A Guide to Hiring the Right People

No business, big or small, can succeed without two things: strong products and satisfied customers. But there’s another important factor that has a big influence on performance and prosperity. Committed, passionate employees are essential to the fortunes and future of any company.

In a small business setting, hiring the right people matters even more, because there’s no room to accommodate underachievers or problem personalities. Just as it’s critical to attract talented staff, it’s even more critical to make informed, educated decisions about every hire. Pick the wrong person and you’ll end up doubly burned, not just by the cost of letting them go, but also with the time and effort spent finding their replacement.

Hiring good employees requires planning and preparation, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you find the perfect person for your next vacancy.

Know what you need

Before you advertise any position, sit down and figure out precisely what you need. You’ll be more likely to attract the right person if your posting is clear and detailed when it comes to qualifications and responsibilities. Make up a list of ‘must haves’ that your ideal candidate will bring, and refer to it again when perusing resumes and preparing for interviews.

Both of you have to ace the interview

An interview is the best opportunity to assess the qualities and characteristics of any candidate. Sitting down for a face-to-face conversation and carefully considering the job seeker’s body language and social skills will often tell you vastly more than any resume ever could.

Of course, it’s important you ask the right questions, too, because first impressions can be misleading. Don’t rule someone out just because they appear shy or nervous. Better to get a read on the person’s ambition and aspirations by asking about their motivations and hopes for the future. Test their aptitudes and abilities with role playing situations or other scenarios. Finally, remember to ask about past work experiences, and why the person left their previous job – the answers can often be telling. For instance, routinely pinning blame for past failures on external factors or other people rather than owning up to mistakes can be an indicator of potential personality flaws.

Ponder potential, not just past experience

In evaluating prospective employees, it’s common to focus on what people have done before. However, that’s often not as important as what someone might do for you in the months and years ahead. If two candidates aren’t on equal footing when it comes to experience, but one has way more passion and potential, it’s likely they’ll become the kind of employee any small business would love to have.

Get your staff involved

Before hiring any new person, it’s wise to think about how well they’ll fit in with the rest of your staff. But don’t just consider your own opinion – ask your employees, too. Not only does this boost morale by making current team members feel involved, it prevents you from falling victim to tunnel vision. Consider inviting a trusted staffer to sit in on job interviews, or introduce prospective hires to various people at your workplace, then follow up for their impressions of the candidate. If more than one staffer has legitimate concerns, it’s likely the person isn’t the right choice.

Staff can do more than just screen candidates – they can also suggest them. If you’ve got a vacancy at your small business, ask your employees whether there’s someone they’d recommend for the role. Encourage the practice by offering bonuses or gifts to anyone whose referrals bear fruit.

Refer to references

Don’t get caught by a candidate who embellishes prior experiences, achievements and responsibilities, or one who glosses over things they’d rather you not know about. Do your homework and check with references to make sure dates and details match. One important question to ask any reference is whether they’d consider hiring the candidate again.

Make the time to hire right

Time is always tight when you run a small business, but hiring is too important to be squeezed in around everything else. If you want to find the right person, you need to carve out the hours required to sift through resumes, check references, and conduct multiple rounds of interviews. Avoid setting artificial deadlines – you’re far more likely to make a bad hire if you rush. That being said, when you do find the right employee, don’t dawdle, either; the last thing you want is to have a talented person agree to take a position elsewhere while you’re trying to make up your mind.

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