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Zilla Efrat
Business Journalist

Zilla Efrat is a freelance journalist who has spent the past 25 years writing on all facets of business and finance for print and online publications, and has been editor of Company Director, AB+F and Super Review

Zilla Efrat
Business Journalist

Zilla Efrat is a freelance journalist who has spent the past 25 years writing on all facets of business and finance for print and online publications, and has been editor of Company Director, AB+F and Super Review

For small businesses, getting employment right can make all the difference. But what do you look for outside of the right resumé?

A resumé tells a story someone looking for a job wants you to hear. Degrees and experience are great, but several other traits can determine whether a person is a great hire, especially in smaller businesses where there’s far less room for error.

Peter Noblet, a senior regional director at Hays, says cultural fit – or a candidate’s potential fit with the existing team and their affinity with your company’s values – is crucial for a successful employer-employee relationship.

“Communication skills, initiative and level of ambition along with other soft skills applicable to the role, such as integrity, teamwork, creativity, innovation, decision-making, customer service or ability to take project responsibility.

 [These] are also all good indicators of how a candidate is likely to succeed in a role and fit in with the business culture,” adds Noblet.

But all too often, companies fail to consider these factors, according to a recent study by Development Dimensions International (DDI), entitled Recruiting For Culture Fit.

For one, these qualities can be subtle and hard to gauge from a resumé alone.

Nikki Beaumont, CEO and founder of Sydney-based recruitment agency Beaumont Consulting, says a resumé can provide some hints about candidates’ potential fit with your organisation. For example, the type of school they went to, what they studied, whether they grew up in the country or city and the types and sizes of companies they worked with in the past all may provide some clues.

But a resumé is just a starting point: it helps you shortlist candidates with the right skills and experience. From there, you can try some of the following to ensure you won’t be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole: 

a pair of feet walking precariously along a rocky outcrop

Stating your values up front

Communicate a clear message about the softer skills required and the culture of your organisation in your job advertising. According to the DDI report, this will boost your chances of attracting the right-minded people in the first place. 

A background check

Noblet says a background check can help determine factors such as honesty, passion and integrity.

“Take a minute to check that a candidate’s offline CV and online profiles match. If there is a discrepancy between the two you’ll need to find out why. Review their professional social media profiles and read any blogs or articles this person has posted for greater insights into their way of thinking.”  

Phone screening

“Have an initial conversation with the candidate over the phone in which you can weave in some questions relating to the softer skills you are looking for,” says Beaumont.

For example, ask about any hobbies and interests listed on their resumé to assess whether these are similar to those of the people that you’ve already employed.

“Also monitor how a candidate responds to you on the phone – whether they act professionally or can’t remember which advert they applied for or appear disorganised,” says Beaumont.

“There are lots of little hints you can pick up to assess how they may perform in the job.”

The interview

“Talking to candidates can give you a much deeper insight into their way of operating and potential suitability,” says Noblet, who believes that behavioural questions are the best way to gain insight, but not asking the exact same questions to each candidate in order to have comparable answers is a common mistake.

“It’s very easy to get sidetracked in an interview and you may form a good impression of one candidate’s potential cultural fit, but if you didn’t ask the exact same questions to another candidate, your insights might not be as deep or accurate.”

Beaumont adds: “If you want to know about culture, then ask about culture in the interview.

“For example, ask what the culture was like in the companies the person has worked for. What did they like about that culture? What didn’t they like? What type of people did they enjoy working with and who did they struggle working with, and why?

“Don’t be afraid to ask for more questions and to dig deeper. Listen carefully to the answers. And check whether they actually demonstrate their stated qualities. For example, if they say they are a good sales person or communicator, are they demonstrating this to you through their behaviour in the interview?”

“Also, if you build a good rapport with the person and feel comfortable with them, they are more likely to be a good fit for your organisation than someone you don’t connect with. Trust your gut feeling. When something is not quite right, even if you can’t put your finger on it and the person has said the right things, trust your instincts.”

Reference check

Both Noblet and Beaumont believe in asking previous employers specifically about a candidate’s soft skills – for example, how well did they work, what they were passionate about and how did they fit in.

“Listen to how the referee responds, the level of enthusiasm and the words used as these can give hints,” says Beaumont. 

Other tools

Nikki Beaumont recommends using personality tests, many of which are available for free online, and perhaps even trying before you buy. “By engaging a temp who’s looking for a permanent job you can assess whether there’s a good fit before signing anything.”

Not surprisingly, Beaumont also recommends hiring an employment agency.

“A small business really relies on the quality of its people,” she says.

“But many just wing it because they don’t always have the skills or time and energy to spend on recruitment. Recruitment agents spend their whole day recruiting. Why not give the job to someone who actually knows how to do it?” 

Technology can also help ensure HR processes are followed and contracts are legally binding.

Read more about the intersection between technology and HR

Find out moreTechnology can also help ensure HR processes are followed and contracts are legally binding.
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