Hiring employees isn't as simple as finding people with the right skills and giving them the keys to your business. People aren't robots, and skills alone don't make a good employee-employer fit. While I believe there are plenty of things entrepreneurs shouldn't waste money on, hiring and retaining great people is well worth the time and effort it takes. Here are six steps to help you do it.

1. Know what you want.

Nothing is more frustrating--to both you and a prospective employee--than being wishy-washy about what you're looking for in a candidate.

Before you even start asking around or advertising for staff, make a list of what you need from your new hire. Don't list skills only--list personality requirements and desired details about the type of person who will best fit into the culture you're trying to create. Identify the knowledge, skills, and traits that will make someone successful in your company, and hire based on that profile.

2. Carefully structure your interviews.

An interview is a conversation with a purpose, and to succeed it has to be carefully planned.

One way to conduct a good interview is to avoid questions that candidates have likely anticipated. Instead of asking a candidate to list his or her greatest strengths and weaknesses, ask questions like "What did you learn from your last job?" or "Can you tell me about a time you failed and the lesson you learned?" These questions are less expected and the answers will give you more insight into a particular candidate.

3. Review feedback.

If you have other staff helping you with the interviews, make sure to take their opinions into account. Often, they can see concerns that you might have missed, especially when it comes to company culture and fit. While it's up to you to make the final decision, outside input shouldn't be ignored.

4. Choose wisely.

When you're looking to make the offer, don't just think about who has the best fit for the current position. Choose the qualified candidate who has the most upside and is most likely to grow within your company.

How can you tell which candidate offers this particular advantage? Evaluate things like hunger to learn, whether the candidate actively keeps up with the industry, and an active commitment to professional growth. If you don't see these characteristics, the candidate likely lacks the ability or desire to develop within your business.

5. Compete on culture.

Once you have great employees in place, you want to keep them--and the best way to achieve retention is by developing a culture that's the envy of your industry. Is your company worthy of a "Best Places to Work" listing? If not, why not? Your company should be founded on solid vision and mission statements--so put these ideas to work within your culture. A great culture will help you avoid the serious problems of disengagement and turnover.

6. Emphasize professional development

Of course, if you choose the candidates who are most motivated to grow within your company, you have to follow that up with a focus on professional development. Letting your staff know that their success matters to you and to the business is a great way to retain top employees. Implement programs that develop your staff's skills, and watch your business succeed as a result of your motivated, well-trained employees.

What do you think is the most important element of hiring and retaining great staff? Share your thoughts below in the comments.

Published on: Feb 9, 2015