Why Recruit Employees: Weighing Your Options Before Jumping In

<div class="grey-callout"><h2>In This Guide You'll Learn</h2><p><ul><li>Why you shouldn’t always recruit.</li><li>How to use my Six Tests of Recruitment to decide whether or not to recruit.</li><li>How to understand where your business is in its life cycle and what this means for your recruitment decisions.</li></ul></p></div>

It’s understandable for a business with a staffing gap to want to go full steam ahead and recruit someone as soon as possible. If that sounds like yours, then stop and pause for a minute! Don’t fall into the common trap of recruiting when you don’t need to and save yourself a lot of time, money and heartache.

Recruitment isn’t the only option open to you and sometimes it can be better not to recruit.

To Decide Whether or Not to Hire, Use my Six Tests of Recruitment

Test 1: Everything that a business does should be about creating value for its customers

  • Anything that your business is doing that isn’t adding value is a waste of resources.
  • Misguided recruitment efforts often bring in new staff who aren’t doing work that adds real value, but adds unnecessary costs and complexity that slow the business down.
  • Only hire when you’re sure the new staff will add value for your customers.

Test 2: Value creation should be based on an efficient process with Measurable Outcomes

  • To be successful a business needs to convert gross into net profit by using an efficient, predictable process.
  • If you recruit staff into a business full of bottlenecks, then your people may look busy but will deliver little value.
  • Only hire when you’re sure you have the processes in place needed for the new staff to be able to deliver value.

Test 3: It’s often better to automate tasks than to hire new people to do them

  • New technology is making it easier to automate tasks.
  • But there are limits to automation. It’s easier to automate bookkeeping that consists of a standardised set of tasks than client-customer management, which is too complex and open-ended for many technologies to carry out.
  • If you’re thinking of recruiting for a job that will add value but is repetitive, then consider automating it.

Test 4: It’s often better to outsource non-core functions to specialists with the skills, processes and infrastructure needed to carry out tasks more efficiently

  • If you can’t automate a task, then maybe you can outsource it.
  • It can often make a lot of sense to outsource non-core tasks to specialists, allowing your staff to focus on your core tasks.
  • But be prepared to manage outsourced tasks and hold external contractors accountable.
  • If you’re thinking of recruiting for a job that involves non-core tasks then consider outsourcing it rather than hiring new staff.

Test 5: Develop your current staff to lower risk, allow for succession planning and create a win-win for everyone

  • Could you promote or train up an existing member of staff for a job?
  • Where do you need to have some succession planning?
  • Rather than take the risk of hiring a complete unknown, consider developing an existing member of staff for the job (but make sure you’re not giving them greater levels of responsibility without paying them properly).

Test 6: External recruitment should enhance a business’s value and resilience, not just make it bigger

  • Recruit only as a last resort and with the aim of building value.
  • Take on new staff only when you’re sure that the job has a long-term future. If not, then use temporary staff or reconsider the possibility of outsourcing.
  • Only recruit when you’ve properly ruled out the alternatives given in the first five tests, and make sure it’s appropriate for where your business is in its life cycle.

Don’t Recruit at the Wrong Time in Your Business’s Life Cycle

It’s important to understand where your business is in its life cycle. Businesses at different stages have different recruitment needs. Recruiting at the wrong time can be very costly.


  • Businesses are often set up by entrepreneurs who want to be their own boss. As soon as they invest or lease items they move into the stage of infancy.
  • At birth the business has only just been created and won’t be hiring staff.


  • The business is still a one-person operation, often with haphazard processes and just starting to create value that customers want. Infant businesses can easily sink.
  • At this stage the priority should not be hiring and having to pay staff, which will eat up limited cash flow, but instead building a predictable value-creating process.


  • Now the firm has a bit more cash to play with and may consider hiring staff.
  • Hiring poses big risks, however. Often friends or family are introduced and they might not be the best fit for the firm.
  • The firm may now want to recruit (often generalists who can operate without too much structure rather than specialists who do best at well-defined tasks). However, extreme caution should be exercised because hiring when processes are still undeveloped may simply magnify a firm’s weaknesses.


  • Firms at this stage have more cash flow and gain in confidence, but like real teenagers can get overconfident and want to get bigger too fast.
  • Taking on lots of people without enough of a focus on product-market fit and value creation can lead to an overweight organisation and a Mid-Life Crisis.
  • At this stage recruitment should be done with a focus on value creation rather than growth per se.

Young Adult

  • The business now has a healthy cash flow and robust processes.
  • The firm needs to recruit because now the main constraint on the firm’s growth is finding and keeping good people. It may begin hiring specialists rather than generalists.


  • At this point the business has more cash flow than it needs for reinvestment.
  • It needs to monitor gross profit compared to payroll and outsourcing costs to ensure that its staff are really adding value.
  • The business needs to find and keep the right staff to bring about sustained growth, otherwise it will suffer a Mid-Life Crisis.

Mid-Life Crisis

  • By this point the excitement of starting and growing a business has dwindled.
  • Recruitment often becomes about “backfilling” as Great Performers leave.
  • The priority must be to ensure that staff are doing things that add value: a simple test of this can be to not replace departing staff. Without a focus on value, the business will start to age.


  • At this stage, the best people have left and the rest are “institutionalised” and in denial about the business’s problems.
  • Ageing companies can be saved, sometimes by bringing in a new management team and removing staff who are no longer adding value. If not, then the company dies.


  • At this point there are no good people left.
  • The business will have to close or be sold and the remaining staff let go.

<span class="grey-callout">Take action: Think about where you are in the business life cycle and where you want to get to (it’s perfectly ok not to want to reach Maturity, for example). Understanding this will help you anticipate the sorts of problems that your business might come up against given its stage of development as well as your future recruitment needs.</span>

With an understanding of the business life cycle, as you move into a new stage you’ll be able to:

  • Foresee problems and anticipate recruitment needs.
  • Retain cash because you’re not wasting it unnecessarily by recruiting, while seeing where you can add value for customers.
  • Set up value-creating processes whose outputs can be measured, which in turn improves the efficiency of staff.
  • Decide whether to hire generalist or specialist employees.
  • Determine the right time to recruit a professional management team as your business grows.

<div class="grey-callout"><h2>Key Takeaways</h2><p><ul><li>Don’t assume that you have to recruit.</li><li>Use the Six Tests of Recruitment to decide whether to hire or not: create value, build efficient processes, automate, outsource, develop existing staff, recruit to build value.</li><li>Recruit in a way that’s appropriate to your business’s stage in its life cycle: Birth, Infancy, Toddler, Teenager, Young Adult, Maturity, Mid-Life Crisis, Ageing, Death.</li><li>During earlier phases be more cautious about recruitment and ensure that it focuses on creating value.</li><li>As you move into a new stage, anticipate your future recruitment needs.</li></ul></p></div>

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Geoff Newman has dedicated his entire career to recruitment. He has consulted for many well-known international brands, and worked with over 20,000 growing businesses. He has helped fill over 100,000 jobs.

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We literally wrote the book on...

The secrets of great recruitment

The Secrets of Great Recruitment is a top-seller. It is easy to read and wastes no time in giving powerful actionable strategies you can use straight away.

Book cover for The Secrets of Great Recruitment