Thomas Michael, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from New York, is the CEO of the Michael Management Corporation - an online SAP certification training company offering SAP eLearning. We asked him how to approach hiring the right kind of people for his team. Here's what he had to say.

One of the biggest challenges running and growing a business is to attract and retain top employees. I've been an entrepreneur for almost 20 years and have had my fair share of experiences with this. I've joined business organizations, hired coaches and HR consultants, attended seminars and read countless books on how to hire well. And while there are many different "best" ways to find and keep top talent in your industry, I've found there are three rules that have worked well for me.

1. Interview for Skills
The first step in the hiring process is to define the required skills for the job; spend some time on this and go beyond the usual "strong written and verbal communication skills, attention to detail and ability to multitask." Those are utterly meaningless when trying to find the perfect candidate.

Next, go through the résumés you have received to make sure the candidate has the required skills for the job and--most importantly--has done this job successfully in the past. For example, if you're looking for a social media manager, make sure the person has actually managed social media channels in a professional capacity before and ask for details relating to the success of their social media performance indicators.

If you're looking for a sales manager, ask about actual activities that a sales manager needs to do (Hint: It's not selling - that's what sales reps do). For example, have you led and grown a sales organization before? How exactly did you grow it? What were the results? How long did it take? What could you have done differently, and how would you go about it next time? Don't accept wishy-washy answers; drill into minute details instead. The best candidates will have been where you want to go. Move candidates to the top of your list when they can demonstrate past success in concrete terms.

2. Hire for Attitude
If your job posting did a good job defining the required skills for the job and you did well with interviewing the candidates for these skills, you should now have several good candidates. So, how do you pick?

I found myself in that situation recently. I had narrowed the list down to two candidates. Both had very similar experiences and expertise, and both were professional and polished. So, how did I pick? Easy. I chose the one with the best attitude, the one who was excited about the position - not simply for the money or the title. This person was eager to get started and asked questions about the work, as opposed to questions about benefits.

This filter can be applied to any field; if you're hiring a client manager, it's the one who is clearly a people-pleaser, has the "gift of gab" and is comfortable talking with anyone. If you're hiring a software developer, perhaps it's the biggest data nerd who plays with open-source software on the weekends. The right reason varies based on the job, but a passionate attitude in their respective field is a good indicator for top talent. Remember, you can't teach passion and motivation. And if nobody stands out, you haven't found the right candidate yet.

3. Keep for Culture
So here's the secret sauce, something that most people will often miss: the cultural fit. Your company's culture is the most important thing in your business; it's the soul of the organization. You need to protect and nourish it. Don't be afraid to let someone go if they don't culturally fit.

We seem to sometimes think we need a "better" reason to part ways with an employee, that they need to do something that would be considered a performance issue. That's simply not true. A bad fit is not a small problem limited to the one employee; it can spread like a virus throughout the organization. And if you think your company doesn't have a culture, think again. You have one, either by design (good) or by default (bad). Either way, if you did a good job with the first two steps and the new hire doesn't seem to be working out, then they are just not a good fit for your company culture.

One very important thing to note is that you need to give the new hire every chance to succeed and fit in. That means coaching the team to welcome the new team member like your dog welcomes you home after work: provide the right training and coaching, and clearly communicate expectations. When a team has a really great culture, they can sometimes become resistant to letting someone new join, so be purposeful about welcoming new hires and guiding your team to do the same.

Published on: Mar 7, 2016