One of the biggest hurdles you can leap as a small business is hiring your first, second or fifteenth employee. It’s risky, right? You could hire the greatest person in the world and train him only to have him leave a month later. She answered all the questions right in the interview, but man, in the office she’s a mess. This new person cannot work effectively with your last hire. And so on.
How do you avoid these and the myriad other issues that come with employees so that you can get to the joys of having staff? Having hired our own staff and helped recruit for contract positions, we have some thoughts to share around this very issue.
Spend some time thinking about what your company truly needs. It’s so tempting to hire someone because you are personally swamped, or who has a laser focus on that one function that you need to fill. As tempting as it is to just get someone - anyone! - in the proverbial desk chair, take a moment to breathe and write down the answers to the following questions:
Re-evaluate. Wait for a few minutes or a day, and re-read your answers. It may be that you have an employee who could be trained on new software or who has time to support business development activities if his or her workload is restructured. Or you might find that you need both a graphic designer and an accountant: skill sets generally not found in one hire, so you need to prioritize or outsource one of those functions. Most importantly, you might not have the money to hire, or the compelling need to do so (yet).
But I DO need to hire someone. How? Exciting - you get to grow your team! Take the information you wrote down in the first part of this exercise and translate it into actual qualifications and requirements. Be specific and ask for everything you want. Put a title on it. Then do some quick research online to check postings in your area for similar positions. You’ll likely find that you need to make some crucial edits, and might also get a better feel for the market value of the position you’re posting.
How: Part II. Reach out to your network -- the real, live one -- first. Even if you are hiring your Very First Employee, you likely have vendors, partners, clients, or contacts to whom you’d feel comfortable reaching out to say that your business is expanding. If you have current employees, friends, or family who might know that right person, even better. Give your contact the job description that you’ve refined and ask them to share. Finding a potential employee who has been pre-vetted by someone you know in real life adds a layer of confidence to the process.
How: Part III. No luck with your real friends and vendors? Go online. Make sure the job is on your company website, and then post that link to your social media outlets -- company and personal. Ask your online contacts to share. Depending on the position, post it to job search sites like Indeed and ZipRecruiter, to online college job boards, or to the career centers of any professional associations which may be appropriate. Basically, widen the net.
Now, the fun part. Go through the applications with a fine-tooth comb. Be ruthless. Remember, this is someone who will perform vital functions for your team. If an applicant can’t follow the instructions in your job posting, that’s a very bad sign. If they clearly do not fit the parameters you set in your carefully edited and considered job description, that’s another bad sign. But! You’ll get some great-looking applicants too, so set some time aside to re-read applications, statements of interest, and resumes.
Interviews. We are not personally fans of canned interview questions like “How did you solve a challenge at your current job?” Take time when you are crafting your interview questions and process. What really matters to you? What is really essential to this position? Who else within your company needs to meet the candidate? Can you hire after one interview, or does it require multiple conversations? Get your questions and process set and then interview your top three to six candidates in as similar a fashion as possible. (Note: Zoom can come in really handy here.)
And finally: trust your gut. Take a minute after each interview to write down your impressions of the candidate, and then review those impressions along with the candidate’s documents and any other paperwork - writing samples, portfolios, etc. - you requested. Once you have all the information, your least favorite candidate on paper may turn out to be the best possible candidate in person, and vice versa. Rank them all, and then start reaching out with offers, best candidate first.
It takes time, energy, and money to hire any candidate, and the investment may be larger if you are looking for the perfect candidate. But it’s worth it. Each time you hire, you’ll refine your processes and have more faith in your own judgment. And over time, you’ll build the staff you need to succeed.
Want to talk about how finding + hiring the right people can make your job easier? Join us on Twitter @proposalchat for our weekly chat, Thursdays at noon EST!