Ask any leader of a rapidly growing business what their biggest challenge is, and nine times out of ten, they will tell you it is hiring good people.
This is especially true for smaller businesses under 100 employees. They usually don’t have an HR department built out, so hiring falls to the managers, executives, and quite often the owner herself.
Three reasons hiring is challenging
- The time it takes to hire and train someone comes from the time we could spend getting the actual work done, putting pressure on everyone to take shortcuts in the hiring process.
- No one has time to create an actual hiring process, so every time we hire, you have to make it up as you go, which takes even more time out of everyone’s busy schedules. You don’t have a consistent way of assessing candidates before they start or following up on fit or function once they’ve been hired.
- Hiring tends to be the decision of just one or two people, and they typically benefit from expediency in the hiring process (i.e., I just need a warm body in here with the basic skills as soon as possible).
When combined, these three issues spell trouble and threaten the growth of even the best businesses out there.
So how do you overcome these challenges when you are building the plane while flying it? You don’t have time for job descriptions, competency modeling, and 99 step interview processes.
Three principles for hiring success
I want to propose three principles and a simple yet powerful hiring model that will dramatically increase your hiring process’s effectiveness and reduce the time you spend hiring (because you will be re-hiring less).
Hiring Principle #1 Hire character. Train skill.
The most common mistake I see growing businesses make is hiring anyone who can complete the task. The problem is you won’t like a third of the people you hire, another third won’t like you, and if you’re lucky, you might stumble on a third who is at least an okay fit.
You’ll always find yourself acting like a babysitter instead of a boss, and you’ll churn through people like crazy.
Get clear on your culture and values as an organization and hold to them unwaveringly. No matter how desperately you need to hire now, do not sacrifice your values. It won’t work.
Sure, skill is important, and different jobs have different requirements, but you can train most skills, but you cannot and should not even try to change someone’s values.
Hiring Principle #2 The absence of a clear yes is a clear no.
You need to trust your gut when hiring, especially when it is saying no. I can’t tell you how many times I “felt” like something was wrong when everything looked “right.” I had to part ways with many poor fits because I ignore my gut (or one of my team members’).
We intuitively pick up way more than we can rationally process in an interview. After getting it wrong more than once, my team and I realized the absence of a clear yes is a clear no. If any one of us was on the fence about whether or not to hire a candidate, that was a clear sign we needed to at least tap the breaks and explore the issue. Sometimes it would resolve, and we would hire the candidate. Other times it wouldn’t, and we would move one.
By no means should this justify discrimination, bias, or prejudice. This isn’t about where they were born or the color of their skin or any of that. It is about whether or not they align with the organization’s values.
This is one of the main reasons we need to be clear on our values as an organization.
Hiring Principle #3 Hire slow. Fire fast.
Most businesses, especially the ones who are growing quickly, hire fast and fire slow. Under pressure to meet deadlines, we hire candidates who aren’t cut out to do the job either in terms of culture or competence. Then we struggle to get them up to speed because we want them to succeed and feel bad that they are struggling.
This is bad business. It hurts everyone involved.
- You suffer because you have to work more and bear the frustration and emotional weight of the situation.
- The employee suffers because they could have taken the time to find a job that was a better fit rather than struggling at a role in which they cannot succeed.
- Your team suffers because of the unnecessary and unproductive conflict and extra work required to pick up the slack.
- Your clients suffer from the churn and subpar quality of the work.
Instead of hiring fast and firing slow, you need to flip the script. Slow down your hiring (which will speed it up in the long run) using the process below. Then, when you realize someone isn’t a fit, especially in the first 90 days, part ways. You can be as generous and humane as you want in the process (with severance, paid-time-off, recommendation letters, and job placements), but get them out of the company as quickly as possible.
Putting all three principles to work to save you time when hiring
Here is a simple hiring process you can use to improve your new hires’ quality without consuming loads of your leaders’ time.
- Define your values: You don’t have to go on a 9-day offsite to define your core values. I’ve done it with a team in just 60 minutes. Just write down the 3-5 most important values or behaviors you need from new team members.
- Pre-write your interview questions: Write out 5 “tell us about a time when you …” questions for each value. If you value hard work, then you can say, “Tell us about a time when you chose to come in early or work late to make sure a project finished on time.” Ask these same questions of every candidate for every role.
- Require a job application: I don’t care what is in the application. You can figure that out later. You want to require a job application because candidates who are spamming everyone with their resume will only take the time to fill out an application if they are at least half interested. This 1 step alone will save you several hours per new hire.
- Hold a 20-minute phone interview: This is easy. Just get them talking for 15-20 minutes to find out if they are a decent fit and can bring the appropriate level of professionalism for the job.
- Use group interviews: Yes, this feels heavy, but I have avoided so many bad hires by having more than one person in the room. Have at least two people there, one to ask questions and another to observe and ask an occasional follow-up question. Remember, the absence of a clear yes is a clear no.
- Scare them with sincerity: If you like a candidate and everyone agrees, then it is time to talk them out of working with you. I used to tell candidates this, “Jenn, thanks so much for coming in and answering our questions today. Before you go, I want to tell you what you need to succeed working here.” I would then spend a few minutes going through our values, and for each one, I would say something along the lines of “If you love [hard work], you’re going to love working with our team. But if you don’t want to give the best hours of your day to [working REALLY hard], then you would probably hate working here.” Everyone will smile and nod in the interview, but some will never pick up when you call, and that is a good thing to know before you hire them.
- Pay for a background check: These seldom came back with anything but the few times they did, saved us from some really ugly situations.
- Use a 90-day introductory period: We told all our new hires, they have 90 days to decide if they like us, and we have 90 days to decide if you’ll be a success here. If you or we decide to go another direction, that is 100% okay. This relieved pressure from everyone to “make it work” once we hired someone and realized it was a bad fit. Take a moment to make a great first impression. During this time, set ultra-clear 30, 60, and 90-day milestones and meet with your new hire on each of those days to review progress. Be very cautious of missed deadlines during this time.
Armed with this straightforward process backed by these three incredibly powerful principles, you are ready to take your hiring to the next level. When you do, you’ll leave behind the agony of constant bad hires and start landing some fantastic new hires.
A quick note: Hiring laws differ from state to state, so be sure to clear your hiring process with a knowledgeable attorney.
[yotuwp type=”playlist” id=”PLNTSkWehajGOxMTFFN-88zTHC5YnWLiiK” ]