Small Business Hiring Success
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Small Business Hiring Success: Build a house you want to live in

Nothing ruins a business owner’s day more than having one of their key employees quit.

Even if they are quitting for a good reason, it feels like a failure. Putting a team together is hard work, and this is a tear in the fabric of that team. As soon as we get over the loss of that key person, the reality sets in: who is going to do their work? Most likely me. UGH. So now I have extra work to do, I have a team to knit back together, and I have to conduct a hiring process too.

It’s no wonder that I see business owners try to short cut the hiring process (again, and again, and…) It’s painful. We want it to be over. Who wants to take time to think about the job and searching for the right person? We just want any person to be back in that role so we can start working again! And when we’re desperate, seriously, ANY person seems like they’d be a good fit.

Small Business Hiring Success

But if we were building a house we wouldn’t just grab some lumber and go! We know we need a blueprint; we also need to pick out fixtures and paint colors; not to mention plumbing and electricity. There’s lots of work that needs to be done before anyone starts to swing a hammer.

The same is true of a good hiring process. (Yes, there is such a thing). We need to do some up-front work: some planning, some homework, and some decision making before we even start the interview process. Making this kind of investment will make sure we end up with the person who’s going to be the most productive for us over the long-haul.

Imagine if you did just grab some lumber and started building a house. You might end up with a useable dwelling — but is it the house you’d want to live in long-term? There’s that friend who’s looking for a job — he’ll be great! But actually, he’s not, so three months later you’re firing your friend (now ex-friend), and starting the process all over again. Now your team is more demoralized, you’re more overworked, and your business isn’t growing! A short hiring process that leads you to hiring the wrong candidate is likely way more expensive in the long run.

Instead of following that path to disaster, here’s the work you need to do before you hire.

1. Lay out the plans — Write a Job Description!

An architect sits in front of her monitor and lays out the plans for your new house — how many square feet will she allocate for the public space (living room, kitchen, etc.) and how much for private space (bed and bath)? Will it have an open floor plan or a more traditional look? These early decisions are significant in shaping the house that ultimately gets built.

Before you can hire you need to understand the job that needs to get done. We hire people for jobs — for things the organization needs — not the other way around. That means creating an accurate job description.

2. Make a BUDGET — Plan your compensation

Before you start building a house, you need to know that you can afford to build it! You need your architect to create a budget that goes with those plans.

In order to be successful hiring, you need to know what the market says this job is worth. To do that, you search for other jobs being offered that have a similar title and role description to the one you are hiring for. You are never going to find a perfect match, but you should be able to find similar jobs and (adjusting for cost of living and scope of responsibility) you can get a good range of salaries that the market says you need to pay. Is that in your budget? Is it all salary or is it a mix of salary and bonus? How is the bonus earned? What other compensation components are there (time off, benefits, car, parking, etc.)?

3. Make sure it’s going to look nice — Write your job posting

In addition to your architect, you might also need an interior designer to make sure that the blueprint you’ve drawn up will look as good as it functions. What colors are you going to use inside and out? How will your furniture fit? You want it to be your house — so it needs to reflect your taste.

You don’t want to just put up your job description as if it’s a posting — that’s not looking good. To hire the strongest candidate you want to write a job posting that has a particular candidate in mind — one that is going to be a good “fit” for your company culture and values. The job posting is more than just a “help wanted” sign. A well written job posting will actually help you find that candidate you are looking for. Maybe you don’t want to hire a “suit” from a big corporate firm to work in your small, artsy creative agency — that will never fit! Use the posting to reflect your style while also attracting your ideal candidate. You don’t want it to attract everyone; the people who find your posting attractive are the ones you want to apply.

4. Review the options — Screen candidates

If you’ve ever built a house (or known anyone who has) you have experienced the decision fatigue. Choosing every wall color, light fixture, bath cabinet… It quickly becomes overwhelming.

The same thing happens when you are hiring; with a pile of resumes, how do I decide who to interview? Resumes are a terrible screening tool — they never really tell you what you want to know. You need to focus on the best candidates right away by asking questions in the job posting, or in your application. Then a phone screen before the interview cuts down the field even further so that you are only interviewing the 5 – 10 best candidates.

5. Take a “walk through” — The interview

Once the building begins and the home starts to take shape you see it in a whole different light. It’s no longer drawings on a piece of paper — it’s a space that you can see, feel and touch. It’s a rare homeowner who doesn’t find some things they don’t like about the house once they can walk through it. A wall needs to be moved to create more space, a window is in the wrong place … seeing that these adjustments need to be made early in the building process is critical.

When hiring, the interview is the first time the “candidate” becomes more than an application. When we interview someone we see a whole person. This is an important step—one that frequently trips up hiring managers! We want this person to end the painful hiring process by being “the one”, and so we aren’t as critical as we should be. Have a written interview guide that you prepare in advance. Ask all the questions to each candidate (don’t assume you know the answers). You’ll be surprised by what you hear.

A good interview isn’t when you are 100% convinced the candidate is perfect; it’s when you can see both the good and the bad characteristics that the candidate brings to the table.

6. Bring in the inspectors — Assessments

Before you can finish your construction project the city requires inspections to insure that the proper materials and techniques were used. You can’t always tell that just by looking!

When you are hiring, there are things that you can’t “see” in the interview. Do you need specific skills (writing, software development, excel proficiency)? You can test for those things. Would you like to see if there’s anything about their personality that you missed — that can also be assessed.

These assessments shouldn’t be go/no-go tests; they should be just one more source of information to use in your hiring process. An assessment gives you one more thing you can ask about in your second interview.

7. Time to commit — Make the offer

Once the inspectors have signed off, the painters are done, and the punch list is complete, it’s the day of reckoning: is this the house you wanted? It’s closing time, you sign the papers and the house is yours.

You’ve interviewed a number of candidates; you’ve seen what’s good and bad about each. Now it’s time to choose one. Once you (and hopefully at least one or two other people from your team) have decided on the person best suited for the job, you need to ask them to take the role. You do that by creating a written offer letter outlining the job title, compensation and benefits—along with your excitement about seeing them on their start date. I usually attach the job description (which you’ve discussed in the interview) as well, just to be clear about the job they are accepting. Nothing in this letter should be a surprise — everything in it should line up with the discussions you’ve already had with the candidate. This is not the time to negotiate — you want them to accept the job!

8. Move in Day — On-boarding

You might “own” the house, but it doesn’t feel like it’s yours until you’ve moved in and are living there.

Similarly, you don’t know that a candidate is “yours” until they come to work! Make the first day as easy and productive as you can. Send along any paperwork ahead of time so that they can get that out of the way before they come. Have an office, computer, phone, business cards, etc. ready before they arrive and prepare a schedule for their first week so that they can get oriented to the company, meet all the people, and get productive as quickly as possible. Taking care of those little things ahead of time makes candidates feel important and welcomed — just what we want for a new team member.

It’s a lot of work, but each stage in the process really makes a difference the quality of the house hire you end up making.

Which part of this process is most difficult for you? Where do you find yourself tripping up?

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