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Why Hiring Is Like Buying a Home

You can't always get what you want, but you might if you know what you're looking for. Here's how to decide.
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Small businesses are expecting to have a big year in 2014. According to a survey by the Wall Street Journal and Vistage International, 52 percent of small business owners said the economy improved in 2013, up from 36 percent a year ago, while 38 percent said they expect conditions to get even better this year. 

In our SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard®, half of small business owners expected more growth in 2014, which would ideally mean more hiring, which is a good thing for the economy. However, to make sure your new recruits are good for your business, you'll have to make some decisions early on in the hiring process.

Oftentimes small business owners make the mistake of looking at resumes, then deciding what they want until later. But if you do this, the person who talks best will end up winning the job regardless of whether or not he's indeed the best hire. The fact is successful leaders define what they want in a hire first, which in a lot of ways is like buying a house. Here are some comparisons and guidelines to follow. 

Know What You Need 

A two-bedroom house might be fine for you and your wife, but what if you decide to have kids? Do you entertain houseguests often? Your family dynamic is likely to change and you won't want to move when it happens. 

The same is true of your business. When you hire, look for someone who not only fits your immediate needs but can adjust to more customers, more capital, or a new business model. If you’re selling shoes, for example, don't hire the person who's only sold shoes, especially if you want to move into apparel and other areas. You want people who can grow with your business because it will lower your turnover rate. It will also add more expertise to your product or service.

Rank Your Must-Haves 

You may envision your dream house as having a pool, three-car garage, and all hardwood floors. But your budget may be limited and you'll have to make sacrifices. If your goal when hiring is to find someone with all the attributes you want who just so happens to fall in your salary range, you may find yourself searching for a very long time. It’s better to be realistic and decide which skills matter to you the most.

To do so, try ranking them and choose a candidate with the top qualifications. In the technology field, for example, someone who can code and do web design might be incredibly valuable. But in your field, it may not even matter. 

Just as there is no such thing as a perfect house, there are no perfect employees. Something will always be missing, take getting used to, or simply need work. A fixer-upper may be perfect for you, or perhaps you want something low-maintenance. If you’re unsure, it might be best to hold off on decisions until you know where you stand. 

IMAGE: Photo Dean/Flickr
Last updated: Jan 23, 2014

MICHAEL ALTER | Columnist | President of SurePayroll

Michael Alter is president of SurePayroll, America?s leading online payroll service. He received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Northwestern University.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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