Finding and Hiring the Right People

teamFor those who have spent a portion of their careers in a large organization, they had expert assistance when it came to hiring new employees. That assistance may have come from a Human Resources staff who helped to locate prospective employees and then assisted with the initial screening. For many of us, our careers transitioned to either smaller businesses or nonprofits, where that assistance does not exist. That being said, we need some basic principles to guide us through the hiring process.

Jim Collins in his book Good to Great equates hiring to getting the right people on the bus. In developing an organization, he explains that, “a great vision without great people is irrelevant”. A growth plan without people is doomed to failure.

What We Want and What We Get

As a small to medium size business leader, ask yourself what makes for a good employee who can help you grow in both income and service. The basics are:

  1. You want someone who will come to work on time very day. What is the value of the most talented employee who doesn’t show up?
  2. You want someone who can work well with others in the company. Do you want to be the one who must arbitrate every dispute or do you need the distractions caused by continuous conflict?
  3. You want someone who is a continuous learner. Beware of someone who already has all the answers. They may not be the right answers for you.

We are sure you can add to his list of basics, but we mostly look for someone who has a specific area of experience. It is true that specific technical skills are important, but the application of those skills is critical.

Thomas Friedman in his book, The World is Flat, emphasizes the fact that organizations live in an ever changing environment. He uses a formula to define some of the attributes one should consider in selecting the next member of the team.


  • IQ= The Intelligence Quotient- the most common measure of cognitive skill. How smart is the person?
  • CQ= The Curiosity Quotient- does the person what to learn new things and obtain new knowledge?
  • PQ= The Passion Quotient- does that person have an interest and passion for the work to be done or are they just there for the paycheck?

The Job Specification (KSAO)

The rush to fill a needed position can apply the type of pressure that will lead to a bad decision. By writing down the attitudes of the person you want to hire, it will provide a double check on your decision to select a given candidate. The four components of a Job Specification are:

  • Knowledge- What level of education or experience is required? For example; they must be a high school graduate and 5 years of successful experience in the business?
  • Skills- Does the candidate have computer skills or an understanding of sales?
  • Abilities- Must the candidate be able to work independently of direct supervision or work well with customers?
  • Other- These are attribute that see are specific to the position, such as have a driver’s license or have no fear of heights

This written tool needs to be developed before the selection process begins, but might be revised as a result of knowledge gained during the interviewing process. Everyone should be judged by the same set of criteria, KSAO.

Finding Candidates

Today the want ad in the newspaper has been replaced by multiple internet sites such a Career Builder, Crag’s List, Monster and Indeed. Feedback from our clients vary as to which works best for them. It may be random depending on your location and the position you wish to fill.

We recommend that you always be looking. You may not be able to hire today, but the need is sure to arise in the future. Build a network and stay in touch.

The Interviewinterview

We all could do a better job when interviewing potential employees. Let’s consider these suggestions:

  • Shut up- We may tend to dominate the conversation about ourselves and the position you which to fill. It’s not about you. It’s about them.
  • Don’t Forget the Job Specification (KSAO) – Let it be your starting point. Review it before the interview.
  • Ask for References- Expect that any reference you are given has been coached to provide a positive response. In most cases, references will not provide negative information.
  • Ask Open Ended Questions- A close ended question can be answered with a single word answer such as yes, no, good, etc. Remember you want to spur on the conversation. A close ended question will limit the discussion. An open end questions allows for a follow-up question which keeps the conversation going. For example, question “What did you not like about your last job.” Answer “The boss was always on my back.” Open-ended question “Tell me more about that?” You may be surprised what you hear next.
  • Beware of the “Halo Effect”- Although we believe that we have great objectivity in making decisions, in fact we all are subject to prejudice. Someone who graduated from the same school you attended might be more acceptable then someone who did not. Someone who is young might be considered more energetic and more suited for hard work. Both of these are examples of the “Halo Effect”

Building Your Team

The hiring process is only the first step in staffing you organization and building your team. What follows is the on-boarding or orientation of a new employee. Help them understand the group culture and values. Clearly discuss you expectations and the timing of progress in their performance. An effective hiring process is costly and time consuming. Protect that investment.