“You can have the best strategy and the best building in the world, but if you don’t have the hearts and minds of the people who work with you, none of it comes to life.” This statement by Renee West, a former COO in the hotel industry, perfectly sums up why hiring and training your staff is so essential for success: The people who work for and with you are your greatest resource and the ultimate factor in whether your small business will strive or thrive.
The first step in assembling a great team around you is to find them and to hire them. With the job market as competitive as it is today, this doesn’t seem like it would be a difficult feat, right? And yet, with so many candidates out there, you must wade through a large pool of potential employees to find the one(s) who will fit right in – a process that can be both costly and time-consuming. Although the perfect candidate usually doesn’t exist, your goal should be to get a person who comes closest to the definition, and then continuously invest in their education and motivation.
Don’t fall in the trap many small businesses succumb to when it comes to hiring staff – whether it’s from a legal or a strategical point of view. Instead, learn from other small business owners’ hiring mistakes:
- Unclear priorities in an employee profile
Not to state the obvious here, but the prerequisite of getting what you want is actually knowing what you want. You would be surprised to learn how many small businesses (and large corporations, for that matter) do not have their recruitment priorities set straight. What are the key qualifications and traits in an employee who your small business needs? What about the necessary skills and degrees? Make sure you have the answers to these questions before you proceed to the next step, which is coming up with a job description.
- A poorly written/incomplete job ad
You may be tempted to think this is something you can very easily just “wing”, but in fact, a well-written job ad is what helps filter out the most suitable candidates for the job from ones that are not. If you want to skim off the best people on the market, a superbly written job post will do at least half the job of reeling them in. It needs to reflect what your company is all about. so besides stating some key information about your business, pay equal attention to the tone and style of your message. After you’ve said who you are, describe the position, list all the requirements needed, and specify the type of engagement that’s expected of the person.
- Hiring members of family or friends
Employing people you have personal ties with means standing on slippery ground, both on a professional and personal level. Sure, your cousin Jeff’s kid might be “just what you’re looking for” in an employee (at least according to your cousin Jeff), but do you really want to take that gamble? A lot of small business owners feel the pressure to give the job to one of their relatives or friends, but are you sure it’s a good idea to mix your private and professional life? A good personal relationship with someone doesn’t automatically mean it will translate well in a business environment. You should also take into account the potential of a down-the-hill scenario: In case he or she constantly underperforms, the dismissal will be even more unpleasant than it normally is. We’re not saying hiring family or friends is completely off the table, but you should be 100% positive they are the right fit for your small business. Just ask yourself: Would I hire him/her, even if I weren’t personally involved with them?
- Relying on impressions and gut feelings
Trusting your instincts is important, but should definitely not be the only factor to base your decision upon. In fact, test your gut feeling and try to disprove it as much as possible during the recruitment process. It may feel like unnecessary work at this stage, but it’s better to be safe than sorry when you’re entering into an employment contract with someone.
“Hiring managers should actually try to disprove their initial impression. If you like someone off the bat, look for reasons they aren’t right for the job. If you dislike someone, look for reasons why they are right for the job”, explains recruitment expert Jason Berkowitz. Although someone who appears confident, friendly and thoroughly prepared at a job interview will undoubtedly leave a good impression, this is not a guarantee they have the right skills for the job in question. Don’t ignore your gut feeling, but back it up with some concrete testing procedures to make sure you have really filtered out the best candidate for your firm.