Many entrepreneurs and executives will tell you their number-one mistake is hiring the wrong person for the job. This crippling error can be avoided if you’re in tune with the strengths and culture of your organization. With small organizations or startups, it's critical that every person is right for their job. So how do you ensure you’re hiring the right people?
A strengths assessment is an ideal place to start. Think of it as a SWOT analysis on your most valuable resource -- your people. It identifies key personality and behavioral traits and natural talents through a series of open-ended questions that can help you understand how to best leverage the combination of those talents.
Many business owners have a limited understanding of their own strengths and/or the strengths of others within their organization, what those skills mean and how to embrace them. This is especially telling in the hiring process, when it’s crucial to identify candidates who have the necessary skill set and whose values align with the culture of your organization.
A case in point. A company I work with hired someone who seemed the perfect fit. He looked good on paper, interviewed well and wowed people inside of the organization during the hiring process. However, it turned out that he didn’t have compatible strengths for the position he was hired for and he didn’t fit with the existing corporate culture that is urgent and efficient. The new hire was more of a big picture guy. He had great ideas and was able to quickly distill volumes of information that he thought others would be excited to digest, too. They saw him as intelligent but not practical. When I was brought in to conduct a strengths assessment for the team, I clearly saw why. The new hire was different than almost everyone else in the organization. He brought new strengths to the company but because he wasn’t compatible with the team, they couldn't figure out how to leverage them.
The strengths assessment allowed the company executives to see why he was a mismatch for the position. After some reflection, I worked with the company to find a more suitable role for him in a different part of the organization where his strengths were valued and needed and the team dynamics were a better fit. While this worked for a mid-sized organization, it likely would not have had the same ending in a more entrepreneurial environment.
I share this anecdote to illustrate the importance of the strengths-based hiring approach. The smaller the organization, the more important it is to understand the internal workings of your company and clearly define the strengths you are seeking.
Here are three key ingredients for hiring the right person for the job:
1. Does the candidate have the practical experience that you want/need to grow your team and your business? Base this on current and anticipated needs, not just immediate needs at hand.
2. Does he/she have the specific strengths that you need for this particular position? Have you assessed the strengths of your existing employees/team to know where there are gaps? Having data from inside your organization will help you better leverage your team’s talents and ensure that you remain objective throughout the hiring process.
3. Will the candidate fit the culture of the organization and play well with others? Do they share the same values/goals? The interview process is an opportunity to vet top candidates. Use a consistent set of questions for each interview, involve your existing staff and take their feedback into consideration. Lastly, consider asking your top candidate(s) to come in for a day to see how they show up real-time. You will get a sense for how your team will work together.
Hiring is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges companies face, and, at the same time one of the most rewarding opportunities. Executing it well the first time will help you avoid costly and time-consuming repercussions, bolster a necessary area effectively and have a positive impact on your existing team.