You can have the most amazing product or service, off the charts customer relations, heaps of passion and a great eye for innovation, but without the right team of people in your business, your success will be limited.

In fact, getting the right team in place, as part of your strategic plan is one of the single most important factors in the success of any business.

Yet most small to medium businesses – of say, 50 people or less, have no recruitment strategy or clear vision of what their dream-team looks like.

I’m generalising, of course, but let’s look at the way most businesses of this size approach talent acquisition – typically those with no HR function or dedicated executive with responsibility for the workforce.

Recruitment tends to be ad hoc and reactive:

Someone leaves and needs to be replaced

A skills set is identified as lacking and needs to be filled

(As Bigweld (Robots movie) would say, “See a need, fill a need.” Maybe I watch too much Disney ;))

A division of the business grows faster than others and needs more staff.

An ad is quickly put together and circulated – or maybe someone knows someone, who knows someone that could do the job.

I’m exaggerating to make a point, but the point is there is no strategic approach to attracting exactly the right talent to support the business’s future development and success – no plan.

The approach is messy and lacks organisation.


So now let’s look at a successful recruitment system.

First, it’s important to understand that people, both the people you currently employ and those you want to employ, (and yes, you too) have a wide variety of different behavioural profiles and personal values.

People behave according to belief systems they have built in their minds over time – or have trained themselves to believe – or their environment has trained them to believe.

What each of us holds to be true directly affects the way we will behave in the work place and how we interact with colleagues.

Understanding this fact is critically important when attracting talent.

There are two layers of behavioural profiling to navigate. First and foremost, we need to ensure all new team members, share the cultural values of the company. This is far more important than specific skills, qualifications, or experience. If these values are aligned, you’ll find almost no issue becomes insurmountable, skill gaps can be easily addressed, and any problems will be quickly resolved.

Going a layer deeper, we then need to understand the belief systems that are typically associated with people in different types of roles. A sales department candidate will have very different beliefs to that of an accountant or contracts manager. For example;

The belief systems of an accountant might be:

The devil is in the detail

It is bad to make mistakes

The rules prevent anarchy

Whereas, the belief systems of a sales professional might be:

“Life is about the people we meet.”

“Success is in relationships.”

“The happier I make people, the more success I will have.”

Now let’s backtrack to the first point – how do we ensure the values of our recruits are fully aligned with our business?

We need to get very clear on what is culturally important to the business and the management team. We call these our core values.

If you haven’t yet identified and articulated your core values, it should be at the top of your ‘to-do list’.

Once you’ve done this, it’s a worthwhile exercise to assess your existing workforce against your defined values. If you have any problem staff, chances are it’s because, a) their values are inconsistent with your company values, and/or b) their belief systems are not appropriate for the role in which they are employed.

Now we have our core values, we need to create a business plan. This should outline your vision for the company, and defined goals, objectives and outcomes you want to achieve in the next 1, 3 and 5 years.

Once this plan is in place, we are better able to identify the roles and team structure we will need in the short, medium and long term – and create profiles of the team members we need to help us reach our goals and business vision.

We can create divisions in the business, underpinned with an organisational structure, defining the roles and activities required to drive the business. We can plan where each role sits, combined with the characteristics we need in all our employees – as well as those required for specific roles.

Now we can create a great set of interview questions that are fully aligned with our values, and compile a compelling advertisement.

  1. Examples of our favourite interview questions:
  2. What is most appealing to you about this role?
  3. What makes you feel you are very valued?
  4. What needs to happen for you to feel like leaving a company?
  5. Who is someone you respect? And Why?
  6. Who is someone you don’t respect? And Why?

We also suggest once you have identified your company values, come up with 2 questions related to each of them in your interview process.

Components of a great ad:

  1. First we need to create a vision of the future our candidates can identify with.
  2. Then, outline who we are – our reason for being, our core values, our leadership style, etc.
  3. Describe who we are looking for (qualities and character style – rather than skills or qualifications)
  4. Highlight 3 main benefits of working in our company
  5. And finally, provide a role outline and skills required

Yes, in that order – create the vision, sell the dream, build the attraction.

Before you hit them with a job description.

Finally, we reach the interview process.

Depending on the number of applicants, you may need to make a shortlist based on submitted CVs.

Then pre-qualify a final shortlist by conducting telephone interviews.

Only hold direct interviews with people as close as possible to your defined profile – don’t be swayed by impressive qualifications or experience if the cultural fit is not right – the appointment will never be a success.

At interview time, we also conduct behavioural profile assessments to gain a deeper understanding of our candidates’ values, beliefs and preferences.

If appropriate to the role, candidates may be asked to take part in a trial, or complete a task.

For general staff, one face-to-face interview should be enough to establish their suitability for the role in question.

For executive level staff, more than one interview may be required with key members of the management team.

Once appointed, a probationary period follows (usually 3 or 6 months). It needs to be really clear to successful candidates that the recruitment process is not finished until the probation period is complete. This is our opportunity to check we are a good fit for each other.

And remember, it’s ok to let someone go if they turn out not to be the right fit.

The best advice is to recruit slowly and fire fast, as soon as it becomes apparent the match is not a good one. This may feel brutal, but is most definitely in the best interest of both, the company and the employee – who could be flourishing in a more fitting role or team culture.

Here are four examples of culture-based businesses that can be an inspiration to any business leader with a passion to embrace this route to success:


Zappos continually reinforces its corporate culture, through (among other things) creating a particular working environment that epitomises the company’s core values. Zappos accept that this environment is not right for everyone, and won’t attract every job searcher, and that’s ok. It’s not for every employee – but the people that do fit the corporate culture, absolutely thrive working for Zappos.

Read more about Zappos culture and working practices here:


Amazon has manifested its core values into defined Leadership Principles that guide every manager and member of staff in the business, and is employed daily as their recruitment framework.

Learn Amazon’s Leadership Principals here:

TJX Companies

This US retail giant has a global presence of over 3800 stores. You may know them in Australia as TK Maxx.

TJX is notoriously media shy and there is little published about their corporate culture, but I happen to know one of their senior executives.

My contact was employed by TJX simply because they felt he was a strong fit with their corporate culture. There was no specific role available at the time, but the match was more important to them. He was flown over to their HQ in the US, where he spent 3 months immersed in the culture before they matched him to the perfect role.

This may seem like an unusual approach, but if you needed any evidence that their culture-driven model is a successful one, check out these two articles:


Job site, Comparably’ named Google as the tech company with the best corporate culture for 2018. Stories of the company’s employee perks and unspeakably cool workspaces, have become corporate folklore, but the culture goes much deeper than that, and is largely responsible for its incredible growth and market domination.

What’s interesting about the Comparably award, is that to determine the winner, they asked employees of the shortlisted companies to anonymously rate their organisations—and those anonymous voters said Google was tops.

Delve into Google’s core values here: