Hiring is the most important thing a manager does. And everyone makes mistakes doing it, regardless of how thorough they’ve been or sophisticated their process is.
I’ve made plenty, ranging from conducting inadequate searches to hiring — and worse, retaining — mediocre talent. Sometimes it ends quickly and painlessly, like the head of biz dev who failed her drug test and quit (by voicemail!) day one. Usually it’s not that convenient and it’s up to you to confront your mistake, let the person go, and start over.
The Business Insider is expanding rapidly right now, so that means a lot of hiring. Based on lessons I’ve learned the hard way, here are my four guidelines for successful hiring:
- mould the job to the person. HR professionals may cringe at this one, but in a small company everyone wears many hats. The better the job matches the skill set of the person you’re hiring, the more successful they’ll be at it. We’ve had great results hiring really smart, talented people and custom-tailoring their roles to them. Of course, you need to make sure the role meets the company’s needs as well, but a little bit of customisation goes a long way to ensuring employees feel appreciated and that they are developing in their careers.
- Assess fit as a key criteria in the interview process. You’re looking for candidates that meet a number of requirements: experience, skill set, personal characteristics such as integrity, drive, etc. But it’s critical that you find a litmus test for fit. At TBI, we need to assess whether you can go fast, a key to startup success. Will you thrive in a direct, no-bs culture? Can you make decisions or do you need a committee? More than once we’ve hired an otherwise-ideal candidate and poor fit has torpedoed his or her performance. Figure out what your culture is and how to test for it or you’ll bring in folks that won’t work out despite sterling qualifications.
- Professionalize the interview process. Hiring is harder at a startup than in corporate America where I’ve worked previously — especially at prestigious, industry-leading firms like CBS, Conde Nast, and Time Inc. Although mainstream media, aka MSM, is in shambles, a surprising number of talented journalists are drawn to these marquee names and view a startup as a risky bet. Fair enough: startups are usually riskier– but MSM can’t shed jobs fast enough, so it’s not the kind of environment I’d expect top candidates to be drawn to right now. To combat this perception, we are upgrading our hiring process to project a more formal “best foot forward” appearance. Two basic components: Every candidate receives a folder with information about the company and its benefits. (Many are surprised to learn that we offer health care and vacation benefits that rival larger, more established companies.) And we schedule interviews through Tungle, which eliminates the taxing back-and-forth to find a suitable time and automatically sends a confirmation. It’s a small detail but it adds a sense of professionalism without the burden of hiring an assistant to manage scheduling.
- Check references! Yes, this is obvious. But inexperienced managers may feel it’s unnecessary because they’ve already reached their decision, or maybe the candidate came in through a referral they trust. It doesn’t matter: we always check references. Invariably we learn something useful about the candidate that helps us appreciate the challenges we’ll face integrating that person into our team.
And yes, we still have some spots open! If the above sounds good to you, we’d like to hear from you. Find out more.
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