employee shadows

If you have reached the point where you need to hire your first employee or an additional employee, then most likely your business is growing or becoming more successful in some way. We all know that there is a direct correlation between success and additional responsibility or change, and hiring is no exception! Especially if you are hiring your first employee, this is a huge departure from the way your small business is run. You are no longer just responsible for getting your product or service to market, you now have the responsibility of leadership!

The hiring process is an opportunity to make sure your future employees are phenomenal, highly motivated people who are committed to the success of your business! How do you make sure this happens? How can you avoid hiring someone who will just cause you grief later on down the road?

Here are a few tips on how to hire the right employee for your business:


Tip #1 Develop a position description

If you don’t know the position you are trying to fill and which roles and duties that position is responsible for, then you are going to be unclear about who to hire! Or worse, you could hire someone who has a murky understanding of what their responsibilities are, which will just cause you more challenges down the road.

Duh, right?

But hey, you would be surprised how often this happens. I’m guilty myself!

Storytime – back when I was a painting contractor, we hired a guy who was supposed to be a supervisor and mentor to another employee of ours who had less experience…except this wasn’t clearly communicated during the hiring process. We put both employees on a job together and immediately encountered some challenges. The guy we had hired (we’ll call him John) was frustrated because we had him working with our less experienced painter. I told John that part of his job was to mentor this guy and make sure he got up to speed. I got a frustrated response and another couple days went by. I eventually got another call and it was clear things were less than fantastic. I went to the job to meet John, who proceeded to cuss me out, tell me how crappy my company was, say “this isn’t what I signed up for”, and walk off the job.

I never saw him again, but I learned a valuable lesson – never start a painting company. Wait, no, I mean ALWAYS have a position description. A position description should outline the specific roles and responsibilities you are hiring for. It should also list the skills, experience, and even the kind of personality traits your new hire should have. Having a position description will leave no doubt about who it is you need to hire, but an even greater benefit is that once your new employee is hired, there will be no doubt in their minds what is expected of them. If at any point your employee is not doing their job, you can refer them back to the position description. This is a crucial tool for employee performance appraisals and it can even help you avoid legal liability in certain situations. For example, if you had to fire an employee for performance reasons and they claimed it was for discriminatory reasons, a documented position description will serve as proof that the employee was hired for a specific job requiring specific qualifications and duties of which said the employee was neglecting, which ultimately lead to termination. Then, of course, you would also need to have documentation showing warnings during employee performance appraisals leading up to termination. This is another subject we will cover in a later blog, but I digress.

“How the heck to I create a position description,” you say?

Have no fear, free valuable content is here:

You can download our FREE Position Description template.


Tip #2 Don’t trust your instincts, call references!

Once upon a time, there lived a small business owner who hired an extremely likable candidate that nailed the interview, but they didn’t check references. The new hire turned out to be the devil, the end.

This such a simple thing to do, or forget about! You can have the best interview with an extremely likable candidate and your gut is telling you they would be perfect for the job, but anyone can act like an angel for 30 minutes. Calling references can save your butt, do not skip this! In general, to get the best and most accurate information, you should make a practice of requiring that all references are past employers. If your potential hire has never before been employed, chat with someone who has worked with him/her in a volunteer or extracurricular capacity. Talking to friends or family members isn’t even worth the time it takes to dial the phone—there’s almost no chance that you will be able to get objective feedback from them.

When it comes to talking with references, make sure and ask open-ended questions that require in-depth answers such as: “Describe the applicant’s ability to …” or “Can you give an example of a project he/she was responsible for that required the ability to …”. Within reason, make sure and give the reference plenty of time to answer these questions as comprehensively as they want, this gives you an opportunity to hear a lot of additional information and interpret the subtext of their remarks. You will find more often than not that references won’t readily tell you the negative experiences they have had with an employee, especially if the individual was a decent to good employee. A lot of time you will need to read between the lines.


Tip #3 Check social media profiles

Remember back in the Myspace days how free you were to express your personality? Everything was so customizable, from your background image to the music you had on auto-play for visitors. Back in the day if you came to my Myspace, you were in Kylon’s world. I think my URL was literally /kylontopia.

The point is, you can tell a lot about a person from their profile. How someone behaves on social media can be a fairly accurate indication of what kind of person the individual his and how they might fit into your company’s culture. There are some not very scary legal guidelines that you need to be aware of, but this is a smart and common thing to do as part of the interview process. A potential hire’s social media profiles can serve as a great extension to their resume, especially if their position requires any kind of social media responsibilities.


Tip #4 Ask the right kind of questions

Unfortunately, you can’t just ask someone if they’re a jerk. Unless…actually no, no you can’t. You can, however, ask questions that will help you figure it out yourself. For instance, if you ask them why they left their last job, or what one of the most significant challenges with their last job was and they blame someone else, that’s a red flag. If they keep blaming external circumstance for their problems, you might want to keep looking.

It is good to ask questions that let you get a feel for their drive and ambition and how they operate. Questions like, “where do you want to be in 5 years?”, “why do you work?”, “what motivates you” or “what makes you get up in the morning and do what you do” are some great character insight questions. You want to make sure they are going to fit into the culture of your business.


Remember, not all hires work out

Even if you follow these tips and take all the right steps and precautions, you can still end up hiring someone that just doesn’t work out. This is ok! It is all a part of the learning experience. Review what went wrong, what the solution is for next time, and get at it again. If you have hired an employee that is just not working out, it is best to sever ties sooner rather than later. It can be tempting to try and “make it work” with a difficult employee, but firing and re-hiring might save you more headaches in the long run.