This article was published on June 11, 2014

How to hire the best staff (and retain them)

How to hire the best staff (and retain them)
Matt Cynamon
Story by

Matt Cynamon

Matt Cynamon is General Assembly’s Regional Director for the UK. To find out more about classes and courses available at General Assembly, j Matt Cynamon is General Assembly’s Regional Director for the UK. To find out more about classes and courses available at General Assembly, just visit

Matt Cynamon is General Assembly’s Regional Director for the UK

Recruiting staff isn’t an easy process for any company, no matter how big or small. There’s a huge checklist of criteria that needs ticking off to ensure you hire the right person, with the relevant skills, for your organization.

When speaking with founders and CEOs of tech startups, we’re never surprised when conversation circles back to the fact that hiring the right personnel is one of the toughest problems they face today.

In a time when there’s a clear digital skills gap, it’s no wonder startups find it challenging to recruit the right staff, and with precious budgets to think about, it’s important they hire the most suitable candidate and not just the first person with seemingly relevant skills.

So what do startups need to do during the recruitment process to ensure they land the person that’s right for them?

Phone a friend and utilize your network

Picking up the phone and contacting former colleagues, friends in the industry or networking buddies could save you a lot of time, money and effort when recruiting. The names on your Rolodex will already have an understanding of your business, and may point you in the direction of someone ideal for your company – it might even be them!

Be sure to attend industry events and network as often as possible because you never know when you might come across the talent that’s a perfect fit for your startup. Attending, Meetup and Lanyard are good starting places to find events and meetups that are right for you.

Training and education

Companies and entrepreneurs are looking for employees with specific digital skills which perhaps a few years ago didn’t even exist. The speed at which the tech industry is evolving means the education process will never end for your employees.

Make sure you hire people who are excited to keep learning and developing new skills because this will save you a lot of hassle as your company grows and these skills are required. Targeted training, be it internally or externally, will be much more cost-effective than constantly hiring new staff members.


As well as employing skilled individuals, why not consider training someone just out of university, or a person that’s looking to embark on a new career? Getting involved in the student landscape in your area will put your business at the front of top graduates minds.

Sponsoring student events and guest lecturing will also give you the opportunity to get to know the next generation of talent.


Businesses should certainly think about getting involved in apprenticeship programmes. This is a great way to nurture certain individuals who might not have had the opportunities of further or higher education. It also allows the business to fine-tune the individual’s skills to suit the culture and demands of that particular organisation.

At GA, we focus on improving the employability of our students by updating our classes and courses to reflect the ‘real working life’ skills sought after across the industry. Our apprenticeship scheme also pairs students with suitable work placement opportunities, to provide them with the on-job training they need to enter the employment market.

Chemistry day

Once you’ve got your preferred candidate in place, it’s important to see them in action. Invite them in to work in your office for a day. Have them look after one or two straight-forward tasks so you can assess their on-the-job abilities. This also allows you to get a feel for the chemistry and culture fit that’s so important, especially in a small team.


Finish the day by taking your employees out for a few drinks with the candidate. This’ll allow you to gain a sure idea of how you all might work together.

Can you imagine working with this person day in, day out? Will they enjoy working within your team dynamic and culture? These are all questions you should be confident of answering before making any permanent hire.

It’s harder to lose than it is to gain

It’s really important to not rush the hiring process as it’s a lot harder to let someone go – when you realize you’ve hired too hastily – than it is to bring them onboard. The ramifications will be financial when you have to go through the interview process again, but productivity and morale levels of your current team may also take a hit.

Add these to the heavily burdening emotional effect this will have on you as the bearer of bad news and that should serve as a good motive to get it right first time.

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