Let's start with a shocking stat that should keep any small business owner up at night:  62 percent of small business owners later realize that they made a bad hire.  What's even a sharper indication as to the cost of a bad hire, over a third of these business owners (34 percent) reported that their bad hire wasted over 50 hours of their time.


Gut check time.  How many people have you hired over the past 36 months?  Of those hires, how many of them worked out as well as you wanted?  What is your hit rate when it comes to making successful hires?


Here is a simple system to protect yourself from making bad hires and wasting thousands of dollars and hours of effort.  


Step One:  Get clear on exactly who you need to hire.

The single most important hiring step to increase your odds of making a successful hire is to get clear on precisely who you are looking for, and to do this in writing.

  • What key responsibilities do you expect this person to own?
  • What deliverables will this person need to produce?
  • What skillsets must he or she have?
  • What experience set must they have to be successful in this role?
  • What educational requirements (if any)?
  • What character and personality traits or temperament will they need to be a strong, long term fit?

When you start with this written description, then and only then can you start to craft the right recruitment strategy, prepare your interview questions, and start to talk with candidates about the position.  


You'll be tempted to skip this step saying you're too busy.  But, remember how much time a bad hire can cost you. An hour invested here is one of your biggest safeguards against a stupid hiring decision.


Step Two:  Boil your list for your ideal candidate down to 3-5 "must haves" for the role.


It's impossible to hire for your full wish list of desires, instead, make your hiring process all about attracting, sorting, and qualifying for your must haves.


Sure you'd like to find a talented tri-lingual, organized, self motivated, process driven, articulate doer with a degree in accounting and marketing, but come on, get real.  You have to focus on those few non-negotiables that will make or break a new hire's ability to succeed in your company in the role for which you are hiring.


Of all the lists you came up with of qualities, skills, background, and experiences, what are the three to five elements that they must have to be successful in this role?  

Again, put this in writing and share it with your recruitment team.  Review this list before you enter into the room to interview any candidate.  


Step Three:  Interview for your must haves -- let them dominate the search process.


Plan your filtering around spotting which candidates do or don't have your must haves.  In the early stages, immediately eliminate any candidate who reveals to you that they are weak in any one must have. These are the areas in which you simply cannot compromise so if they don't have them, you must cut them from the race.


In the later stages of interviewing, dive deep into these must haves, asking questions about actual, concrete, specific times in the past where your candidate has shown he or she is strong in these areas.   


Step Four:  Score your finalist from 1-5 on each of your must haves.


After your later round interviews, get your interview team to actually rate your candidate on each of your must haves.  


For twenty years I've taught my business coaching clients that you want a candidate who is a four or five out of five on each of your must haves.  If I was really struggling to fill a position, I would only compromise on this and accept a three if I saw solid evidence in the interview process that this person had the drive and capacity to take that three and grow it into a four or five.


By using a simple scoring system like this you focus your attention, and any other team members you bring into the selection process, back to what matters most -- your must haves.  Don't allow yourself to be captivated by irrelevant extras, hire for your must have.


Over time you'll discover that when you follow this simple four-step process to make better hiring decisions you will increase your hit rate of successful hires.