Recruiting staff for your business is one of the greatest and also most challenging tasks you will face as a small business owner. Over the course of my career, I have learned the hard way and had some great successes but also my share of failures. During that time we have been honing our on-boarding process and have got it to a point where we believe it is working very well for us, which I would love to share.
I’ve read many books on Silicon Valley startups and forward-thinking companies that have ridiculously laborious on-boarding processes. Google famously has 20 something plus interviews and a three to six month period before you will be brought into the fold. I used to scoff at this, but now thinking about it, I understand the reason why they do it and how it impacts the business.
If you’re a small business, you need a team of A-players, you don’t want to settle for B-players and you definitely can’t afford to have C-players. You need all of your staff to be:
- Better than you (you should be hiring people that take what you can do to the next level)
- Invested and intelligent enough to take the reigns and propel things forward with minimum intervention (see micromanagement)
I am a fairly easy going guy and my interview process used to reflect this. I like a conversational tone when I first meet somebody, and I aim to put people at ease and try and get a feeling for who they are as a person. But I’ve seen this fall down during the hiring process, as some people are extremely good at interviews and can get through this round easily, saying all the right things only to reveal some months down the track that they don’t actually have the skills to pay the bills. I didn’t want to flip this so that I was just being a hard-ass in the interview, but something needed to change so that we could elicit a more three-dimensional view of who the candidate is.
The following process is what we have implemented for our last several hires and have been rewarded with incredible team members.
Write a kickass job ad and harness the power of social
When you are recruiting you are marketing your business to potential employees. Why then, do so many business owners stick to dry, drab, corporate speak and vanilla templates? I don’t care if you are running a box making factory. You are going to attract better candidates if you put the effort in. Sell the position and why you are a great business to work for. Boost your position on Facebook, that is where most of your potential staff are spending their time and you might be able to snag someone who is not currently actively seeking a new role.
Get help to cull the CVs
This is a time-consuming process. For one of our last hires, we had over 300 applicants. It is not the best use of my time to wade through that. Use a third party or staff member that knows your business to help pass the CVs. I don’t recommend recruiters for a small business, as they are too expensive, but a friend or family member or someone within the business to help go through and cull the CVs is a great way to save you time and headache. We have our own way of looking through and working out who we will or will not interview. The first criteria for us are in our job ad, we provide a set of requirements, i.e., cover letter and a few questions. Generally, we will look at all the CVs that meet these requirements first and throw the rest in the bin. I’ve said it before, but at the end of the day, if you cannot meet simple requirements, you cannot work for me.
Once you have culled the list down to say, 5-15 candidates, conduct an initial 15-minute phone interview. The phone call can be a precursory conversation to find out a bit more about them and especially to ask the question, why are you applying for this job? We don’t want to hire people that have a scattershot approach looking for whatever job they can get. I want to hear that they WANT to work for me and why. The simple task of answering a phone will tell you a HUGE amount about a person. I can’t believe how badly some people staff this up.
I will often use the person from step 2 to perform this task also.
From here, have the list culled down to five candidates that you think are worthy of your precious time and an initial interview. In this first interview, we keep it fairly formal with two staff members (generally the hiring manager and second in charge) present. The main aim of the interview is to gauge first impressions, find out about their background, and why they are looking to apply. We will also take this time to run them through what our culture is like and what we’re looking for in a candidate. In my experience, candidates are generally nervous in this first interview and it’s not always the best way to find out who they are. From here, if the five candidates still all appear to be okay, we’ll take them through to the next round. Otherwise, they can be culled.
I would have scoffed at this even a year ago. It sounds way too formal and scary, and very corporate. After running through a couple though, my tune has changed. If you are investing your hard earned dollars into a new team member, you should be doing everything in your power to ensure they are the right fit. These tests are run by third-party providers and are available for most positions. They are not cheap but the insights you receive are incredible. If you don’t believe me, do one yourself and you will be surprised how accurate they are. They generally also provide you with interview questions designed to touch on pressure points, which you can use in the next round.
Deep Dive Interview
This is where we go deep and throw some curve balls. The first curveball is that we will position this interview off-site. A cafe or in our case a wine bar. It takes us all away from the office and hopefully puts the candidate a bit more at ease (especially if they are used to more corporate positions). Once the candidate has sat down, we’ll offer them a drink, which generally they refuse (much to my dismay) and then we’ll jump straight into a broad and quite random series of questions that will last around 30-40 minutes. We have a preordained list of questions that we will run through, which include questions pertaining to the job, personality type and some curve balls, eg. What dinosaur would you be? This approach really shows how the candidate thinks on their feet, how they do under pressure and if they know their stuff. Generally, we are looking to pick our candidate at this meeting, but in some cases, it can come down to two.
Meet the team
In the next step, I personally step out of the process and let my team step in. This will be an interview with two to four core staff members, which we keep fairly casual. I always want to have buy-in from my leadership team and trust their opinion. On the flip side, it is a chance for the potential recruit to meet the team and see the people they will be working with. I let the staff choose their own questions, this can be a mix of technical, personal and random choices.
This process has allowed us to make some great hires, and feel very confident that we are doing the best job we can of onboarding and finding A-players to join our team. If you would like any more information on this, get in touch!