Entrepreneurs start out as a one-man band, add devout followers and then add skilled technicians. It’s the normal evolution of an entrepreneurial business.
At this stage, the new business owner needs people who will serve as an extension of the brand. He or she will want people who, when others see them, will see the business at a glance.
When hiring a company's first employees, do these things first:
1. Ask the people whom you respect the most. Go to those people, as if approaching a board of directors, and inquire about the best ways they’ve found their top employees. This could be through use of a specific hiring firm, a certain social media site or via even personal recommendations.
Also consider the businesses you frequent that have great employees. Then go to the managers and ask them how they hire.
2. Check out candidates' social media profiles. I once tweeted that I was looking for an outstanding salesperson to join my team. A guy tweeted me back saying he was the man for the job. I immediately went to his Twitter feed to learn more only to discover that he was talking about looking for new jobs and asking friends for advice on how to pass drug tests.
By going to candidates' social media pages, you may gain a sense of their worthiness in terms of timeliness and dependability.
3. Be clear about what you want. Know the characteristics that you're looking for and detail that in the job requirements. Understand the difference between what you think you want and what the job really needs. The two may not always be synonymous. As an entrepreneur who's hiring employees, put the needs of the job and business ahead of your own personal likes.
4. It’s OK to say no. Know when to walk away from a candidate when you know you don't have the right person. Don’t settle for someone who you feel in your gut you might have to let go in two months. It isn’t good for you, the company or the candidate.
5. Prepare for the interview. The interviewer should be as prepared as the interviewee. Have questions ready to ask to capture a portrait of who the person is. Don’t ask boring, mundane questions. Ask probing questions.
The one question I always ask in interviews is “Why would I not hire you?” I’m amazed at the number of people who answer the question! People will talk about always being late or not finishing things on time. This shocks me. They should at least be creative enough to offer answers better than that. These are not things I want to hear in an interview. This sorts the candidates pretty quickly.
6. Take top candidates out for dinner. One thing I always wonder about during interviews is what people are like socially. It’s one thing to be buttoned up for an interview and something completely different to go out for a casual meal in jeans.
When hiring a salesperson, be sure to take out this person for dinner. If he or she orders the most expensive item on the menu, that's a telltale sign. If the job seeker orders the fanciest cocktail, that's another sure sign. And if the candidate orders too many cocktails, that's yet another sign.
How he or she treats the staff offers other clues. Many times I'll bring people to a social or dinner function to gain a better sense of who they truly are.