The Entrepreneurs Ultimate Hiring Guide (How To Build A Great Team)

Is your business struggling to find qualified help? This complaint from my clients has become a constant theme over the past year and when I see something like this so frequently I always do my best to address it.

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, you know that or you know it now. Get a good attorney so you don’t get in trouble with HR issues. This post is about practical experience and strategies that have worked for me when hiring people. It’s your responsibility to know what the laws are in your state and industry, and you better have an attorney! Don’t say I didn’t tell you so! 🙂

Here’s the ultimate hiring guide for almost every type of industry:

Start By Making Recruitment a Constant Activity

Rather than waiting to recruit when you’ve just lost a key team member, make a monthly habit of it. Get a fresh stack of resumes on your desk every month or two, from qualified candidates. Later in this post I am going to share with you how you can get that steady flow of applicants. You can choose the method that works for you – but once you find one that works, you need to be consistent about it.

As an entrepreneur your job is to recruit new customers and new team members. Always be recruiting!

Strategy #1: Hold a Recruiting Event Every Month

Apple, the famous and extremely successful retailer, holds a recruiting event every single month at each store. This allows them to always have fresh talent in the wings for when their staff turns over.

Apple isn’t immune to the woes of retail staffing issues. The turnover is high and it takes a lot of applicants to find the right fit. They’ve just made it a normal course of business. They have the hiring event every single month.

How can you apply this?

I’d recommend having the hiring event every month at a convenient place and time where you can get some other work done while waiting for people to show up. If you can hold it at your place of business then that’s great, but if you can’t and you have to hold it somewhere like a coffee shop that’s fine too. Just set aside one morning or day a month to do some writing, catch up on email, or do something else that can be interrupted if and when the candidates show up.

If you really want to dual purpose the event you could hold it in a public parking lot that gets a lot of foot traffic. That way with a big banner you’d get branding exposure and applicants. There’s your next big marketing stunt, and you just got it for free!

Strategy #2: Pre-Screen with Simple Technology

Think about what your position requires the new team member to do. Will it require them to make a phone call? Will they have to write and submit a report? Do they have to follow specific instructions correctly?

I’ve learned over the years that if someone can’t follow simple instructions while applying for the job, then I definitely don’t want to interview them. Because of this, I’ve created multi-step application processes that filter out all the folks who don’t want to or can’t follow my instructions.

Many of these automated hiring processes are very simple to build with some basic technology. If you need help with one – just contact us and we’ll give you a price. If you build it yourself just keep in mind these three things:

  1. You should have an automatic response to your application form that gives them the next set of instructions
  2. The notifications for each step being completed should all go into one email box or in a central place so you can track someone’s progress at a glance
  3. You should setup an administrative assistant to track who passes the initial screening and that administrative assistant can set up the phone or face to face interviews with people who pass the screening tests

Strategy #3: Find and Follow the Hiring Metric for Your Industry

Just a few days ago as I sat with one of my clients they told me how they had to interview 6 candidates just to find one good one that they could hire. I was actually surprised the number was so low. In my experience it has been more like 25 to one, but that’s in my industry and not theirs.

In some other industries I see it as low as 3 to 1, and as high as 50 to 1. It doesn’t really matter what the metric is for your industry or business as long as you know what it is. For sake of conversation – let’s say that it is 8 to 1.

You need to hire 2 new team members a quarter, so all you have to do is get 64 applicants over the course of the year. Now you know how many hiring events you need to have, or how many Craigslist posts you need to put out there.

Just work it like a sales metric. It works just like that. You have to get in a certain number of touches in order to get a win. Build your plans that way and you won’t be disappointed by the 7 candidates that you don’t hire. You’ll train yourself to just watch for the 1 in 8.

Strategy #4: Don’t Get Attached and Have a Short Trial Period

Unless your industry requires long term contracts (which is virtually unheard of these days), you shouldn’t ever make a long term commitment to your new hire! I always tell people that the on-boarding and trial period goes like this:

  1. The first two weeks is a trial period. We both review the job and work and see if it’s a fit to move forward.
  2. The first 30-45 days is the second stage two trial period. I can still let them go or they can leave if they hate working for my team and me.
  3. The 90 days mark is the final trial period for review. This way we can see if anything weird surfaces over those three months.

