You have to approach hiring as carefully and unemotionally as you would any other long-term investment. Here's how I do it.
If your start-up is taking off, you’ve already realized you can’t do it all alone. You need key people to help you grow.
But hiring good employees in a small business is harder than you think. You may interview shrewd candidates prepared to answer common questions with poise and ease, or aspiring applicants that look great on paper. Neither will necessarily be what you need.
The truth is, making a great hire is an art, not a science. There might be tons of aspiring job applicants, but perhaps few that would be a well-rounded fit. And if you think paying someone whom you dislike is expensive, you’ll be shocked when you realize what it costs to recruit and train someone new after a botched hire. It’s vital to get it right the first time.
Here’s what to keep in mind:
Don’t hire yourself
One of the best pieces of advice I received on hiring employees came from fellow Inc. columnist Norm Brodsky. Hiring the candidate that reminds you of yourself when you were younger is tempting, but it won’t give you what you need. You need to build a team of people who complement one another, not a group who share your shortcomings as well as your virtues.
Fill in the gaps in your team
You may favor certain personality traits (Type A used to be my favorite), but hiring a group of people with the same qualities is a sure way to set off a clash of personalities, and it may create gaps in your team. If you only hire ultra-organized people, for example, you may not have someone creative enough to bring in new ideas and ways of doing things.
Never underestimate the value of goodwill
You no doubt have worked with employees who operate on their own agenda and not in the company’s best interests. Beware of them in your applicant pool; many of them know how to give a great interview. You really do need to check references. If someone is a selfish worker, they’ll have rubbed some supervisor the wrong way at some point.
Do a bit of Sherlock Holmes work
Don’t be afraid of asking tough questions, or of asking the same question in different ways. You may find that certain inconsistencies come out on repeated answers. At the very least, if the answer is rehearsed it won’t feel so natural the second time. Also, don’t forget a Google search on each promising candidate. It may give you a glimpse into an employee’s character that an interview may not.
Consider it a long-term investment
If you’re working 12-hour days, chances are you’re seeing more of your employees than some of your closest family. So ask yourself: Are you ready to “marry” the candidate? Even if your relationship is only professional, you have to like him or her. Divorce is ugly, so don’t add someone to your team who will drive you or your team crazy in the long run.
It took us at Orchid Boutique more than five years to create a solid team, with a mixture of senior- and junior-level people who enjoy and complement one another. It’s tough to feel like your business is a revolving door of botched employees, so take the time to hire wisely. Your team is the most important investment you can make in your business. Just make sure you treat it as a long-term investment.
In 2007, MAYRA JIMENEZ and her husband founded The Orchid Boutique, which specializes in designer swimwear made in their native Colombia. Today, Orchid Boutique is a multimillion-dollar business. @mayra_j