The consequences of making poor hiring choices can be severe. If you hire an unproductive person and keep them on, you’re damaging your business. But when you fire someone you face administrative costs, possible severance pay and unemployment compensation.
Then you’ll have to pay to attract and train a new candidate for the same job. Meanwhile, you pay others more to take up the slack.
It’s better to take your time when hiring and temporarily be short-staffed than to lower your standards. Here are some things you can do:
1. Write clear job descriptions: Many small businesses skip this step, preferring to “wing it” when it comes to defining what a given position is supposed to do. But even if you have just one employee, you should still have a written job description – including one for yourself. Defining roles helps everyone work more effectively, and cuts down on overlap and uncertainty. It also helps set clear guidelines about what’s expected of the employee.
2. Emphasize quality over quantity: Stop believing you have to see large numbers of applicants to find the best one. You don’t. It’s exhausting and unproductive to interview lots of the wrong people. Make as many cuts as you can with an initial phone interview.
3. Become a better interviewer. Use the interview process to eliminate weak candidates and find the perfect fit. For example, many interviewers throw softball questions at job candidates. You should toughen up that process and use it to eliminate or “knock out” candidates through smart, rigorous questioning. This turns hiring around. Instead of it being an inclusive process, it becomes an elimination event. The knockout interview begins before you ever meet a candidate. In fact, your goal is to avoid face time early on. From the very first resume, start looking for reasons to cut individuals from consideration.
4. Look for an ability to be faithful in the little things. When it comes to making great hiring choices, no detail is too small. How well a person performs on little things is indicative of how well they’ll perform on big ones. Start evaluating this capability when the first résumés arrive. As you read them, look for reasons to put some in the “reject” pile, keeping in mind that you want to uphold your standards of excellence.
5. Let them do the talking: It’s an interview, not a monologue. Many business owners try to put job candidates at ease by doing most of the talking and spending much of the interview telling the candidate about the company. Your job as leader, however, is to assess an applicant’s character and competency. Don’t be intimidating or overbearing, but keep in mind that your goal is to evaluate the prospect’s accomplishments. Remember that past performance is far more telling than past experience.
6. Consider their journey, not just their current location: Don’t judge applicants strictly by the career “level” they’ve reached over a given time. Dig deeper to determine how they got to where they are. You may be surprised at what you find. Some people are given a generous head start in life, while others have been forced to navigate many obstacles. These candidates may have faced the kinds of challenges that can forge greater strength of character and persistence.
7. Share your core values before hiring. The objective of the knockout interview formula is to find a reason to say “no” to a job candidate. By sharing your core values with applicants, you may find that some knock themselves out for you. Describe your organization’s core values and behavioral expectations before extending an offer. Let applicants know that you have non-negotiable standards for integrity, teamwork, attitude and attention to detail. Then describe what these behaviors look like in actual practice.
This formula works because it forces candidates to show through their actions that they have initiative, really want the job, and can be an asset to your business.
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