Business Rule # 1 (if there was a rule book) is you are only as good as your team. So recruiting the right team, the right mix of personalities, the optimal mix of skills, the perfect mix of strengths, a spectrum of introverts and extroverts, doers and thinkers, designers and builders = the one thing every business must get right for themselves.

Our team is growing which is absolutely awesome, so my focus is increasingly being drawn to recruitment. We employ for personality, attitude and aptitude first, skills second, and recognise that adding new people into the mix in a small company can have a massive impact. Our culture is a little different to most companies, we don’t have rules in lieu of employing grown ups who are empowered, people define their own role and title (hence we have a preventor of chaos, princess of parties, analytical data wrangler, storytelling data artist  and other wonderful roles) and our primary underlying goal is to do cool stuff and have fun.
With such a quirky culture recruitment mistakes are expensive and hurt for so many reasons, we have made one as a result of rushing into hiring someone which was an awesome learning experience but could have been avoided. Conversely waiting too long in the current market can hurt too by missing out on the few innovative, passionate and focused people with the right areas of specialisation.

Sadly there is no perfect formula. Shane and I hold responsibility for recruitment quite tightly, we have a list of people we know in the market we would like to join our team when they are ready and we don’t get into bidding wars – we pay people well but not over odds (no golden handcuffs), we offer loads of training, our real point of difference is we offer a collaborative, innovative and flexible working environment along with some really interesting work and awesome customers. Like everything in our business – what you see is what you get, we are very open when it comes to recruitment to ensure people who join the team don’t encounter any surprises.
Our decision last year to move to a bench model – meaning we can react quickly for customers who don’t plan and can take on short/sharp engagements or gig’s – has paid off, equally we have stayed focused on our business plan which includes growth and evolution of our service offering, upshot is we need more people to join our existing awesome team.

Supply of quality candidates is where I am encountering two particular challenges within our current market – both in NZ and Australia:

  1. Gigs / short engagements making independent contractors nervous – in a contractor buoyant market permanent employees often take the step into contracting to “make hay while the sun shines”. Recent changes from long term (12 month + ) projects to shorter gig style engagements seem to be making those contractors nervous and many are looking for permanent roles again. Challenge there is how long will they stick with the permanent employee role again? will they move back to being contractors as soon as the long term projects reappear?
  2. Institutionalized (often ex-Government) employees – the market does seem to be awash with CV’s of people coming out of the very large corporates or government agencies. Many have been working within these large institutions for decades, are used to a great deal of structure and lack of accountability. The challenge here is whether they can scale to a small company? cope with working without prescriptive tasks – in favour of self driven work loads? and move from an internal perspective of customers (or no perspective of customers at all) to a customer engagement centric one? and can they  learn to become a consultant?

Overcoming these challenges by finding a way to identify the candidates who will be the right fit culturally, have the right attitude, aptitude, ability to learn new stuff and have a track record of delivery, while overcoming the time-box challenges of recruiting is the secret sauce here. I have read loads of blogs and books, in previous life been Lominger trained and certified in talent management, engaged with rafts of HR methodologies and realised, like everything in life, there is no one right answer. There is one very important piece of advice I can impart – you need to know what the right fit for your organisation means or you will never find the right people for your team.

Here is my current approach to cutting to the chase and finding the candidates worth spending time investigating further, I usually ask these questions in an initial meet and greet discussion:

  1. Ask about their potential – ask candidates what they are capable of doing, not what they are doing today, it throws most people and provides me with a few strong indicators – optimistic or pessimistic outlook, focused and driven or muddling along, able to visualise their future (some people bring this question back to what they are doing today) and motives
  2. Blank sheet of paper – ask what would they be doing if there were no constraints, again speaks volumes for their motivation, passion and drive  
  3. Ask what they don’t like about their current role – this question can speak volumes both in what the candidate does say and what they don’t say, I then prod for why they haven’t been able to turn the situation around. Some people leave me wondering – would they spend their time talking about us like this?


This is just a wee slice of the wider recruitment process. Once you are past this initial meet and greet the rest of the process has to kick into life. We don’t use recruiters – I have in past lives, along with HR professionals – but found they sometimes filter the perfect person for some arbitrary reason or spin a person in a specific way that masks my usual gut instinct, so for now we do our recruitment ourselves and with our current growth – looking for 10-15 consultants in NZ and 40 in Australia – that will only become more time consuming and important to get right.
Final piece of advice – it’s easy to talk yourself into someone when they are a 90% fit – they need to be 100% fit so don’t short change your business on this one, you’ve worked too hard to get to where you are. Happy recruiting, Vic.

There has been a wee spate of articles on LinkedIN called “how I hire” here are some of the better ones below and one on weird and wonderful job interviews just to make you laugh: