It’s a simple fact: The people you hire can make or break your business. When it comes to making people choices, I’ve made both good calls and bad. In most cases, the bad calls were no big deal, but a few of the bad choices left me feeling angry and betrayed. There’s an old saying: Business is business and friendship is friendship, but when it’s your business, it’s always personal.
When you reach that pivotal moment in your business growth when it’s time to hire your first employee, it’s vitally important you make a smart choice. Sadly, many business owners wind up with the most talented job seeker instead of the best candidate for the job. Choosing the wrong applicant can be a costly mistake. While there is no method of hiring that guarantees you’ll get it right every time, there are things you can do to minimize mistakes. Here are five:
1. Brush up on your interviewing skills. An interview requires a considerable amount of preparation. Don’t “wing it.” Think about what it is you want to accomplish during the interview. What types of things about a candidate would be useful to you in helping you to evaluate his or her ability to do the job? And do this person's skills and abilities complement (not duplicate) your own?
2. Use an evaluation sheet. If you are going to be interviewing multiple candidates, record your impressions on an evaluation sheet. This will help you measure each candidate by the same criteria, and will help you keep each individual straight in your mind. I don’t know about you, but after a few interviews, particularly if they are on the same day, I can get confused about who said what.
3. Look beyond the résumé. Try not to go through a reiteration of the candidate’s résumé. You already have that on hand and can verify any of the information provided. (And you absolutely should verify everything!) What you need to find out is what makes the job applicant tick, and whether or not she or he is going to be the right fit for your business.
4. Ask open-ended questions. Ask questions that solicit fuller responses. Listen and take notes. Avoid the temptation to do all the talking. The goal of the interview is to learn about the individual. Ask what he or she liked most and/or least about the previous working environment. Find out about the person’s accomplishments. Present a typical business situation the candidate would encounter with your company and ask how he or she would handle it.
5. Assess character. One of the keys to finding the right employee is to identify who is a good fit for your company culture. The most talented individual in the world will cause serious problems for your business if he or she isn’t the right fit, culturally. Skills can be taught, but you can’t change someone’s personality and character.
I didn’t listen to my own advice once when it came to hiring a new employee. Not only did I pay the price, but so did my team. My choice had been between two job applicants; one had slightly more digital media experience than the other, but the one with less experience seemed a better personality fit. What did I do? I hired the one with more experience.
He was a bad fit from the very first day. One day in an angry outburst, he slammed the door to our executive producer’s office and stormed back to his office. I followed closely on his heels and dismissed him on the spot. Such behavior is not something I tolerate. Fortunately, less than a month had transpired and the other candidate was still available. He joined the team and was fabulous.