Hiring New Employees

Your number one asset as a company has and always will be your people. Your ability to attract and keep great talent will be the difference between being a 'small-time' one-man show, and being able to grow your company successfully. It will also have a direct impact on your sanity as a business owner and your ability to step back. Until you have people you can trust to keep customers happy, you will always be your own bottleneck. Having been through the finding, interviewing, and hiring process essentially non-stop over the past 12 months, I have learned a few key principles which have made a huge difference:

  • Decide ahead of time what the roles of the employee will be, and establish what the core requirements and specific measurements of success are.
  • Use the interview process to measure a candidate against your core requirements using pre-thought-out questions and exercises.
  • When you find a candidate you like and that meets your requirements, don't wait or get caught up on details -- just make it happen.

Establishing a role and core requirements

The number one reason hiring goes bad is that you don't know what you are looking for. Without establishing clear roles and requirements, interviews become ineffective, and even worse, result in hiring someone that doesn't fit the position. This ends up being a loss for both the company and the employee. By establishing roles and goals up front, you are setting new employees up for success -- and consequently your own success!

  1. Begin by identifying what you want the new hire to do. You should start with broad and general statements, but then narrow them down to specific tasks and goals. For example, you could start by saying, "I want my new employee to treat my customers like gold!" and then drill down into specifics like, "reply to all phone calls within the same day", or "use a friendly and positive tone on every call", or "resolve each call in under 5 minutes".
  2. Think ahead of time about what specific measurements will indicate success for the position. Think about what deliverables would make you smile when you write your payroll checks each month. For example, "get a positive review each week," or "generate xx amount of new revenue," or "save xx number of customers from canceling." Each employee should provide obvious value to you as an employer -- although sometimes, you won't realize it until you identify specific measurements for success.
  3. Once you narrow down your role and indicators of success, identify what characteristics and skillsets will make someone successful in that position. You will likely start with 20 things -- try to narrow it down to the 3-5 most important. For example, above all else, a new Customer Service Representative must be: "Professional and Reliable," "Friendly and likable," and "competent at resolving customer concerns and requests".

Use Your Interview Times Effectively

Once you identify your specific requirements, it helps to prepare several questions to get to know a person and whether or not they have what you are looking for. I love telling candidates upfront which qualities are most important for the role and then let them share relevant stories from their past professional experience or personal life which shows they have those qualities. You can usually tell pretty quickly if someone is making things up or has to dig for examples vs having the qualities you are looking for. This type of free dialog helps you not only evaluate them on the merits of the qualifications but helps you get to know them better as a person. As an added bonus, it sets the expectations upfront with them about what you are really looking for.

It also helps to ask questions about specific scenarios that you know will come up in their position and ask them to share experiences about how they have dealt with it in the past. For example, "Tell me about a specific time when you were able to turn around an upset customer and make them happy."

If the position is for a technical position, ask them to solve a problem or explain how they would deal with specific scenarios. Put them in the hot seat and see them in action.

Elon Musk is famous for saying:

“When I interview someone to work at the companies, I ask them to tell me about the problems they worked on and how they solved them, and if someone was really the person that solved it, they’ll be able to answer multiple levels. They’ll be able to go down to the brass tacks, and if they weren’t, they’ll get stuck. Anyone who struggles with a problem never forgets it.”

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