Making the decision to bring a new person onto your company’s team is extremely important. Done correctly, a new hire could potentially bring in significant additional revenues and make your company much more successful; done poorly, hiring the wrong person could be an extremely expensive mistake. Therefore, I’d like to give you a little bit of advice and what I feel are some essential ideas and tools for hiring.
The first thing I’d like to share with you is that for the vast majority of you reading this article, the quality of the people you get and keep on your team will be the single most important factor in determining the long-term success of your business. There’s an old cliché that says people are your most important asset, but that’s wrong. Your best people are your most important asset, and your worst people are your biggest liability, so you need to be very careful and effective in how you go about hiring new employees.
Whenever I counsel business owners about the hiring process, there are a few things I strongly recommend that they do:
- Create a very specific list of the attributes, skills, talents and attitudes you are looking for in a new hire. Do this before you interview anyone, before you get attached to anyone and before you get emotional. Write down the short list of things that the employee you are going to hire MUST possess. These are non-negotiable. It doesn’t matter how much you like the person, how cool you think they are or how great they seem, this is the short list of key skills and attributes that anyone who fills the job absolutely must demonstrate. Next, list several things that would be “nice to have.” These items are above and beyond the core, but they might be a bonus to your business. Lastly, jot down a few things that would be super nice to have but are totally icing on the cake. Now, if you interview someone who does not have everything on the list of key elements, do not hire them.
- Read some books or get training on interviewing techniques. Most of the business people I’ve come across are pathetic at doing a thorough job of asking superb interviewing questions and knowing what to look for in a candidate. The list you have created in step one will help you form an agenda for asking questions, but the key here is for the candidate to spend 90 percent of the time talking while the interviewer is taking exceedingly good notes, watching body language and asking additional probing questions.
- I’m also a big fan of team interviewing. This involves having candidates who have made it past the first round to spend some time with the people they will work for, the people they will work with and the people who will work for them so that you can get feedback from everyone on how they feel the candidate would fit into the culture. Again, anyone who interviews them should have some level of training on how to conduct a professional interview.
- I also think it’s a good idea to get them to take a few tests, possibly a skills test and a personality test, to make sure that they truly do possess the skills they are advertising and that they will likely be a good fit for your culture. In addition, call every single reference and ask them a few questions about the candidate so you can get some additional feedback, knowing that candidates are only going to reference people who will speak well of them. If it is a senior position, I encourage you to do a great deal of due diligence, call every reference, call their former employers and get as much information as you possibly can about the candidate before you hire them.
- And last but not least, I’ll finish with two clichés that are old but still hold true:
- Hire for attitude and aptitude; train for skills. Once your candidates all have the “must have” skills for the job and they show the ability to learn, always hire the person with the best attitude. If someone has all the skills but a bad attitude, there is no book you can give them, no class you can send them to and no seminar they can attend that will turn a bad attitude into a positive, productive employee.
- Hire slow — fire fast. Even if you are in emergency mode and desperately need someone to fill a gap in your business, I urge you to take the time to find the right person and not just hire the first person who walks in the door. Employee turnover is expensive. By the time you bring someone on board, train them up, fill out all the paperwork and get them in your system, you have invested a tremendous amount of time, energy, resources and money. If you have to terminate them or they quit within a few weeks or months, it’s costly all the way around.
John Spence is the author of two books, Awesomely Simple and Excellence by Design, and has been recognized as one of the top 100 Business Thought Leaders in America and one of the top 100 Small Business Influencers in our country.