So which candidate do you choose?

HiringIt may seem counterintuitive, but you should pick the person who shares the company’s values. Skills can be taught; values cannot. Values are what drive people, and they’re not easy to change.

At the end of the day, you want teammates who are fully on board with your business’s values and mission. They represent your brand and should embody your corporate culture, not contradict it.

Practice What You Preach

Your staff must present a united front when it comes to company values. But do you even know what those are? Every organization has values on which it operates, but not all business leaders are clear on what they may be.

Before hiring new team members, define and articulate your values. Then, bring the question to your current employees: What do they think the company stands for? If their responses conflict with yours, you need to do a better job of making those values known and ensuring that all current staff members fit the profile you want.

You might find candidates with great track records, but their customer interactions could lend a different impression of the brand than you’d like. For example, we once hired a salesperson who — on paper — seemed like a perfect fit. Pretty quickly, however, we realized that something wasn’t working. Our pace slowed to a crawl, people were butting heads, and things were, in general, getting out of hand.

The problem was that we weren’t focused on the candidate’s values; instead, we were solely looking at his experience. And while we took action and let him go, we had still invested huge amounts of time and resources in the wrong person.

Hiring someone who lacks the practical experience but shares the right mindset eliminates this problem. They may need extra skills training initially, but their attitude and compatibility with the business will more than make up for that.

Make the Right Hire

The interview process should help you select the candidates best suited for your small business. Here are four key strategies you can use in the hiring process to determine whether a candidate is a good fit:

  1. Be explicit about your values. Spell them out on the website and in the job description, and then reiterate them during the interview. The potential hire should be perfectly clear on the type of person you’re looking to bring on board. Those who aren’t a good fit may weed themselves out before ever reaching the interview.
  2. Build the interview around your values. A lot of companies interview based solely on someone’s CV. Develop a series of questions you can use to ensure a candidate will really fit the culture.
  3. Ask for an essay. Give applicants the option of writing an essay describing a time when they lived one of your company’s core values. If they’re strong candidates, this will be a fun challenge. What’s more, making the essay “optional” helps determine who’s genuinely passionate about the position. Those who choose not to participate probably aren’t a good fit.
  4. Incorporate self-assessment. Whether it’s through feedback forms or in-person conversations, ask candidates how well they think they embody each of the company’s values. You can use something as simple as a five-point scale to gauge their perceptions.

No hiring process is foolproof, so you’ll need to follow up with new team members periodically. The interview alone won’t tell you if a candidate is a perfect match, but you’ll know early on if something is amiss — missed deadlines, personality clashes, and incorrect protocol are all indicators the new hire isn’t working out.

Occasional assessments will give you more insight into a new hire’s approach to work and prevent problems before they get out of hand. You can diminish culture issues at the upper levels by grooming employees who do have the right value mindset for leadership positions. While they may not have management skills initially, they can learn as they move through the company ranks.

Turning down a candidate with a mile-long list of achievements and recommendation letters isn’t easy, but all those credentials won’t make up for a bad attitude. You can’t teach someone to be a team player, but you can teach him how to be better with clients. Trust me; hiring based on values will strengthen your small business both internally and as a brand. 

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