How We Hire
Learnvest's Alexa Von Tobel on what it takes to build a superstar staff
For a growing company, every hire is nothing less than critical. When your staff is small and the pressures intense, not only do you have to think about the talents of the individuals you bring aboard, you also have to consider about how effectively he or she will interact with the team at large. This means ensuring that your business maintains a proper balance of hard-working doers and big-picture dreamers. Here are four ways we manage to do this at LearnVest. (And trust me, this is top of mind: we hired eight new employees in April alone!)
1. Understand that every new hire requires a leap of faith. Hiring is as much an art as a science. Indeed, there are some things that even the most intensive hiring process just will not reveal-;most notably that je ne sais quoi chemistry that makes a new employee a perfect fit. Understand this at the outset, do your best to make smart decisions, and recalibrate as you go. A bad fit isn’t just bad for your company-;it’s also bad for your employee. After all, we all want to work in a place where we can contribute and succeed.
2. Ask The Right Questions. At LearnVest, we run our talent-acquisition team like an internal search firm. We meet as a team to discuss resumes. When someone looks promising, we go through due diligence and phone screens. Then, we bring them in for a two-hour interview where they meet with a number of people on the team.
I meet with all candidate individually. One question I always ask is, “What gets you out of bed in the morning?” I ask this because I want to know what motivates people. Are they driven by a desire to provide for their families? To change the world? To climb the career ladder? I want to hire people who are passionate and inspired, and I’ve found this question illuminates that in a powerful way.
I've also found that even the usual questions can yield important insights. For example, I like to ask, "What is your biggest weakness." I know it's a cliche. But that's kind of the the point. It's a concern when someone can't answer this, a red flag if they give a standard answer-;and a big plus if they respond with something honest and candid.
3. Look for the X Factor. Everyone I hire-;no matter the position, and regardless of whether they're doers or dreamers-;need to be "outsized." They need to have an extraordinary amount of passion. After all, growing a company from the ground up is a daunting process; it requires people who are going to truly go above and beyond. I want people who believe no task is beneath them, who are willing to take ownership, and who will work tirelessly to turn a vision into reality.
4. Do some testing. At the same time, it's important to recognize that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. At LearnVest, we've had employees take the StrengthsFinder test, which is designed to reveal a candidate's five key strengths. That's important, because knowing a new employees strengths will help you manage expectations and place them in the proper role. And they will have a better chance of truly excelling.
ALEXA VON TOBEL is the founder and CEO of LearnVest.com, the financial-management and lifestyle website. She was recently selected as one of Fortune's Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs and highlighted in Inc.’s 30 Under 30 list of cool young entrepreneurs.
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