Hiring the right people for the job can make or break your journey to the top of the business world. Whether you’re hiring a small staff or expanding a long-established operation, these are key decisions worth your time, effort, and scrutiny.
We talked with some business leaders who know a thing or two about hiring. They gave us a few tips to improve the process from recruiting to onboarding and everything in between.
Some folks just work better alone, and that’s fine. However, if your business relies on collaboration and teamwork, you’ll need to vet for those traits from the get-go.
“A great way to test your potential hires’ collaboration skills is to have a group interview and an individual interview,” said Carrie Derocher, CMO of TextSanity. “By having both interviews you get to maximize the ways you get to see them. If they excel during the group interview then you can get a good idea about how they work on a team and how they do around others. For many, group interviews can be difficult, but getting your potential hires out of their comfort zones is a great testament to their abilities to work on your team.”
It only takes one person to bring a team to new heights or drag everyone down, so choose wisely.
One team, one dream, right? It’s a cliché phrase, but it’s popular for a reason. Be sure that potential hires are up for the job and the business mission as a whole.
“If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money,” said Author and Speaker Simon Sinek. “But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”
This can be hard to gauge from a couple of interviews, but go with your gut and use your best judgment always.
With the majority of professionals working from home, many hiring managers are interviewing candidates through digital means. This is easier said than done, but countless success stories show it’s possible.
“Hiring is a tricky subject, especially in the remote work situation right now,” said Benjamin Smith, Founder and CEO of Disco. “Try to stick with the processes you’ve already established and screen for compatibility with existing teams. Gauge personalities the best you can and determine if they’re a good fit for your group.”
Use all the technology and tactics at your disposal to connect with applicants every step of the way.
Resumes and recommendations are great, but what about the concrete skills that people bring to the table? Take a more skills-based approach to hiring and watch things change for the better.
“If you wish to improve your hiring process then you should evaluate the skills that your company deems as important for new hires to possess,” said Jeffery Brown, President of Big Fig Mattress. “There should be an understanding of which potential employees have experiences that can be carried over to your company. Not everyone is going to have the exact experience that you are looking for, but if you can have your potential employees break down for you what skills can benefit them in their position then you can get a better understanding of who can achieve which roles on your team.
Each position requires distinct skill sets, so clarify those criteria across the organization before starting the hiring process.
Who is this person sitting across from you, talking with you on the phone, or Zooming in through the web? That’s not a woo-woo question – it’s a pillar of good hiring practices.
“If you truly want to get to know your potential hires, then you should start off by asking them more personal questions during the interview process,” said Steve O’Dell, CEO and Co-Founder of Tenzo Tea. “Getting to know your employees from the start as people rather than just employees does wonders for your team’s morale and the office environment.”
Put the technical stuff aside for a second and find out more about your applicants – it’s worth the extra effort.
When the small talk is over, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. However, rather than looking at bullet points of supposed accomplishments, ask for real examples of work that has made a difference to previous employers.
“An employee’s portfolio will speak volumes, sometimes even more so than a CV,” said Brent Sanders, CEO of Wicksly. “Maybe they’re still new to the industry and just need that big break. You can be the one to give it to them if you see the potential in the work itself.”
When you start thinking from a product and output perspective, your business as a whole becomes more results-oriented.
The world’s top companies don’t view themselves as run-of-the-mill operations. They envision themselves as dynasties that will last for generations to come. Apply that mindset to hiring and see how priorities shift.
“Think in different time frames when making a hire,” said Travis Killian, CEO and Founder of Everlasting Comfort. “Will this person be useful and helpful for a short few months, or are they going to be a valuable asset for the long term. You’ve got to set your sights down the road if you want to make the best choices for your business.”
Be honest with yourself – is this a person you can see making strides in your organization and ascending to the top of the C-suite?
You don’t have to do a full-on psychological analysis of hopeful hires, but it can serve you well to consider the personality traits of your applicants and see if they’ll mesh with the rest of your crew.
“Take a look around your organization and see what types of personality traits are best suited for your business,” said Omid Semino, CEO of Diamond Mansion. “Every organization works a little differently and you want everyone to get along in a productive setting. Too much variation in character can sometimes work against you.”
Is your business more laid back and chill or militaristic and hardcore? Find people that fit and it makes everything easier.
Ever been in an interview that just feels so horribly stilted and awkward? Now that you’re the one hiring, don’t repeat the same mistakes that those managers made in the past.
“Interviews should always be as conversational as possible,” said Andrew Pires, Owner of The Maskie. “You do not want your potential hires to feel as if you are interrogating them, but rather open the floor for them to present their personal insight on why they think they are qualified for the position. By turning the interview into a two-way conversation, you get to know the potential hire as a person as well as a worker.”
No interview will ever seem perfect, but you can definitely improve the experience for everyone by lightening up and taking a conversational tone.
It seems like an obvious statement at this point, but video conferencing is completely normal and should be a part of your interview repertoire, especially in the final stages.
