How to hire for the perfect business “marriage”

June 21, 2021

I once worked with a woman who was getting her third divorce. She told me, “I’m really good at marriage, but I’m really bad at picking.”

This is also true with SME employees. Usually, SME teams are smaller and far more interactive, so picking someone who fits in well with the team is imperative and can unlock a whole new level of productivity. A bad fit however, has the power to destroy team morale.

Picking alone is not sufficient for a blissful business union though. You can pick good people and bring them into the organisation, but if you don’t orient them right, clarify their job, role and responsibilities, you won’t have a good “marriage.”

So, how can you be both good at selecting who to hire and then maintain a good “marriage”? Here are my six top tips to achieving this:

  1. Before you start the hiring process, write down what you are looking for in terms of knowledge, skills, and experience as well as attitudes, values, and fit with the culture of your company.  Pay particular attention to your culture needs because fewer people go in creating an SME’s culture. You need to decide if you want to maintain the status quo or identify how your new addition would add to it.
  2. Have more than one person involved in the selection process and at least two people interview each candidate. A second person can pick up subtleties easily missed when one person is asking the questions and engaging in the conversation. A second opinion more than doubles the odds of making a good hire.
  3. Take them on a test drive. Interviews are often structured as 30 minutes of questions and answers, with the interviewer doing most of the talking! So, test whether a candidate has the right competencies to do the job. This can be done by asking them to problem solve “on the spot” to demonstrate whether they can handle the types of challenges they will face in their new job in your small business. A “test” enables you to assess whether the candidate aligns with your company’s culture and values, and whether their performance and capability align.
  4. Don’t skip the reference checks. It’s very important to check on their prior performance and behaviour in other jobs. Ask referees this question, “If you were in my shoes, considering hiring this person, what would you wish you knew, or what should you do to set this candidate up for high performance and success?”
  5. The recruitment process is actually a sales process. You are trying to sell your company to someone who’s looking for a job and they’re trying to sell themselves to you because they want a job. It is important that you both be honest about who you are, what you can do for each other. It’s pointless to rush through the process and hire someone quickly because you are desperate to fill the role- then have the person fail.
  6. It’s not just the picking that’s important. Investing time in the orientation and integration of a new employee is one of the secrets to a high performing organisation. You need to work hard to pick the right people, but you never know until you begin working together whether they are really who they say they are.

If a bad fit is not addressed quickly, the fact that you are keeping the person will be like a cancer that spreads through the whole SME. Your best people may ramp back their performance, become disillusioned and leave. People want to work with other people who care as much as they do. So, look for people who are a good fit and will contribute to a “successful marriage”.

Dr Jana Matthews, 21 June 2021, Inside small business