Top Tips for Hiring Senior People

Posted Monday 7th August 2017 under WBL Sector Info

As small business owners see their companies grow, they come to the realisation that they cannot do it all, and in order for their business to prosper and expand, they are going to have to invest in an extra pair of hands to take over some of the responsibilities, or hire expert skills to help them realise their corporate dreams. Many of our clients’ first senior appointment are Lead Assessors to manage a small team, or a Quality Manager to help them work towards a higher Ofsted grading.

This can be a big step for many small business owners as they seek to attract not only a person with the skills they need, but also someone who shares similar values to you so they fit into the company culture. It can also be a bit frightening to have to fork out a salary that is higher than business owners have previously paid to employees.

Whether it is your first senior hire, or you’ve done it before many times, recruiting senior people is a risky business, but this risk can be minimised by dedicating serious time to ensure you make the right offer to the right person.

Planning Prior to Hiring a Senior Member of Staff

Decide EXACTLY what you hope this senior person will do for your business – what are their key objectives within the role? How will they help the company fulfil its corporate objectives? If you’ve not done so already, you need to decide what you want your company to achieve over the short and long term and what skills you need to bring in to achieve this?

Do the maths. What will this person cost and how will they cover that cost?
Create a Job Description detailing exactly what the post holder will be doing on a day to day, week to week basis. Ask the people this person will be working with;

- What else will this person be doing?
- What skills are lacking in your current work force.

Job content is a major motivator and one of the findings within the REC’s Good Recruitment Campaign research was that candidates wanted to know more about the job content.

When you’ve created objectives and a Job Description, you can now begin to create a Person Specification – a profile of the skills a person will need to be able to perform the role for which you are recruiting. When you interview you can use this as a check list and ask for examples where they have demonstrated each skill you seek.

Is it a full time role? Sometimes when a company grows they need a senior person but there isn’t a full time role there just at the moment, but they know there will be in the future. If you employ someone full time to do a part time job, they are likely to be bored, demotivated and will ultimately leave. Consider what else they could do that would add value to the business and keep them occupied and engaged?

Senior candidates are looking for the whole package – the company, the opportunity, the role. You’ve dealt with the role by creating the Job Description so now you need to think about the company. What sells your company? Why would someone want to work there? Your company doesn’t have to be huge to have unique selling points.

Things that GPRS find candidates are particularly interested in are:

- How long the company has been established?
- Growth or stability during that period
- Plans for the future
- Ofsted grading
- Accreditations such as Investors in People
- Awards won
- Achievements – such as completion rates
- Office environment
- Holiday allowance
- Portfolio of clients – interesting companies or well known are always attractive
- Mileage allowance
- Continual professional development
- Career progression

When GPRS ask companies what sells them, some struggle, but when prompted proceed to list some great stuff – every company has something good to sell.

Create an overview of your company detailing its selling points and be prepared to send this to candidates prior to interview and also talk through them at interview.

Bonuses and commission are worth mentioning as a separate entity. Many companies ask for senior people and say there will be a bonus, but don’t actually know what the bonus or profit related pay will be. You need to get this sorted before you recruit as senior people often want to see monetary rewards for their efforts. Many senior people, particularly business development people, shy away from progressing their applications with companies if the commission structure isn’t clearly defined. A promise of commission isn’t good enough!

To help you really sell your business, at interview stage ask the interviewee the two following questions:

- Why do you want to leave your present job?
- What are you looking for in your next role?

This will tell you about their motivators and then you can match the various selling points of the role you are trying to sell, your company and the opportunity to the candidate. Then close for commitment to assess their interest – “Is this something you’d be interested in?”

Senior people don’t chop and change jobs easily, it is usually a considered process. There are far less senior roles about than there are Trainer and Assessor roles so Senior people that are gainfully employed, don’t jump ship quickly because if they make a wrong move, it may take them some time to find another suitable role. It is easy to find out about the job content, but less easy to look into the stability of a company.

The Work Based Learning and Training sector is going through turbulent times and it has been rocked to its core when household names in training have made redundancies or closed down completely. Therefore, it is important to sell the stability of your company and not be coy about your facts and figures as this can be a deciding factor as to whether a senior person accepts your offer of employment or not.

- How long has your company been established?
- What large companies are your clients?
- What has been your annual turnover for the last few years?
- What is your anticipated turnover for this year?
- What are the reason for the increase / decrease?
- How many learners do you have?
- How much funding do you have?
- What are your plans for the future?

Many very senior people will ask to see your accounts so that they can not only see what you’ve turned over but also how profitable your company is.

The benefits package is also something that needs careful consideration too. Senior candidates are often interested in pensions, profit related pay, share options, etc.

Before you begin to recruit something else you need to think about is the interview process:

- Who will review the CVs?
- Who will be involved in the interview?
- Who will arrange the interviews?
- Who will give post feedback interview?
- What dates are you going to be available?
- Who has the final say – at what stage will they be involved in the interview process?
- Who will raise the offer letter and contract of employment – are they going to off on holiday at final interview stage when you are likely to want to make an offer. Many candidates, quite rightly so, won’t hand in their notice until they have an offer letter detailing their whole package.

It is vital that you remember that the best candidates on the market are going to be assessing how you manage your recruitment process. A well structured, efficient, effective, interview process with interviews held within a reasonable space of time and feedback given promptly is an indicator of the high standards a company keeps. Quality candidates only want to work for quality companies!

