Q: What should young entrepreneurs keep in mind when hiring their first employees, especially if the employees are older?
A: Hiring staff can be difficult, and making bad choices can be disastrous. Here are a few simple steps that will help you find the right fit for your company.
1. Determine what you need. Many people make the mistake of not clearly defining the skills needed before starting to interview. This can lead to hiring people because you like them or they’re impressive in an interview. Instead, take a close look at your company and the specific skills and knowledge required to reach the next level. Write out detailed job descriptions for each position, including recommended levels of education and experience.
2. Advertise for the specifics. Don’t write too generic an ad. You will get way too many unqualified people as it is. Define the job clearly and spell out the salary range. This will help eliminate at least some people right at the start. Also, require a cover letter. The specifics in the letter will give you some idea whether the person is applying specifically for your job or any job. You’ll also learn something about their writing skills.
3. Create a weighted-average criteria analysis. Using your job description, determine what you’re looking for, and set the right value for each criterion, with the total equaling 100 percent. Quickly go through each cover letter and resume, grading them on each category. For example, if sales experience is worth 30 percent, someone with five or more years in a related sales field would get 30 percent. Another person with two years of sales experience in an unrelated field may get 25 percent. Using that final total percentage, pick the top ten candidates.
4. Choose your first three interviews. In the top ten, there may be one or more that stand out because of a well-written letter, experience in your industry, or some other characteristic that closely matches your needs. Interview those choices. Then interview the top three candidates numerically.
5. Don’t hide the facts. Let people know whom they will be working for and make expectations clear. Develop interview questions that ask for examples of past behavior. This is called behavioral interviewing and leads to better hiring results. Make sure to include questions about any experience working for someone younger or any of your other concerns. The answers will help you determine if you have a good candidate.
6. Include others in your hiring process. Particularly with a small company, you need everyone to work well together. By including other staff members, or even suppliers or customers, you can get varied perspectives and another pair of eyes or two can help you make the right choice.
7. Be prepared to let someone go. If you hire what looks like the right person and they don’t live up to their representation or you find out another problem that is not repairable through discipline and feedback, fire them. The biggest mistake you can make is keeping someone longer than you should.