RSM Australia

Employing the right person

Business Insights

While the difficulties you face when trying to fill positions will never be eliminated, the following steps can help you to make better decisions.

You may have applicants sent to you from an employment agency or they may come from your own sources. In either case, you should be in control of the process. These steps will help remove uncertainty and improve your results.

The staff selection system

  1. Clarify what you want the person to do for your businessemploying
  2. Write down selection criteria
  3. Write a position description
  4. Advertise the position
  5. Shortlist applicants
  6. Run a formal interview process
  7. Score each applicant
  8. Communicate to all candidates whether successful or not
  9. Check references

Clarify what you want the person to do for your business

employingThe employer needs to have a clear idea of what they want the person to deliver to their business. For example, a plumbing business wants to employ a new worker to meet the increasing volume of work. The business has been successful through a strategy of forming close, ongoing relationships with industrial clients. They do not need a plumber with technical experience only. They need someone who can build and maintain relationships, as well as fix plumbing problems.

Being clear about what you want the person to do for your business greatly increases the chances of finding the right person and having them stay with you.

Write down your criteria for selection

You have established what you want the person to do for you. The next step is to write down what they must show to satisfy you that they can deliver results. It is important for you to be clear about what knowledge, skills, experience, and personal qualities the future employee will possess to do their job well.

Selection criteria allow you to objectively compare potential staff members against your standards, and with each other.

covid8_grey - Copy.pngFor our plumber, the criteria may include:

  1. The ability to communicate positively with a wide range of people
  2. The ability to solve complex problems

Interview around selection criteria

Only interview people who appear to meet your requirements. If no one meets the criteria, re-advertise the position. No appointment is better than a bad appointment.

Most business people do not do well at interviewing applicants, extraverts will talk too much. The key is to ask questions and listen carefully.

Set it up right

It is important to set up an interview environment (whether physical or web) where applicants can feel relaxed. Your aim is to get them to tell you the truth about their behaviour so that you can decide whether their behaviour is appropriate for your business. They are more likely to be open if they are relaxed about the process.

Ask the right question

employingTo get the best out of the interview, concentrate on asking candidates about their experiences and skills by focussing on their present and past behaviour. If you ask them hypothetical questions e.g. “What would you do if there was a problem with a customer?” you may be opening the way for pre-planned answers. These may or may not be a true representation of the person’s skills and behaviour. Many people have now learnt how to give employers the answers they want on hypotheticals.

It is much more effective to get applicants to speak comfortably about a present or past experience. They are more likely to describe actual behaviour if you use this approach.

Some example questions:

  • “Please tell me about how much contact you have with customers in your present position?”
  • “That must have been a difficult situation, what did you do?”

Types of questions

  1. Open - how, why, when, what, where
  2. Closed - did, can, have, do, will, is, would

Use open questions to gather information, involve people, and get them to commit, so you can find out about:

  • The situation: “What was/is happening?”
  • Feelings: “How did/do you feel when…?,
  • Action: “What did you do…?”
  • Outcomes: “What happened then/when…?

Using open questions about the situation people are or were in, their thoughts and feelings, their actions, and the results of their actions, is designed to help identify their pattern of behaviour. 

Use closed questions to control or close a discussion, and to clarify. Closed questions require a short answer.

For example:

  • “So, we are agreed that you will complete the data entry by 3:00 pm each Thursday?”
  • “Do you want me to give you more details?”

Score selection criteria

employingAt the end of each interview write down the score you believe is appropriate for each of the selection criteria. It will give you a guide for making decisions later. Make sure that you have asked each applicant the same questions and given each one a fair opportunity to show what they offer.

Many business people use only themselves in selecting staff for their businesses, but this practice is not advisable. It limits the input and skills used in the process; it also means that there is no witness if a complaint is made. I suggest that someone else from within the business is used to help and have found three to be a good number for a panel.

When you use more people, each can have their own questions to ask and it allows you to observe more openly. The discussion between panel members after interviews is also usually very productive. If you do not want to use someone from within the business, invite an objective outsider to be involved.

After each interview rate all applicants from 1 to 5 on how they meet the requirements of each selection criteria. 

Interview a second time

If you are not sure about which person to appoint, interview those remaining in the race again. Even if you are confident that there is a standout applicant, interview him or her a second time to ensure that you have been thorough. Write down other things you want to know about the person before that interview.

Next time you want to employ someone you might like to follow these steps. If you have not used them before, your business may be wasting resources and not getting the person you need for the job.


If you have any questions regarding recruitment for your business contact your local RSM office.



Malcolm Weaver
Manager, Business Advisory

E: [email protected]
T: +61 03 5330 5856