“A great way to get to know your potential hire is to cut down on how often you do phone interviews,” said Kamron Kunce, Senior Marketing Manager for 4Patriots. “Interviews should always be in person or through video call. This face-to-face interaction allows you to see who you are speaking with and form a better connection between you and the potential hire. A phone interview feels artificial and does not fully supply you with the information and discussion you need to know who you are talking to.”
If someone is hesitant to log into a Google Hangout or Zoom session, that might be a red flag right out of the gate.
Nobody really knows how to evaluate culture at a business – it’s more of an atmosphere or a vibe that must be experienced firsthand. Do your best to determine if an applicant will be a good addition to the culture or someone that can’t quite get with the program.
“The trick for growing any business is empowering, enabling, and focusing your workforce,” said Shaun Price, Head of Customer Acquisition at MitoQ. “Hiring for attitude and cultural fit allows me to handpick candidates that will embrace my business’s goals and adopt them as their own. The more fanatical my workers become about MitoQ’s mission, the more likely they are to throw themselves into work and take initiative to turn mountains back into molehills.”
Positivity, warmth, and confidence – these are just a few traits to look for.
Interviews are usually scheduled with some extra time baked in, so why not broaden the conversation to learn more about the other person?
They’ll feel more comfortable and you might connect with something familiar.
“You can tell a lot about a potential hire by asking a few questions about themselves mixed in between the professional stuff,” said Jeff Goodwin, Senior Director of Performance Marketing and Ecommerce at Orgain. “Family, friends, pets, hobbies, that kind of stuff. Keep it reasonable and appropriate, of course, but this method will help you detect any red flags or possible advantages with a particular person.”
A bit of banter is fine, but if a candidate is suffering from a case of “oversharing” that’s not going to be good for business, either.
Maybe you’ve got a potential hire in the pipeline who shows potential but might need some extra training or attention. Lots of companies take this opportunity to hire great talent and build them up over time.
“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people,” said Lawrence Bossidy, Former CEO of Honeywell International. “At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies.”
When you develop employee skills, you set them up for greatness within your organization and beyond.
Ever feel like someone is just saying pre-written lines off a page during an interview? It’s impersonal and sometimes downright rude.
We understand that there needs to be some logical line of questioning, but don’t hesitate to go off script once in a while.
“You can greatly improve your hiring process when you make a better effort to really get to know your potential new employees,” said Heidi Robinson, Chief Operating Officer of Because Market. “Keep the interview fluid, pivoting to different questions according to the responses you receive. Find an individual who is willing to grow and learn, which helps keep your retention rates high and your overhead costs down.”
When you show your human side, others will always be more engaged and willing to meet halfway.
It’s easy to nitpick and look for weaknesses in an interview process, but the real key is to find the hidden strengths and kernels of talent that might be in front of you.
“In today’s business environment, it’s imperative to really streamline the hiring process,” said Timmy Yanchun, Co-Founder of LTHR Shaving. “With employee retention being at an all-time high for most industries, being able to onboard employees and identify their strengths with ease will become increasingly important. Be sure to start looking for new hires who have entrepreneurial traits, such as being innovative and possessing apparent leadership qualities.”
Be willing to streamline your interviews and openly discuss things like strengths and weaknesses – it’s a breath of fresh air for everyone.
Remember when there were no online applications and everything happened by letter or over the phone? We’re out of the dark ages of tech, so use all the web-based tools at your disposal, including online ads.
“When struggling to find a skilled candidate, you may need to strategize in terms of making your job ads stand out and appear as more appealing opportunities, especially against competitors within the same industry,” said Brittany Dolin, Co-Founder of Pocketbook Agency. “An intriguing job description goes a long way – try emphasizing the positives of the job such as the benefits, the work-life balance, and the warm culture. Also make sure to be very clear about the desired skills in the job description, as well, so there is no confusion in that regard.”
You’ll get applicants no matter what you say in your ad – just weed out the bad ones early by raising the bar for quality from the start.
Some positions require management chops, some require interpersonal skills and conflict resolution. On the other hand, many jobs are simply about showing up and doing the work, and that’s okay.
“Everyone talks about leadership, but not every position requires this unique skill set,” said Denis Hegstad, Co-Founder of LiveRecover. “Sometimes the best employees are the people who will keep their heads down, work hard, and not try to break the mold.”
Oftentimes the best candidates will say upfront that they don’t want to be the boss, and they can be crucial assets to your team as well.
Despite all of our tech tools and digital resources, businesses can still find great applicants through friends of friends and other personal connections.
Don’t discount this approach just because it might seem outdated.
“Employee recommendations/referrals are a great way to improve the hiring process,” said Derin Oyekan, Co-Founder of Reel Paper. “You know you’re getting a solid candidate if an employee is personally recommending them for the position because if that person wasn’t qualified in the first place, they probably wouldn’t be recommended. Ask your employees if they know anyone and have them send a resume and cover letter to you.”
Better yet, incentivize referrals by setting up a system for time off or rewards.
We’ve all got a sixth sense for the energy that people bring to the table, so use it to your advantage in interviews.
