Hiring Techniques with Zoe Kelly of Konnexus

Zoe is the Co-Founder & Director of Konnexus, a recruitment agency based out of our Caribbean centre. As any business owner knows, hiring the right team members is one of the most crucial, and difficult parts of managing. We asked Zoe to impart some of her wisdom to help us make that next hire easier and more successful.

  1. What are some key steps that business owners can take to ensure they're hiring the right candidate?

The most important thing is to clearly define the role before starting the hiring process. There is nothing worse than when the goalposts suddenly shift, mid-way through a recruitment drive. The second part is to plan your recruitment strategy. Who is going to be involved in the process and at what point? Are you going to advertise directly or use a recruiter? If you are a business owner it is a good idea to build relationships with people over time, so that you can reach out to them when the right role comes up rather than starting from scratch. Thoroughly screen all your applications, get on the phone, talk to them. A CV will only tell you so much about them. Sometimes I find the most well-crafted CVs can be very different in person. Ask each person the same questions so you can benchmark them against each other. Your time is precious, so only invite the best people in for a face-to-face interview. If you have a gut feeling about an applicant, it is usually right. Good or bad – trust your instincts.  

Make sure you have prepared some good interview questions. Ensure you asking about their skill-set, but also create some questions that align to your company or team culture. Do they fit the criteria? You can teach skills, but you cannot teach some of the softer skills that are critical. A huge part of the process is ensuring you check backgrounds, qualifications and make sure you take references. If horrifies me when I hear stories of people being hired into senior roles and they were not background checked. It may feel time consuming in that moment, but the cost to your business can be massive if you make the wrong decision!

  1. Do you have interview tips that help to get a clearer picture?

When we hire for our team, we talk through their CV, but then move into some more detailed competency questions. These open questions will give you invaluable insight into how an individual will work and helps you predict behaviour for the future. An interview should be an interactive, two-way process. When the candidate is answering the question do not just nod and be passive, challenge them. Interject when necessary and clarify. Watch out for empty or meaningless statements. Ask for specific examples. Dig deeper asking “how” or “why”? What was their personal involvement? Ask them to break it down for you. You can also ask similar questions in a slightly different way to see if the answers are consistent and the person is being authentic, or telling you what they think you want to hear.  

We create questions around our company vision and the six key values we hold ourselves accountable to. This helps us access whether someone will fit into the culture we are creating, do they exhibit the right behaviours? If the role you are recruiting has a technical element, why not think about testing or creating a test for them to complete? It is not an absolute, but it can also give you some insight and provide you with reliable, objective data that you can use in later interviews.

  1. What are the perks of having a recruiter help with this process?

Recruiters are specialists and will be able to save you so much time and, ultimately, money. I highly recommend to our clients they use a recruiter on an exclusive basis. Your precious time is absorbed by briefing multiple recruiters (and managing subsequent queries) and the perception of candidates is that you are searching in an unfocused way and your role will have less cache than roles being handled on a retained or exclusive basis.

  1. What are the benefits to a business owner of using a recruiter on an exclusive basis?

  • You are given number one priority – they use all their resources including job boards, social media, LinkedIn and Seek Talent Search, plus their extensive networks;  
  • They will make approaches and start asking for referrals. You have demonstrated an investment in the relationship and they will do the same;
  • It allows them to develop an in-depth relationship with your brand; they will have a more detailed insight, including brand values, mission, objectives, company requirements and cultural fit. Developing this knowledge helps them to talk to potential candidates in a much more meaningful way;
  • Gaining your full commitment, they have to deliver! The responsibility is shifted entirely onto them and their hard work is essential for maintaining the company reputation.
  1. What difference does an amazing candidate vs an average one make to a small business?

Hiring the wrong person is costly for any organisation, but it can be catastrophic for a small business. Hiring the right people can take your business to the next level (and beyond). Hiring the wrong person comes down to how seriously you are taking the process and your own due diligence. Have you taken references, background checked the person thoroughly? You can even look at how the person presents themselves on social media. You can minimise the risks. If you don’t love them when you hire them, you certainly won’t when they join your business. Trust your gut instinct.

  1. Where should business owners be advertising when trying to attract the right candidate?

Depending on the level of role, there are various routes to attract quality talent, even if you have small budget. I think you can make yourself stand out from the crowd and carefully put together a job ad (say on SEEK or LinkedIn) that will stand out. Talk about the role, but also bring to life your company’s culture, mentioning things like work-life balance and what incentives you may offer. Perhaps produce a short video or link, expressing the plus points. I know smaller businesses that set-up online talent search programs for student and professionals to showcase their skills. You should definitely tap into social media, searching for potential candidates and encouraging them to apply and building a strong connection through social media recruiting. The job market is very competitive so you need to be creative and ensure, if you do decide to use a recruiter, you are talking to someone who is tenured and well-networked and is going to represent your brand in the most appropriate way.


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