Hiring great employees is critical for the growth of most entrepreneurial ventures. However, it is also one of the most difficult tasks an owner tackles. It’s axiomatic that to build a strong business, you need good people. Unfortunately, when it comes to hiring, nothing will guarantee success.
Entrepreneurs often struggle to sort the wheat from the chaff in the hiring process. That makes sense. They often get into business because they are passionate about the primary work of their enterprise. Because they are good at what they do, the business grows and they need to hire people to get the work done.
Unfortunately, no one is born knowing how to make good hiring decisions. It’s a learned skill. Therefore, entrepreneurs who have not been trained in good hiring practices are likely to struggle. The good news is that we have uncovered five ways to tip the odds in your favor.
1. Know exactly what you need. While it may seem like remedial advice, identifying what you need in each of these four areas is the first step:
- Physical requirements: This category includes activities such as lifting, walking, bending or speaking. Limit what you specify to the actual requirements of the job.
- Experience: This includes work history, but also education, accreditation or licenses. Focus on the results you want delivered, not just prior work experience. Be careful about eliminating good candidates by over-specifying (e.g., requiring a college degree when one is not needed).
- Behaviors: These include honesty, the ability to work well with others, attitudes and work ethic. While employees can learn skills, it’s more difficult to teach behaviors. Hire behaviors, train skills.
- Cognitive capability: Comedian Ron White observes, “You can’t fix stupid!” It’s funny, in part because it’s true. An employee can learn new skills, but their cognitive capability is unlikely to improve significantly. If you want smart employees, hire smart people.
2. Understand what you have to offer. As a small business, you may find it difficult to compete with the big dogs on compensation and benefits. However, you have other things of value: flexible schedules, broader job responsibilities, a family feel, an entrepreneurial culture or the chance to learn new skills as the company grows. Obviously, structuring a competitive compensation package is critical, but be creative to make your offer attractive.
3. Cast a broad net with a narrow focus. Go beyond friends and family -- consider many candidates, but because you know exactly what you are looking for, quickly eliminate the bulk of the prospects and focus on the promising few.
4. Leverage multiple methods and opinions. Including others in the hiring decision can offer enhanced insight. Others may catch something you missed or ask a key follow-up question. While the hiring manager should generally make the final decision, it’s prudent to involve others. Consider multiple methods of assessing a candidate’s fit. Depending on the job, there are three useful methods of evaluation: interviews, assessments and simulations or trial employment.
5. Trust, but verify. Unfortunately, prospective employees often claim education and work accomplishments that simply aren’t true. Once they are inside your organization, dishonest employees can be devastating. The Small Business Administration states that employee theft is the cause of 30 percent of all business failures. Perform the necessary checks to prevent dishonest people from infiltrating your organization.
Ensuring that you get the right people in the right jobs is critical. While it’s not easy, it’s doable. Bad hires can destroy the business that you have labored to build. Following the steps outlined above will greatly improve the probability that you’ll succeed.