“When hiring, we believe it is imperative to first recruit and select those who align well with our company’s culture, which is energetic, competitive, embraces continuous improvement and operates with candor and humility,” said Eric Kaye, CEO of Kayezen. “We purposely look for people with a passion for building their own physical and mental resilience, and who enjoy helping others do the same.”
You can’t rely strictly on intuition, of course, but it can take you far in your recruitment and hiring efforts.
Company reputations are very much in the public eye these days with review sites and social media. Some of the posts might be harsh, but look for useful feedback in the fray.
“Keep an eye on reviews,” said Scott Rosenberg, CRO of MaryRuth’s Organics. “Job board sites like Glassdoor and Indoor have a way for employees to rate and review your company and a lot of job seekers are paying attention to them. These reviews can make or break a potential candidate’s interests in your company.”
If you keep seeing a problem persist from one review to the next, there are deeper issues to address before making new hires.
The face that people put on in an interview is sometimes different from who they really are, so take some time to research these individuals before bringing them on board.
“Improve your background checks,” said Olivia Young, the Head of Product Design of Conscious Items. “A lot of companies don’t think to do this, but you should consider checking a potential candidate’s social media page. The person you hire is going to represent your company and their social media page can give you an idea of what kind of person you could be hiring. Just be careful because there are some legal risks in letting a person’s social media influence your decision.”
Too much social media activity or a complete lack thereof – these are both signs that something might be amiss.
There was a time when only university graduates or experienced employees were eligible for positions, but times have changed.
Now there are many workshops, courses, and online groups that can be treasure troves for quality candidates.
“We’re seeing lots of companies take non-traditional routes of hiring that are yielding amazing results,” said Roy Ferman, CEO and Board Chairman of Seek Capital. “The common avenues of hiring are still legitimate, but there are more ways to discover great talent. Always be networking, taking calls, considering recommendations, and looking under every rock.”
Don’t shrug off a potential hire because they don’t have all the traditional qualifications. Think outside the box and take a chance.
New businesses often forget to establish clear interview and hiring methods because they think they can just “wing it”. That might work a few times, but luck will run out! Create real processes so you don’t have to go back to the drawing board every time.
“Consider improving your interview processes,” said Jason Wong, CEO and Founder of Doe Lashes. “Many potential candidates can be turned off from taking a position because they weren’t impressed with the interview process. Allow them to interview you and ask questions that are relevant to the position.”
Some creativity is good during the hiring process, but your ultimate goal is to get the person on board and get to work – don’t forget that.
The same point applies to recruitment, which is often a mess for young organizations finding their place in the world. Keep track of what works, what doesn’t and push forward with checks and balances to recruit the right way.
“Establishing a solid recruitment strategy usually doesn’t happen overnight; it requires a long-term strategy,” said Sunny Mills, Design and Production Director at YogaClub. “Processes and checklists can help companies make the right match for their business. Companies should also be critical of their existing processes so they can identify areas for improvement.”
Eventually you can hire positions specifically for HR and recruitment, but it’s a go-with-the-flow thing at first.
As we mentioned earlier, you can’t be too narrow in your search for employees these days. There is talent in every corner of the world from all different backgrounds and sectors.
“Make sure the job role you are seeking to fulfill is being discoverable through different sites to really get a diverse set of candidates to apply,” said Eric Gist, CEO of Awesome OS. “Don’t limit yourself to LinkedIn and Indeed. Also consider Google search. Making your open positions discoverable where people are searching is an important part of attracting the best talent.”
Employee mobility is better than ever thanks to remote work, so use that to your advantage.
You might think you’ve created a perfect ad for a job opening on the web, but we often omit some crucial details that turn solid candidates away. Add as much information as possible even if it seems redundant.
“When advertising a position, make sure to note whether there is a training period in the beginning,” said Matt Seaburn, Partner and President of Rent-a-Wheel. “Employees appreciate being eased into a position rather than thrown into something they’ve never done before.”
Remember that the best employees have options, and they want to know exactly what they’re signing up for!
Don’t be the type of interviewer who gets caught off guard when the applicant asks you a question you can’t answer. You need to be prepared, too! Expect to field questions and have the right responses lined up
“If someone asks insightful questions during an interview, that’s always a good sign,” said Nik Sharma, CEO of Sharma Brands. “This means that the person is eager to learn and won’t be a know-it-all when it comes time to tackle real challenges. That’s so important in today’s work environment where things change rapidly.”
Lastly, remember that you are an ambassador for your company, whether you’re posting an ad, holding an interview, or onboarding a new hire. Be professional, be open, and keep the mood light so you make a good impression from the start.
“Create a sense of warmth when interviewing the candidate; of course be clear about the skills required for the position, but also let them know that there will be open communication in the workplace and a willingness to collaborate on different ideas,” said Mary Berry, Founder and CEO of Cosmos Vita. “The better the employee feels, the more confidence they’ll be likely to embody to do a good job.”
With all these CEO insights on recruitment and hiring, you’ve got the knowledge you need to build your dream team! Surround yourself with the right people and your business has no choice but to thrive.
John Pearson is a serial entrepreneur and writer who is passionate about helping small businesses launch and grow. His work has been featured in Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and Forbes.