If you've founded a new and growing business, chances are you can't be a team of one forever. One important skill for entrepreneurs is finding the right people to work alongside you — whether those people are employees, contractors, or agencies. And making a poor choice in selecting people, can be quite costly for a company with limited resources.
Knowing how to find the best hires isn't a skill you'll develop overnight, and you definitely should not leave this to luck of the draw. Those who work with your business can create a great revenue or cost overtime.
Below are five tips for finding the right hires for your business.
Know what type of values and culture you want exemplified
Borrowing from biology, companies are “imprinted” in the very early stages of their development. The values you plant in the early stages of the business are those that will flourish and intertwine with work activities as it matures. Hiring someone with great credentials but not the right values will lead to a future culture contrary to what you hoped for. And a culture that may be in conflict with you. Make sure you know what values you want and hire with those values in mind.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses
Too often in the early stages of hiring we select individuals with complementary strengths. This is a serious mistake. The key to hiring is knowing what you are good at and what you need help with and then hire on skills you need help with. If you are great at vision, but week on execution, you need to find someone who has a strong ability to execute. If handling the financials is difficult, look for someone strong in that area. It is critical in the early stages of the business for you to build a balance in your team where each individual brings a unique set of skills unshared by others.
Look for candidates through mutual connections
The most common way to find and hire job candidates is through job boards like Indeed or Monster. While these are useful websites seeing a lot of success, they can be a "hit or miss" for you when it comes to what candidates decide to apply for the open positions you've posted. This makes the process more timely as you have to put in more effort to get to know these candidates, and will most likely have to search through a bunch of resumes and cover letters. And many candidates seeking positions on these job boards are hesitant to join a startup. They most likely want a well-defined job with little risk.
A better option may be to reach out to your network and ask them if they have any strong candidates for the positions you need filled. That way, these candidates will come with a trustworthy recommendation, saving you some time. Or you may reach out to faculty at your local university or college to see if they have a recommendation from the current pool of graduating students to alumni who are seeking to make a career shift.
Finally, one common mistake early stage entrepreneurs make is to bring on board friends either through salary or equity. This is tempting because, well, they are friends. And what could be better than taking your friendship on an entrepreneurial journey? Actually, business and friends generally don’t mix. If at all possible, try to avoid this mistake and not damage a valued relationship.
Pay attention to the questions candidates ask
So, you've made it to the place where you’re finally interviewing candidates. Great! You can take the time to prepare for the interview and know the important questions to ask. Maybe your candidate can respond to these questions in a perfect and sharp manner...but do they have any questions for you?
Pay attention to what the candidate wants to know from you, as it will tell you a lot about their work ethic, passion, and how much effort they put into learning about you and your company. Do they ask what your current goals are, or the recent challenges you've faced? Have they asked what they should complete within the first six months of their hire?
Or did they ask about paid time off and the length of lunch breaks? While these are important questions for work-life balance, you may not want your hires to have their minds solely on their next day off. Know what's important for the position, and see if the candidate's mindset aligns with those thoughts.
Offer short assignments to candidates
A typically full proof way of seeing if a candidate is truly up for the job is giving them a quick assignment as part of the interview process. Does the position require a lot of writing? Give them a 100-word writing assignment. Will they need to interact with clients regularly? Give them a quiz filled with scenarios on working with difficult clients.
This should only be done if you are otherwise set on offering the candidate the position -- it can be the last leg of the interview process. It should also not be a lengthy assignment, as they are not yet working on your dime and their time should be respected. But if you see good results, you may have found the best new thing for your growing company.
Remember, the first, second, or third hire will shape your company far into the future.