I write this post both as a resource for my business coaching clients looking to expand their teams, but also to the 2 different laid off workers support groups I help, so that the candidates (real people with mortgages, bills, children, and dreams) might ‘show up’ more as I see them and less as a number on an application form – good luck to you both!

Help on Hiring

So you’re about to expand you team – congrats! Whether this is your first hire or your 500th, it’s always good to have a few tips, reminders, and tools to ensure you start your next great team member off the best way possible. In our experience, the following strategies help improve the likelihood of hiring “A Players” or “right fits”.

Know What You Need Going In

No matter how well your business is doing, and how back-logged you might be with orders, you don’t just need ‘a heartbeat’ when it comes to your next team member. The demands of the job, the nature of your industry, and the wants and needs of your customers all play a part in what type of team member (employee or contractor regardless) you need the most. If your brand promise demands that orders go out with minimal turnaround time, efficiency and work capacity will be high on your list of skills needed in a candidate. If trust-based relationships are what you promise your customers, perhaps sales numbers from their past job aren’t the best benchmark for you to hire them, but instead look at how highly tuned their listening skills are and whether or not they truly care about their customers.

Assess Cultural Fit

“John just didn’t fit here” – have you ever said or felt that about a past colleague? That doesn’t make John a bad person, but a well-defined culture knows what it is, and knows what it isn’t. If ‘team’ is one of your core values, hiring the next Wall Street shooting star might be disastrous. If ‘innovation’ is a top value of the organization, leaders have to be careful not to hire A-type managerial personalities, especially in roles requiring facilitative efforts that pull the intelligence of the group, not just one smart person. If the team you have thrives in an anti-corporate environment, embrace that and look for hard-working rebels who might not have fit in under more traditional systems. The values of an organization are more than just 4 buzz words on a plaque in the boardroom; they are litmus tests for deciding who does and doesn’t fit on your team. After all, no team is perfect for everybody, and it is okay (sometimes it’s better) to appear highly undesirable to certain types of employees.

Disseminate Work History Trends

One question I always ask is “why did you leave your last job?”.

If you are hiring someone with more than beginner work experience, try asking them why they left their last 3 – 5 jobs, and see what kind of trends emerge.
 “My boss and I didn’t see eye to eye”
 “The culture there was a real pain”
 “I hated my coworkers”

The above might be an extreme example, but maybe instead of everybody else – maybe, just maybe – they were the problem!
Trend-establishing questions are great when relating to themes like ‘proudest accomplishments’ or ‘rate your old boss’ or ‘if you could change one thing about your last company’. You start to learn about the candidates priorities, and about ways in which they be hard-wired (good or bad) that you’re unlikely to change as their new employer.

Find Creative Ways to Observe ‘Raw Skills’.

“Raw skills” are what’s left when you take away a professionals ability to prepare, plan in advance, or provide a scripted answer. Two examples that illustrate what I mean;

As a Fitness Director I used to ask potential candidates, for their 3rd and final interviews, to take me through an exercise regime. 5 minutes before we were about to start, I would let them know my goals and injuries. If they wrote down a plan, I’d always ask if I could see it and then promptly throw it in the garbage. If they could deliver under those challenging circumstances, they were a real pro and they were hired.

As a General Manager for a large corporate health and retail giant, I needed to hire a community outreach professional. Someone who would spend 60 – 75% of their time outside the office generating leads and partnerships (as well as goodwill) in the community. I took 2 candidates to lunch (1 at a time). Behind-the-scenes, I set up a mock interview with the owner of the restaurant. Both of the candidates already worked for us, as this was an internal posting. After some small talk, the owner of the restaurant would come by and say something like, “thank you for meeting me, Stan tells me you have some creative ways our businesses can work together” and then he would sit down beside them. Brutal, I know, and I likely wouldn’t go this far again, but wow did it ever work to flush out the right candidate!

Get Relevant Input

A mentor of mine once told me he always tried to find a mutual reference, one not listed on their resume. After all, why would you put someone on your resume who was going to say negative things about your performance? Any time I was ever able to use this technique, either because I knew their old boss or someone who worked at the candidates last company – the results were always astounding! Either you’d get instant conformation that the candidate was a rock star, or, in a few cases, I found out that they should have been in jail!

It is important to note that there are laws in place for good reason to protect employees’ privacy and those need to be obeyed and respected. I simply mean if you own a company or are in a position to hire other people, then by now you probably have a decent professional network, and asking a few questions of your peers can go a long way.