Hire So That You Won’t Have To Fire

Building a company requires building a team

There is no business in the Forbes 500 that is owned, managed, and run by a single person. While personal businesses, such as those of photographers, electricians, musicians, and writers may not need employees to operate, the key word in this formula is small. Any business that seeks to grow, at one point or another, must hire employees. For most companies, this is a never-ending process; as long as a business continues to grow, it must recruit new team members and re-fill any open positions.

That being said, the hiring process is not easy. While it is often one of the most commonly overlooked parts of starting/running a business, hiring the right employees can make or break your company’s future. A bad hire can be costly. Not only can an underperforming employee incur significant costs by wasting resources, delaying projects, hurting customer relationships, and decreasing overall morale, but the simple costs of turnover (the cost of recruitment, relocation, training, and other employee programs) can prove detrimental to a business’ cash flow. On the other hand, a great hire can greatly increase a company’s efficiency, morale, and, subsequently, its profits.

To many Entrepreneurs, hiring is the top priority in the business process:

“The most important decisions an entrepreneur will ever make is who to hire.”

Paul English, CEO and Founder of Lola

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In hopes of strengthening your business and helping you reach a new level of growth, here are a few tips pertinent to the hiring process.

Build A Team

Too often, managers view the hiring process as a simple means by which to fulfill a position. If a small business owner needs a clerk, they hire a clerk; if they need a waiter, they hire a waiter; if they need an assistant, they hire an assistant. However, this is often the wrong approach. A company is not just a group of people working underneath someone, but a group that is – or at least should be – working towards a shared vision/goal. Outside of a person’s skills, assets, and training, their character defines their ability to contribute to, or harm, a business. English concurrs:

“I start companies to build teams first, and to solve problems second. I organize the teams who solve the problems.”

This approach is beneficial for two reasons.

The first, is that a team has players to cover every role. It is important to view the hiring process like creating a fantasy sports team: you want the best players available. This is usually the most obvious part of the hiring puzzle. At the end of the day, you need to make sure that you outline the exact requirements for a position, and stick to them. These requirements can include everything from education, previous experience, necessary skills, and any other aspects that might qualify an employee for a certain position.

After this stage in the process, it soon becomes evident that across several qualified applicants, there may be a difference in salary, benefits, and other costs that would influence an employer’s decision. The key here is to spend as much as needed (within reason) to recruit top talent. While it is tempting to opt for the cheaper alternative, the key to building a great team is to draft great players. Often, hiring the most qualified candidate increases the overall profit, as they bring expertise, skills, and efficiency that all contribute more to your company.

“[An] important lesson is to surround yourself with A+ players – people that you’d work for if the tables were turned.

Matteo Franceschetti, CEO and Founder of EightSleep

Although it may often be hard to capture the attention of top talent, there are often plenty of benefits a business can offer outside of salary alone. Think outside the box. For example, Julia Hu, founder and CEO of Lark, was quick to point out equity as a potential draw:

“One of the nice things about startups is that if you come and join early you get a lot of equity in the company, so if it does well, you get to own part of that company.”

However, skills alone fail to dictate everything. While a team consisting of the best players in the world may look unstoppable on paper, a team is a team because of its ability to work together. This is the second benefit of this approach. Instead of looking at the hiring process as based solely upon the skills and knowledge of applicants, employer’s can focus on building a team with synergy between its players. A team that works together, balances each other out, and efficiently solves problems, will be far more likely to help a company reach its goals than a group in constant tension made up of self-centered members.

“People who really believe in the brand and want to work for the brand are really the most important thing that I look for rather than listening to their skills first because there’s a lot that you can teach, but work ethic and attitude is not something that you could teach.”

Dormify Founder, Amanda Zuckerman, on the importance of character.

And yet, the difficulty with “character” is that it is extremely subjective. There is no metric, standard, or resume for a person’s attitude, determination, or soft skills, and thus, it is difficult to discover which applicants possess the necessary qualities. The following methods should help you ascertain the relevance of a potential candidate to your team.

1. Seek out Commitment

Look for someone who is clearly committed to their career and employer(s). If their history is defined by jumping from company to company, occupation to occupation, looking for a higher salary, then they are often a bad hire. Loyalty is key. If an employee is constantly switching careers, they are more likely to leave your business and waste recruitment costs while simultaneously leaving their position open, just like it was before they were hired.

2. Curiosity is Key

Take the interview beyond the desk. Take the candidate around the building and keep your eyes and ears open. Are they asking questions? Are they curious about the work going on? When you introduce them to others around the office, do they simply shake hands? Or do they show interest in what others do, asking questions and learning along the way? This can be an easy way to test the candidate’s attitude and drive to learn – both being key traits of successful employees.

3. Courtesy

In the same vain, take the potential employee out to lunch/dinner. Observe their interactions with others. Are they polite to everyone serving them? Do they hold up conversations? Do they listen to others? Do they hold the door for others? All of these can point to the character of the candidate. A polite, kind employee will be far more likely to show respect for others, contribute to a positive working environment, and increase overall morale.

4. Odd Questions are the Right Questions

Take the interviewee/candidate out of their comfort zone. Outside of the obvious questions that the potential employee is often prepared for, ask those which elicit more open-ended responses. Some examples include:

  • What kind of animal would you be? Why?
  • What is the biggest misconception others have of you?
  • How honest are you?
  • What’s your biggest weakness?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Tell me about your dream job…
  • 5 years down the line, where do you see yourself?

All of these questions elicit a tricky thought process. They all give insight into the potential employee’s character, attitude, and overall commitment to your company – all of which are essential to a successful employee.

5. Consider a Vote

The people already working for you are sometimes the best way to tell whether or not a potential candidate fits your company culture. Lead them around the office, and foster as much interaction between the applicant and current employees and then listen for feedback. Ask all of those who have interacted with the potential candidate whether or not they would hire them, taking into account only their previous interaction. If anyone says “no”, then it is often a clear sign of a potentially bad hire. The team must interact with the employee, and if the other team members are against a hire, it is often best to steer clear.

In Conclusion

“Your most important decisions will be around who you work with — who you work for, who you work with, who you hire to work for you. Put most of your energy into these matters, and the rest will follow.”

Paul English, CEO and Founder of Lola

A common theme that runs throughout our many interviews with founders and CEOs is that of hiring great employees. As we have learned, it is important for the process to be viewed in a new light; rather than simply looking to hire a person for a job, the process of hiring new employees should be focused around the company as a whole. Building a business is like drafting a team: you want to make sure that yours makes it to the championship game.


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