Obviously there can be issues after 90 days, I have actually seen the six month mark be the end of the “honeymoon” phase a lot of times with a new team member. However I do often see that within 90 days I can find all the major problems and call it quits before it gets more expensive.

This is why you are constantly recruiting, so that you have more talent waiting in the wings. Always be hiring and always be focused in on developing your team!

Strategy #5: Competition is Important

Unfortunately there is still an underlying attitude in some cultures, industries, and places of work that “everyone is a winner”. If I am the first one to break the news to you, I am sorry, but that is total crap. Everyone is not a winner. You were not a winner the last time you lost a deal to your competitor. Your competitor was the winner. That is just reality.

I’m sure some people think that we all deserve equal pay and equal treatment, but as an entrepreneur I know that is not reality. It’s a joke to actually think that everyone should be paid the same. I’m sure it’s not popular – but when I see stupid employees like Tyrel Oates asking for a $10,000 raise for his whole company I just shake my head in disbelief.

This brings me to my fifth strategy. Have a competition. When you are hiring performance based positions like sales, hire two or three people and let them compete. You aren’t paying for unicorns and sunshine, you are paying for sales, right? So keep the person on who brings home the bacon and let the other two go.

Not all positions fit for competition based strategies – but there definitely are some that would be a good fit. Stop worrying about being cool or politically correct with your team and start looking at the numbers. Maybe a little bit of healthy competition would stir things up!

Strategy #6: Stop Hiring Full Time Employees

About two years ago I realized that hiring full time staff was a giant waste of my time. Obviously this may not apply to all businesses or industries, but I am going to share with you what I’ve learned about hiring part time staff.

I do have a handful of full time team members – but I’ve augmented my staff with a large number of part time people for a reason. Check this approach out and see if it helps your team grow properly:

  1. Part time team members can be more focused. They have limited hours and limited tasks.
  2. Part time team members are often working for you as a second job. This means they are go getters who know how to hustle. I like hard workers.
  3. Part time team members often may have full time better paying jobs. As a start-up or small business every dollar counts, so part time help may keep wages a little lower this way and keep more profit on your bottom line.
  4. Part time team members aren’t expecting full time commitment from you. This means you can build as needed with a flexible team and with less pressure on yourself as the leader.
  5. Part time team members are easier to let go. When it comes time to phase them out or let them go – you are most likely not cutting into their full time paycheck, or you haven’t made a full time job commitment to them. Firing is one of the hardest jobs an entrepreneur has to do, and this part time approach is much more of a win win.

Take a good look at your labor structure now and see if it would be more efficient and more profitable to move to the part time labor model for some positions. I bet you’ll find some great ideas and great profits there!

Strategy #7: Start with Contractors

In my first company, over a decade ago, I had lots of employees. They are expensive and unnecessary for many small businesses. Often when you’re getting started or filling a freelance or part time position, contracted positions are the way to go. This way your overhead is lower and you can move to making that person an employee when you bring them on full time or when the need really has to be filled by a full time employee.

I’ve found that these are great places to find contractors. I use these sources to recruit contractors that then become full time team members down the road:

  1. oDesk.com
  2. eLance.com
  3. Craigslist
  4. Local Newspapers
  5. Facebook (just ask your friends to share a job posting)
  6. LinkedIn

As with any hiring, you need a clear job description, and that’s what our next point is all about.

Strategy #8: Write a Practical Job Description

In my career I’ve seen a lot of fluffy resumes and grandiose job descriptions. Both of these are useless. Business owners need real people and real skills. Team members need clear useful job descriptions as well. So don’t skimp here and think that they’ll be able to perform well for you.