Preparing to Interview Senior Level People

Prepare several pre screening questions. These are usually the absolutely top five things a person MUST possess to do the job effectively.
Conduct a telephone interview to assess the candidates against this criteria. This will allow you to assess candidate’s communication skills as well as preventing you wasting your time holding lengthy interviews with unsuitable candidates.

If candidates are unsuitable, write to them promptly and inform them they haven’t been successful and thank them for their interest. Candidates would rather have negative feedback than no feedback. It shows your company cares.

If candidates are suitable ask what they like about the role and what reservations they have? This will indicate their level of interest and commitment to the next stage. Arrange interviews with them whilst you have them on the phone and ideally the interview should be held within the next seven days if possible. If the candidate has recently applied for the role and you’ve interviewed them and sold the prospect of working for your organisation well, the candidate is likely to be excited at the prospect; the longer you keep the candidate waiting, the more the excitement you have generated will wane.
Prepare well for the interview. Read through the candidate’s CV and decide which areas you wish to explore.

Typical ones would be:
- How long they have spent at each role
- Key achievements at each role
- Reasons for leaving
- Reasons for accepting their next role
- Gaps in career history

Have the Job Description and Person Specification at hand. Compare the Person Specification to their work history. Is there anything missing? If so, make note to explore at interview stage.

Interviewing Senior Level Candidates

You can use the following Six Point Interview Structure

Six Point Interview Structure

1. Introduction –
- Make eye contact, shake hands, thank candidate for their time

2. Opener –
- Tell the candidate what the agenda will be for the interview
- Ask an easy to answer open question to get the interviewee speaking such as, “Tell me about your current employment circumstances.”

3. Questioning –
- Systematically work your way through the Person Specification
- Systematically work your way through the questions about their CV
- Systematically work your way through the questions you’ve devised
- Establish what the candidate is looking for in their next career move

4. Summarise –
Re-iterate what the candidate is looking for:
- How far they are looking to travel per day?
- What salary and package they are looking for?
- Reasons for leaving their present job?
- What they are looking for in their next role?

5. Sell -
- Based on why the candidate has told you about:
- Why they want to leave their present role and what they are looking for in their next career move
- Sell the candidates what your company has to offer that matches

6. Close for commitment
- It is important you find out just how interested the candidate is:
- What interests you about the role and the company?
- What reservations do you have about working for this company?
- What do you think your existing employer will offer to keep you?
- If you were offered the role, would you accept?

Before the candidate leaves the building, agree the next step, when will you be in touch? Thank them for their time and shake their hands.

Meet with the other interviews immediately after the interview to ascertain their thoughts. Get back to the candidate promptly with feedback or to arrange another interview.

Making Offers

GPRS make the offer on behalf of the client and then ask closing questions to test the candidate’s commitment to resigning and joining our client company.

The stumbling block can be raising the offer letter. As mentioned earlier, it is important this is despatched quickly as candidates will not resign until they are in receipt of the full offer. This needs to be raised within 24 hours of the offer. This makes your company appear to be keen to hire your new member of staff and encourages engagement.

Offers are usually subject to satisfactory references. GPRS take references for all their internal staff and we thoroughly recommend that our clients take references on their own staff. In an ideal world talk to someone personally. An HR department probably haven’t worked personally with your new employee so they are unable to give you feedback on how they interacted with colleagues or how effective they were in their role. Ask the candidate their Line Manager’s name and contact them directly by telephone. Have some good reference taking questions lined up. I’ve found that most people you speak to, unless it is strict company policy not to give verbal references will be quite truthful and this can be enlightening!

Resignation Period

If your new employee is good at their job, the probability is that their employer will want to keep them and during the resignation period, they may use guilt or bribery in terms of an elevation in salary, responsibility or job title in order to persuade their employee to stay. To reduce the likelihood of your new employee getting cold feet and accepting, it is important that you encourage engagement before their first day of employment with you. Involve them in a project by way of preparation or invite them to a night out or drinks to get them to know their new team during their resignation period. GPRS recommend speaking to them on a weekly basis to see how they are getting on. Whatever steps you choose to take, you need to keep in touch and build a strong relationship with the new employee.

Welcoming a New Employee

Imagine turning up for your new day of work and you don’t have a PC with your email address set up. There is nowhere for you to sit because no one has cleared the desk from the previous incumbent. You have no stationary and you have to go and find some. You don’t know what you’re going to be doing for the day and have to fumble through. Would you be impressed with your new employer? Would you feel valued? No, you wouldn’t, yet sadly this is some new employee's’ first day experience.

Make sure the workstation and IT are set up well in advance and that someone has been designated to spend time with the new employee. A formal induction into the company looks professional and will help the new employee feel at home. Within the first few days it is also important that you go through the Job Description and agree key objectives for the forthcoming weeks and agree meeting times to catch up and discuss progress. This will help to ensure the new employee knows exactly what is expected of them and it sets the scene for how they will be managed in the future.


Employing any staff, regardless of level can be costly and if you get it wrong, or they leave it can be a cost as opposed to an investment.

Recruitment often comes as a result of a knee jerk reaction due a need to extra help and like most knee jerk reactions, it is reactionary and little planning is involved. The risk can seriously be minimised by just taking some time planning.

If you would like advice on how GPRS can help you minimise the risk, please call Helen Wilson on 01785 430513.

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