Although it’s been a couple of decades, I still remember my first hire. In those days, I was definitely not an expert. When I think back to those days, I have to smile because I was so naïve about the hiring process. Fortunately, I had a mentor who patiently taught me, and I learned the intricacies of recruiting great people. And after reviewing thousands of resumes and interviewing just as many candidates, I’ve become an expert at connecting companies with talented people.
Hiring the right people takes hard work and practice. When you hire for the first time, it’s easy to make mistakes, and that’s okay because that’s how we learn. Most small businesses do not have a mentor who is an expert recruiter.
On my first hire, I was clueless about what it took to hire the right person. I was thrilled because my manager felt I was ready to take on this responsibility, and terrified because I am a perfectionist and wanted it to be perfect.
Because of that, I’ll share my shame so you can avoid my rookie mistakes.
Your first hire won’t be perfect.
Mine was far from it. I didn’t want my manager to think poorly of me so I didn’t ask for help, but I should have. As a small business owner you have a lot of knowledge and experience – but most likely not in interviewing and hiring. You need some help when you first start out, so don’t be afraid to ask for it.
Find an expert you can ask for help.
Many of my mistakes could have been avoided if I had simply asked for help navigating the hiring process. Because I didn’t, I made perfectly avoidable mistakes. For example, if you can’t verify a technical skill because it’s not your area of expertise, ask someone who is an expert or find another way to do it.
Don’t hire fast to relieve pain.
I rushed through my first hire and ended up with a nightmare employee who drained my time and energy. You’ve probably hired a Lazy Larry or a Debbie Diva once or twice as well. It’s easy to get caught up in your pain and want a quick fix. Hiring the wrong employee can be expensive. It’s better to be understaffed than to have a bad employee who will cost you time and money, and create problems with productivity, turnover, training costs, and retention of good performers.
Finding a good employee is more than a checklist of skills.
A perfect resume doesn’t mean a perfect fit. I hired a candidate because of a past position at the White House. That hire eventually was fired, so don’t get starry-eyed over the details on a resume. Take time to get to know your candidate and assess whether he or she is really perfect for you. This blog post will help you avoid getting fooled by the perfect resume.
Ask Insightful Interview™ questions.
I made the common mistake of failing to ask questions that revealed a candidate’s true attitudes, behaviors, and skills. Instead, I relied on traditional questions like “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Savvy candidates have researched all the “correct” answers, and they have learned to tell us what we want to hear. You can download an example of an Insightful Interview™ question here.
Listen more than you talk.
In my first few interviews, I did all the talking. Does that sound familiar? I can tell you that when you listen carefully to what is said, you gain valuable insights into your candidate’s attitudes and behaviors. What words and phrases does the candidate use? Pay attention to active versus passive voice, pronoun choice, energy level, and tone of voice. Allow for silence. Many candidates aren’t comfortable with silence and quickly jump in to fill the gap. You learn a lot about a candidate this way.
Listen for what is not said in addition to what is said.
In my early hiring days, I eagerly noted the answers to my questions and overlooked what was not said. I heard only what I wanted to hear to validate what was on that perfect resume. I ignored areas that were glossed over or where I got a superficial answer.
Check references, verify degrees, and past employment history.
Believe it or not, I skipped this on my first hire. Yes, it was a huge rookie mistake, because people have been known to stretch the truth on their resumes. Shocking, isn’t it? Most HR departments will only verify employment dates, titles, and salary, and you should definitely verify that information. However, you can and should talk to other references — people who worked closely with your candidate, a former supervisor, professors, or others who have direct knowledge of your candidate’s skills and abilities.
Get a second opinion before you make the offer.
It wasn’t long before my co-workers started complaining about my first hire. I failed to take into account that no one operates in a vacuum. The candidate will join your team and interact with your other employees, customers, and vendors. While you may not want your employees making hiring decisions, having them meet and interact with the candidate can give you valuable insights and point out something you may have missed.
Have a plan for your new hire’s first day, week, and month.
I didn’t have a plan for my first hire and was caught off guard by how much time it took to train her. I was disorganized, distracted, rushed through instructions, and gave training that was piecemeal — definitely not a good start. Having a plan will set a positive tone for your new hire and make their transition onto your team a good experience for both of you. My recent post will help you create a plan.
Paying attention to these things will not turn you into an expert overnight. They will, however, shorten your learning curve and get you on the right path to making good hiring decisions.
Share your rookie hiring mistakes in the comments. Your insights may be just what someone else needs to move forward. After all, sharing is caring, and in our insightful community we care about helping you succeed.