10 steps to hiring and nurturing talent

Build your dream team with Stylist’s business columnist Sophie Cornish’s top 10 rules:

I hire often and – these days – sometimes 10 people at any one time. It’s the biggest, most important part of business, yet in the early days we broke the two main laws of recruitment, mostly out of necessity. Rule number one: Don’t hire friends and family. For at least a year, that’s all we did, and it was and still is brilliant. Rule number two: Don’t hire in haste. We made split-second decisions we’re still glad of today. So my own rules of hiring, which would start with ‘don’t let the rules take over’, go as follows:

1. You are selling your company

Every candidate is a possible customer in this public age, so their experience of you should be excellent. Plus, when you meet the right one, they should find your offer irresistible.

2. Don’t hire – if you can avoid it

Promoting from within is win-win.

3. Good practice is essential

Write job descriptions carefully and pre-plan interviews; at least two of you should interview, agree who’s asking what and include a small task for candidates to tackle on the spot.

4. Screen candidates in stages

First round, long list by phone; second round – with at least one change of interviewer – meet a cut-down list of four minimum; third round, final two; then share feedback. Get back to everyone you see.

5. Pay staff for finding staff

Your current team should be your best ambassadors and their contacts are likely to be of an equal calibre.

6. Network your way to a candidate list

Ask everyone you meet and email for ideas. We also find a rich stream of quality applicants at and

7. Have an acid test

Every business will have one relevant to their roots. Innocent drinks has the van test: so long as the founders would be happy to drive with that person in a van all day selling drinks (as they did in the early days) they get the job.

8. Once they are on board, culture is all

Have a written statement of what you believe in, then live by it and expect your team to do the same. Online retailer Zappos has my favourite code of conduct at

9. Ask for feedback

Google gathered 10,000 observations from people about their bosses and identified Eight Good Behaviours for managers as a result. Their track record for staff happiness is exemplary.

10. Keep it fresh

I heard about a company that runs Happy Fridays. Every month, everyone swaps jobs with someone else for a day. Not right for every organisation, but it might suit yours!

Picture credit: Rex Features