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How to Rapidly Scale Your Team Without Sacrificing Sustainability This hiring playbook guards against the pitfalls of scaling without intention.

By Katie Murphy Edited by Amanda Breen

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Whatever rapidly scaling might mean to you, if you are hiring more than three people at one time, you could be setting yourself up for serious sustainability issues in the future: big, hairy business issues like missing your growth targets, customer turnover and crippling Glassdoor reviews.

When hiring just one or two people, you can control the entire process. When hiring three or more people, you need to delegate some of the hiring responsibilities. This is where critical mistakes are made if you don't hand those hiring a playbook.

In the 14 years I have been setting up and leveling up operations, this is the number one mistake I see entrepreneurs make. Learn from them and take a shortcut to intentional, sustainable growth. Here's the highly effective four-step playbook.

Related: If You're Not Hiring Ahead, You've Already Fallen Behind

1. Gut check

Let's check in for a second: Should you even be hiring? Are you 100% sure adding people to your team won't make things worse? Answer the following questions:

  • When describing any of these new positions, have you used the phrase "wear many hats"?
  • Does any non-executive on your team serve both internal and external customers? Meaning, do they service the needs of your employees and customers?
  • Take a look at three calendars from the teams you're hiring for do meetings take up 50% or more of their day?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you just failed the gut check. Please don't hire yet; you are signing yourself up for a nightmare. These are signals that your organization is not functionally aligned. Simply put, it means that the way your organization is designed requires too much collaboration between teams. Collaboration is a time suck, and time is money.

This misalignment is magnified by how many positions you are hiring for. If it's more than ten, I highly recommend addressing this first. If you need help with this, seek the guidance of an organizational-design firm. Look for one with expertise in operations and strategy, not just HR. HR doesn't run your company, so why would you have them design it?

To address your staffing needs in the short term, consider the fractional workforce or temporary staffing. From gig workers to fractional executives, there are some wonderful options out there. This addresses the immediate pinch while protecting your culture at the same time.

2. Avatar hack

If you haven't heard of the term before, an avatar is like a profile of a person. This is not a job description I'd hope you already have that. A job description describes the role's daily duties and responsibilities, whereas an avatar describes the perfect candidate for that job description.

Providing an avatar for each role you are hiring for will help set your recruiting team up for success. They aren't the hiring manager, and this isn't something you want to leave up for interpretation. Providing the avatar up front will also cut down on the questions they ask you, saving you time. My hack for creating an avatar is pretty simple.

Related: The 3 Most Common -- and Costly -- Hiring Mistakes

Step 1: Find a LinkedIn profile of your perfect candidate

Maybe this is even someone already on your team. Do a quick title search if you don't know someone off the top of your head. Or check out a profile from one of your competitors in a similar role. The key is to make sure the candidate has the exact background, personality and values for what you are looking for. Can't find one for all three of those areas? Then find three different profiles and morph them into one.

Step 2: Describe the profile in your own words

Review the profile(s) and pull up a fresh document. Now, describe the candidate's background, personality and the values you feel are important to him or her. It doesn't have to be pretty, but try to be as detailed as possible.

Step 3: Socialize the avatar with your team

Share the avatar with your team in a coworking document to ensure they agree with you. Have them suggest changes straight in the document. Synthesize the final edits and send the document to your recruiter.

3. Hiring standards

Hiring standards protect your culture; meaning, they allow you to control your culture as you grow. If you don't want to leave your culture up to chance, then write and follow hiring standards. A poisonous culture leads to dysfunction, which results in customer turnover and those damning Glassdoor reviews that stay for life. This can quickly spiral into catastrophe with high costs.

A quick way to develop hiring standards, off the top of your head, is to list out your deal killers. Consider the things that would make you walk away from a candidate in the following categories: core values, compensation, personality and start date.

Related: 5 Smart Ways to Remove Bias From Your Hiring Process

4. Interview sequence

The interview sequence is where you can't afford to get lazy. The mistake companies make is assuming a quality interview sequence will require more of their time, so they limit it to one or two interviews. Here's an interview sequence that will protect your time and your culture:

30-minute screen

This is not with the recruiter. This can be anyone on your team that can check on those hiring standards and determine culture fit.

Work assignment

If a candidate passes the 30-minute screen, send him or her a work assignment. This should be at least three case studies that reflect the problems he or she would encounter in the role. You aren't looking to steal work product, so watch out for that. These can be customer-service scenarios, employee scenarios or technical scenarios. If you're willing to spend some money, there are some great SaaS test providers out there that have assessments ready to go.

Three-person panel

Choose a three-person panel to review the work assignment and then conduct an interview if they all give the candidate a pass rating. This protects their time and should ensure they only interview the best candidates.

These individuals should not include the hiring manager or anyone that would be a direct report to this new role. You want to include two people the candidate would work very closely with, but ensure at least one of the three is from a different team. Also, be sure those three individuals are an accurate representation of your diversity goals, or you will only find candidates who look just like your panel.

If your company is too small to accommodate this, then you may want to consider working with an external recruiter, who can help screen candidates using your avatar. Protecting your culture is worth the investment.

Hiring manager interview

Only if your candidate gets two out of three passes from your panel should he or she advance to the hiring manager interview. This protects the time of your hiring manager, who is likely critical to your operations; at the same time, it protects your culture.

Your hiring manager should have reviewed the notes from the panel, the candidate's work assignment, his or her resume and application and be prepared with at least ten interview questions. Aim for two to three final candidates to choose from and go make that offer.

This four-step playbook will aid you as you rapidly scale, so you don't sacrifice sustainability in the long run. If you use it, it will protect your time and your culture as you grow with intention. Happy growing!

Katie Murphy

Founder & CEO of Expansion Group

Katie Murphy is a serial entrepreneur, author and speaker. She is an expert in strategy, innovation and business operations. For the past 14 years, she has helped startups and high-growth companies grow with intention, as an executive and consultant, across numerous industries.

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