An old boss once told me “Hire Slow, Fire Fast”. It was her mantra on how to hire the best person for the job.
That phrase has stuck with me throughout the years. It’s taken me through my days working for ‘the man’ to now, when I’m ‘the man’. It’s a hiring principle I adhere to.
Hiring the right person for the job is no easy task. Hiring the wrong person has cost me time, headaches, not to mention money. And not just a few bucks, I’m talking thousands of dollars.
In talking with colleagues I’ve found that hiring has actually gotten a lot harder since the new economy of 2009 (when the bleep hit the fan). Employers are getting thousands of responses for entry level jobs from people from all walks of life, from high school graduates to former CEO’s. People who are way overqualified are dressing down their resumes to be considered for jobs that three years ago they would never have considered applying for.
With all of these potential candidates out there, it’s getting harder and harder to find ‘the one’ right for the job. Here’s a list of principles I use to hire the people who work for me.
The Ideal Candidate
As soon as I’ve determined I need to hire someone I envision the ideal job candidate. It sounds very basic, but you’d be amazed at the amount of business owners that interview potential candidates without knowing who they are looking for. If you don’t know who you are looking for, how will you know when you’ve found him/her?
Before you look at even one resume, determine who your ideal employee would be. Does this person need to be detail oriented or a big idea kind of person? Will a high energy person work well in your office or do you prefer laid back employees? Would you be ok hiring someone much older or younger than you to work with? Think all of these things through so that you won’t have to guess at who will be a good fit for your business, you’ll already know.
Attitude vs Skill Set
One of my biggest “Aha” moments over the years has been finding out that a person’s attitude and behavior matters more to me than their skill set. Anyone I have ever fired has been for behavior issues rather than a lack of skills. In interviews I focus on finding out who a person truly is more so than what specific skill set they can bring to my company. What a person knows and will need to know to do a job changes over the years, attitude does not.
A big red flag to me is someone who has big employment gaps. Now I know you’re going to say that mothers returning to the workforce after raising their children are an exception or that in this new economy everyone has large gaps but it’s really not. Before you brand me a bastard let me explain.
I’m not against stay at home mothers or people who have been unemployed for a year. I’m against lazy people. In a potential job candidate I look for those who have done something with their time off from work, other than sit at home and despair. A person who has accepted the odd job on the side while they are out of work is more valuable to me than someone who just sits on their ass waiting by the phone for a call back. Candidates who demonstrate an interest in keeping their skills sharp, such as freelancing or taking a class or volunteering while out of the office will bring that same can do spirit to your business. You want to find a person who has demonstrated an interest in life-long learning.
Setting a Good Example
When I finally get to the interview stage in the hiring process I have found that the best way to predict how a person will be at a job is their past behavior. I always ask candidates to give me examples of how they have handled situations in their previous jobs. I ask them to share with me a time that they were under stress, worked in a team setting, didn’t meet a deadline, dealt with change, and scored a victory. Listen to their answers to gain insight on what kind of worker they will be for you. Also, if a job candidate can’t give an example or give cohesive examples that should be a red flag they are not the right person for the job.
Recruiting Passive Seekers
Don’t only consider those who are currently out of work for a position at your company. If you have met someone who is currently employed at another firm that you think would be a great employee at your business, court them. These passive job seekers have already been vetted out by other companies as valuable employees who bring a lot to the table. Wouldn’t they be just as great working for you? It may take time, but continually follow up with already employed job candidates to try to persuade them to come and work for you.
A Network of Friends
Think back to all your previous jobs. I bet most of them you got because you had an ‘in’ at the company. Rather you used your personal network to get you a job. I hire people the same way. I rely more heavily on my contacts and network to find me good job candidates than I do on anonymous people who apply for a job at my firm. Your colleagues, current employees, and friends know a lot of fantastic people out there who are searching for jobs. Rely heavily on their recommendations when attempting to fill a job.
Every tip I’ve given you is useless if you don’t take your time. I have never hired anyone on the spot or within a week of posting a job description. I hire slow, and fire fast. I do my homework on candidates; finding out all I can about them through online searches, criminal background checks, credit checks, telephone interviews and face to face interviews. This way when I finally do hire someone I’m pretty much certain they’ll work out and I’ll know that I’ve found ‘the one’.