Turnover is just as costly to a small business as it is to a big one. In fact, if you are the owner of a small business and responsible for training a new hire, the cost of a bad decision could be devastating — owners can ill afford to invest months of time into a training effort that results in a termination or resignation after six months or a year.
Keep these 10 hiring tips in mind to increase the odds that your hiring decision will be the right one.
1. Job for the Person, or Person for the Job?
Small companies don’t always have rigid job descriptions, and for good reason. If your company is growing, you may need someone who’s versatile and able to juggle many different responsibilities. Explain to candidates what their role is going to be. If a candidate is uncomfortable with a loose job description, the best time to find out is during the interview. The candidate you want will be hungry for an evolving role. On the other hand, if you’re hiring a person for a clearly defined job, make sure job responsibilities are described in writing and the candidate is enthusiastic about the position.
2. Hire for Trainability
Is the candidate ready, willing and able to learn? This is an often overlooked but always important issue you must explore during the screening process. Unless you are hiring someone specifically for his or her expertise (see below), you’ll want the new hire to be a fast learner. Poor learners never progress and seldom meet expectations in the role for which they were hired.
3. Hire for Expertise
For certain positions, you want someone who has been where you want your company to go. For instance, if you have a company with $500,000 in annual revenue but expect to hit $5 million within five years, you will greatly benefit from having an operations manager, IT manager or CEO who has successfully handled business on that scale. Without expertise in critical areas, you will be marching into uncharted territory with a high probability of getting hopelessly lost.
4. Check References
People have been known to fudge on resumes! While this is not exactly news, many companies fail to take the time to check references, often because it is so time-consuming. Nevertheless, it is time worth spending.
5. Create Situations to Test Work Habits
After an interview, ask the candidate to email you answers to a few questions. What you’re looking for is not the answers necessarily, but to find out how quickly and thoroughly the candidate follows up and follows through. Setting up situations along these lines enables you to get a pretty good idea of how responsible, detail-oriented and committed a candidate will be on the job.
6. Involve Your Team in the Interview Process
In a small business, chemistry is critical. You might have the greatest candidate in the world on paper, but if that person rubs trusted members of your team the wrong way, you’ll be in for nothing but headaches. On the other hand, if your team is excited about working with a candidate, onboarding will proceed smoothly, and everyone’s job satisfaction will be enhanced.
7. Sell Your Company
Your company is not a household name (yet). Candidates won’t know why your company is a good place to work unless you tell them. Be enthusiastic and specific when describing your business’s successes, potential, vision and mission. Also be sure to have a competitive benefits package — work-life balance and financial reward are major factors in a candidate’s evaluation of a job opportunity.
8. Ask for Referrals
Referrals are by far the best source of new employees because they come to you recommended from a trusted source. But to get great referrals, you need to ask for them. Members of your team, suppliers, customers, colleagues, friends, family and business networking contacts are rich sources of referrals. When hiring, leave no stone unturned to get the word out to all these people.
9. Don’t Make an Offer if You Have Reservations
Especially when you’re under pressure to fill a position, hiring the first person who comes along or someone you are not quite sold on is tempting. Resist the temptation. In most cases, you’ll be far better off waiting to find the right candidate because your gut instincts are probably right. If you are in a real bind, consider using a temp (or temp-to-hire) to give yourself time to conduct a proper talent search.
10. Have a Great Onboarding Plan
Even if you’ve hired the ideal candidate, disaster will follow if the new hire’s experience is poor during those critical first few months. Successful onboarding involves close (but not suffocating) supervision, frequent requests for feedback and questions, periodic performance reviews and social activities to develop the candidate’s sense of being a valuable and valued part of the team.
Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, a Chicago-based Internet marketing company that specializes in SEO. With decades of marketing, sales, and management experience, Shorr has written for leading online publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur, and for the American Marketing Association.