Ideal job descriptions should:

  1. Have clear detailed written instructions about day to day work
  2. Have screenshots, audio, or video clips showing what they should do
  3. Be created by you the owner (yes you!) or a manager who has done the work that the team member will be doing
  4. Have timelines and expected daily time investments for each task segment
  5. Have channels for feedback and questions about their role and work as a new team member

I can tell you that if you haven’t invested 4-8 hours in creating an extremely clear job description and responsibilities list you will continue to see team members fail. It is YOUR job to make them successful. If you aren’t willing to invest time in clear job descriptions then you will guarantee their failure. Their failure affects your company’s failure or success as well.

What’s next? Training.

Strategy #9: Have a Solid Training Program

Now that you’ve made recruitment and consistency part of your company’s life, you’ve learned to screen effectively and keep new resumes and applicants coming through the door, and you’re hiring new candidates that have a clear job description, you’re ready to think about training that new team member.

How do you put together a good training program?

  1. Start by identifying the best current team member to provide training. I have found that as the leader I am not a good trainer, but there are a few people on my staff who are great at training. Take time to find the person who is the most patient and the most experienced in the area that needs trained.
  2. Write a list of competency objectives. This way at the end of the training period the trainer will know if they were successful in their training.
  3. Write a training guide. This will just be an expansion of the job description, with more detailed instructions, screenshots, videos, and one on one sessions for the new team member.
  4. Do entry interviews and exit interviews of the trainee. Ask them for honest feedback on how the training could have been improved.

Remember that if you don’t invest personal time and adequate resources into training new team members you will degrade your product and service, and your turnover will be much higher. Team members are more motivated and more successful when they have good training.

Having the skills and experience to perform their job well makes them feel successful. That feeling of success will be one they associate with working with your company. If you overlook the training, and they are frustrated with their role, they will associate discontentment and frustration with their job at your company. This will of course trickle down into the quality of service and products that they directly affect.

It’s not worth the risk to have poor training. Make improving training a constant and high priority and your hiring woes will lessen even more. The team members who feel like you invest in them personally stay longer and perform better. Don’t ever forget that.

Strategy #10: Hire from Different Industries

One of the greatest tips I’ve put into practice successfully over the years is to hire new staff from different industries. While parts of this seem counterintuitive – I’ve actually seen it provide some innovation and fresh perspectives and attitudes to my team.

My website and marketing project manager came from the real estate and mortgage industry.

My COO and partner in my local marketing and content management company was a corrections officer and HR manager for a hotel.

My best salesman came from the construction industry.

Those are just a few examples, but I think you get the picture. Sometimes starting with a clean slate with someone who knows nothing about your business or industry is easier than dealing with someone who thinks they know everything about your industry.

Just like it is easier to train a kid fresh out of high school or college into a position, it is easier to train an older individual who is coming from a different background and has no preconceived ideas about your world and your business. Start thinking outside the box and hiring outside your industry where you see a fit. You’ll be surprised how well it works.

Strategy #11: Hire for Attitude Over Skill

This is one of the most important tips I can share with you! While skills and experience are important, attitude trumps everything else in my opinion and experience. It is so much easier to teach an inexperienced person with a good attitude how to manage your business processes, over someone who has tons of experience and is a know it all.

When you’re interviewing prospective candidates for your new position, find ways to discover what kind of attitude they have. In their trial period – pay attention to attitude first and competency next.

I truly believe that attitude is the first, most important quality to examine in a new staff member. A good attitude will take them all the way to the top with a little extra hard work, while a bad attitude will poison your team and cause you problems at every turn.

Do you have core values and an expectation of a positive attitude set forth before your team every day? If you haven’t made those expectations clear in the past, then this is a good time to write up your standards as it relates to attitude.

Wrap Up:

There you have it! My best advice and experience as it relates to hiring new team members and staying ahead of the recruitment challenges in your business.

What do you think? Did I miss anything? Please share your comments below and add any ideas that our readers would benefit from. Then get out there and start recruiting with passion and with purpose.

Your team deserves a solid recruitment process, and the quality and success of your business relies on it. Go out and become a rock star recruiter for your business starting today!

Inspiration For Entrepreneurs

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- Gabe Arnold

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