In the face of prevalent unemployment crisis, more Nigerians are
embracing entrepreneurship and establishing small and medium enterprises
(SMEs). A 2014 CNN report ranks
Nigeria as one of the countries with the highest number of
entrepreneurs in Africa. But while the entrepreneurial spirit grips the
country, startups have often been faced with the serious challenge of
hiring and retaining competent staff.

The difference between whether a startup succeeds or fails is often
dependent [among other factors], on the quality of staff hired. But this
does not have to be the case should startup owners avail themselves the
opportunity to know some tips on what to look out for when hiring.

  1. Set the stakes high

While advertising vacancies, SME owners must let their prospective
employees understand that much is required of them. One of the ways to
do this is by specifying the qualifications for the role, as well as the
requirements. This may seem like a normal HR practice, but for
entrepreneurs who are hiring their first set of employees, it is extra
important. Remember that this is the first time that you are hiring
people to work for you. You, therefore, must ensure to hire only those
who can actually reduce the workload on you instead of adding to
it. Moreover, in the face of widespread unemployment and millions of
very qualified candidates who are in need of jobs, there is no reason
why you should settle for less.

2. Conduct interviews to select the best

The recruitment process is a very painstaking and professional one.
What this means, therefore, is that you must be your own HR manager
(since you cannot afford an actual HR manager just yet), and ensure that
you get right everything Human Resources would have done in a normal

That said, your potential candidates must be thoroughly assessed.
There are many ways to do this. For one, the assessment should start
with their social media platforms. Check how they socialise online and
how often they do so. Once again, this is important because you do not
want to hire who will spend office hours Facebooking or sharing pictures on Instagram when they should be working.

After you must have screened potential candidates’ online
platforms, it is now time to invite them for interviews. There should be
more than one interview sections, with the first segment focusing on
testing the candidates’ competence level relative to what your business
is about. The second phase of the interview should come up after the
candidate must have passed the first interview. This is the time for you
to critically observe other things such as their levels of
interpersonal skill, their willingness level for the job, and whether or
not they are only interested in the job for the remuneration. You
should also use the second interview to talk about the terms of

                                                 MEASURE PASSION!

and talent are important, but you must also take into account whether
candidates are passionate about going to work for you. Did they do
pre-interview research to inform themselves about your organization? Are
they enthusiastic during the interview? Do they illustrate their
talents and passion with stories of previous experience? It’s answers to
these types of questions than can help evaluate whether or not
potential employees really want to work for your company, or are simply
looking for any old job.

Entrepreneurs should consider hiring their fans who will be committed

3. Hire your fans!

As an entrepreneur, it is important to develop a following; people
who are not just customers, but who look up to you and want to be like
you. Most entrepreneurs naturally know how to do this. But just in case
you do not, one of the ways is by maintaining active social media
handles, networking, appearing on radio talk shows and making public
appearances where you give speeches.

One of the importance of developing a fanbase (asides them being your
potential customers), is that they can also become your employees. An
article published by Entrepreneur says
that hiring your fans “means hiring people who will take ownership of
the company and, as a result, will work harder than regular employees.”  Also, fans are great for word-of-mouth marketing. If they truly enjoy
working for your startup, they will tell their friends how great it is
to work for you and eventually, these friends will want to work for you
as well. If your fans do not have the right skills for your startup, you
might consider finding a place for them anyway. Attitude can
trump skills in some roles.”

4. Let every employee on your team interview potential candidates at the same time!

While interviewing potential candidates, there is need to make them
feel welcome even without losing the whole essence of the interview. And one of
the ways to do that is to allow everyone else already in your team to
interview the prospective intake. This gives the potential employee the
good impression that your office is more than just a work environment
but also a home they should belong to. At the same time, it introduces
the new intake to the different mix of people he or she will be working
with; after all, there is always a dynamic workforce in every office
whereby different people display different habits. As Nathaniel Koloc
implied an article published on The Muse
a potential candidate’s ability to work well with your team can be
deduced from how he or she handles such an interview section.

5. Ensure a conducive work environment:

So let us assume that you have interviewed the most qualified
candidates and employed them, there is no guarantee that they will stay
if you treat them badly. This is why you must provide a conducive work
environment for your employees. Pay according to industry standards, and
be committed to availing them all the opportunities they need, as much
as you can afford. Also, ensure that all reprimands are commensurate to
the offence committed. Do not be the kind of boss you do not want anyone
to be to you.

On a final note, always bear in mind that a valuable human resource
is one of the greatest resources any company can have. Therefore, even
though your employees are indispensable, learn to value them as much as
you value all the other resources in your startup.

Writer: Emmanuel Abara Benson