Recruiting for the right core skills - Business Works
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Recruiting for the right core skills

by Karen Melonie Gould, CEO, Gateway2enterprise For many business leaders, recruiting high-quality staff is one of the most important parts of the job yet it is also one of the most difficult, says Karen Melonie Gould, CEO of Gateway2enterprise.

Growing firms require a constant influx of new employees to cope with the demands of expansion. And all businesses need to replace members of staff from time to time. However, many entrepreneurs find that as soon as they post a new job advert, they are inundated with applications.

For less-specialist posts such as administrators, receptionists, personal assistants and graduate roles, moreover, there are often several people with the right level of knowledge to do the work.

So, once these candidates start turning up for interview, how do you choose the best one? Beyond the so-called 'hard skills' of professional training, qualifications and experience, what core skills should you be looking out for at interview?


Often the confidence, or lack thereof, of a candidate will be the first characteristic that comes across during an interview. Before they even begin to speak, they will unwittingly send out signals that a smart interviewer can pick up on.

Look for someone who has a presence in the room, who holds their head high and who isn't afraid to look you in the eye. And when they start to speak, alarm bells should ring if they look nervous, fumble over their words or are overly apologetic

Whatever the role, a candidate lacking in basic self-confidence will probably either be incapable of doing the job or will wilt under pressure.


Positivity is the next element that a business leader needs to look out for and this will quickly become obvious when a candidate starts answering questions.

A positive person will focus on their strengths, what motivates them, who inspires them, which activities make them happy and what they have done well in the past. Above all, they will smile and laugh. By contrast, a negative person will dwell on their weaknesses and past problems.

It is important to work out what kind of personality your candidate has because a positive person will be much easier and more enjoyable to work with. They will also be far more receptive to new ideas.


Assertiveness is a valuable quality in any potential new recruit, but you should be very wary of anyone that confuses it with aggressiveness.

An assertive person will stand up for themselves under questioning they will be clear about what they want and need, while also taking into consideration the wants and needs of their prospective employer. However, an aggressive person will focus exclusively on what is in their own best interests without paying any attention to the interviewers. Assertive behaviour is based on balance while aggressive behaviour is based on winning.

At interview, anyone who shows no willingness to negotiate on pay, benefits or terms of employment is likely to have an aggressive mindset and is best avoided. An assertive person, meanwhile, will be a powerful ally that helps you to complete work on time and on budget.


Obviously, an openly dishonest person will make a poor colleague, but often this characteristic requires skill to pick out at interview.

An honest person is willing to admit that they don't know the answer to your questions. Often, struggling candidates will try to deflect you by giving long-winded or convoluted responses, but the most honest candidates are always the ones that give concise, clear answers and stick to the point. The key purpose of your interview is to confirm what skills the jobseeker does and doesn't have, so anyone that tries to trick or mislead you is doing you a disservice.

When you've hired a candidate, honesty is worth its weight in gold. Honest staff will admit when they're struggling and this will enable you to give them more support, which means jobs will get done properly.


You can divide interviewees into three types those that ask no questions, those that ask bad questions and those that ask memorable questions. The latter are invariably the ones worth hiring.

A jobseeker that asks no questions has clearly given no thought to your business or how they might fit into it. Meanwhile, a person that asks bad questions such as requests for basic information that they could find elsewhere betrays a lack of energy or passion because they haven't done enough research into your company.

However, a candidate that asks memorable questions is worth taking seriously. They might enquire why you made certain business decisions, what you've learned to date or what you think the future might hold. Whatever they ask, they are indicating that they are genuinely interested in what you do, and so are much more likely to buy into your business upon joining.

Key takeaways

For business leaders everywhere, finding the right staff is a crucial component of building a successful company.

When you're next recruiting, it's important that you don't just focus on the functional skills of what tasks the candidate can and can't do. You should also ensure that they have the right soft or core skills. People that are self-confident, positive, assertive, honest and inquisitive are much more likely to complete tasks effectively and fit in seamlessly with your organisation.

On the leadership and management courses for professional executives from the Institute of Leadership & Management (levels 5-7), we look not only at transferable skills, but transitional skills. I would rather take on someone with the right attitude, but with a lower skills level, as I can train them up for the position, but I cannot change their personality, character or attitude as that stays with them for life.

Happy Entrepreneur Mind Set

Training up staff can be hard work and costly, although the cost to the organisation of getting the wrong person in can be so damaging. And not just from the cost point of view. It can also damage morale, harm the credibility of your organisation and ultimately hinder growth, so bear that in mind.

Remember, finding a candidate with the right core skills is harder than you think!

Karen Melonie Gould is the author of several books on business. Her latest book, Happy Entrepreneur Mind Set, is published by Motivational Press Publishing and is available now on Amazon.

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