer our clients vital intel on the things a textbook will never teach or tell you.’

Basic learning

Intercede founder and CEO Richard Parris believes there is a ‘mismatch’ between what is taught in universities and what is required in his business. The entrepreneur would like to see the education system focus more on software being promoted as an engineering discipline.

‘It is also challenging when we’re trying to engage universities in discussions or pro-actively recruit, as they seem to have focus on large employers and don’t consider that SMEs have a lot to offer on the debate, or indeed in job opportunities,’ he adds.

‘Career departments within universities don’t seem to be the right people to be engaging with for jobs in the software industry, as they don’t have enough knowledge or understanding.’

Last summer Parris contacted academic heads of computer science at a number of local universities and experienced disappointing responses, or lack thereof. No reply or no interest was noted from the likes of the University of Loughborough, University of Warwick and Coventry University, with the University of Leicester the only one expressing any real interest in engaging with the technology company.

A number of new education initiatives have been rolled out by the government in the last year, aimed at better tooling children up for when they enter the workplace. However, despite programmes such as the Year of Code being introduced, Captify’s Ludwin thinks that there are still problems.

‘I think schools and universities both need to provide better education about career opportunities to prepare people for when they’ve left,’ he says.

‘If businesses would better interact with students, they would learn what opportunities are out there earlier and get a better idea of what industry is right for them. Crucially, at the moment there aren’t enough programmers coming out of the UK education system.’

If the UK is to lead the way in new technology innovation, schools need to push digital skills, Ludwin adds, or else we’ll fall behind other European countries and the US.

Verma of VoteHere.com would like to see new hires have more practical experience by way of tailored internships, placement and project assignments.

‘From personal experience they provide you with the strongest indicator of what type of work you’ll enjoy and how successful you’ll be at it,’ he adds.

‘As an employer I would like nothing more than to work with a dedicated and passionate individual, regardless of education, age or skill set. A key change required within the education system is to facilitate these relationships and introductions.’

Hunter Ruthven

Bernard Williamson

Hunter was the Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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