LEADERSHIP: 3 Keys to Hiring Your Dream Team



Maria’s question is. . . .

“My friend owns a small business and she has trouble getting good help. The positions do not require a college education only that someone take pride in his/her work. What advice do you have for her?”



Well, Maria, I’m sorry to hear of your friends struggle to get good help, but she certainly isn’t alone. Every business struggles with this issue at varying levels. Its impact is most severe with small businesses that have fewer employees, and often don’t have a fall back plan if things don’t work out with one of them.


So, there are 3 key things to keep in mind in order to hire and retain good people?


  1. – It’s always a leadership problem.

This isn’t about blame, but good leaders need to be honest with themselves and look inward first. They need to ask themselves, “what more could I have done to make my team successful?” Is there something in my attitude, my approach or my daily interaction that could be a contributor to my team not performing optimally? It’s impossible to achieve and sustain employee engagement and optimize efficiency without good leadership.


Sometimes we’re not sure what to do with a problem employee or a problem situation so we ignore it. We need to ask ourselves, does my team have the right education, the right experience and the right training to perform their duties? Do they truly understand the requirements?


Lastly, we need to ensure that we aren’t stifling our team because we believe that nobody can do the job as well as we can. We need to teach, then trust. We can’t grow our business if we don’t share some of the responsibility with our team.


  1. Create a culture of engagement.

Our company culture sets the stage for motivation which ultimately leads to employee engagement. There are many factors that lead to a good company culture. More than I can cover in this short training video, but here are a few examples.


Good leaders create a clear vision for their teams. This vision is made up of core values, core purpose and core aspirations. At a basic level this is where we’re going, why we’re going there in the first place, and how we’ll conduct ourselves along the way. Our vision should excite and motivate our team and will help us recruit and retain like-minded employees.


Employee voice and empowerment are also significant contributors to a culture of engagement. When people feel like they are contributing to the grander scheme they are more likely to exert their discretionary effort on the company’s behalf. When we value their input and allow them room to grow we ignite their passion which leads to unprecedented levels of efficiency.


  1. Create a repeatable and scalable recruiting process.

Big companies will typically have a standard hiring process but typically fail to educate their managers on the details of actually choosing the best possible candidate. Below are a few guidelines that I’ve found to be beneficial.


 Invest in interviewing skills.

If our team is our biggest asset, it only makes sense that we would invest in that asset. The biggest thing we can do to make an impact in the quality of our team is to invest in interviewing skills so that we recruit the right people the first time out. We aren’t born with these skills and these skills aren’t difficult to learn. There are countless techniques out there and certainly behavioral interviewing techniques should play a role based on Maria’s question. Most importantly, whatever questions we ask, we need to be able to drill down several levels in order to truly understand the depth of experience or knowledge in a particular area. For example, not just what result did you achieve, but what are 3 steps you took to achieve that result? What were the biggest obstacles in undertaking each of those steps etc.? This ability to drill down into the details is essential as wise candidates will do their homework and have generic answers prepared.


Define the standard.

If there are personal attributes you are recruiting for, then ensure that those attributes are included in the job description and job listing. In Maria’s friends example, taking pride in their work.


Be prepared.

Once you define the requirements, ensure that you have questions prepared before the interview that will drill down into each of these critical areas. Don’t wing it during the interview.


Don’t settle.

Don’t allow your need to fill the position allow you to compromise on your requirements. Certainly you’ll need to make some concessions, but don’t allow the role to get so diluted that the minimum requirements go out the door.


Conduct phone screening.

You can save a lot of time by doing a pre-screen on the phone in order to weed out some of the candidates before you see them in person. Anyone that makes it through this round can come in and interview with more of your team.


Strong candidates should come in for a second interview.

A second interview allows us to drill deeper into key areas or to ask questions we may have overlooked in the first interview. This also allows us to expand the interview team for key roles within the company.


Use a checklist and rating system.

It often helps to have a checklist of key skills or attributes and rate the candidates on each of them. This allows us to compare one to the other if there’s more than candidate in the final cut.


Compare notes with your interview team in person.

I prefer to talk in person about interview results versus each interviewer emailing their input. It’s important to not overly influence each other’s opinions, but I believe there’s something to be gained by discussing any sticking points and weighing out the pros and cons together. One thing I should point out is it’s good to get everyone’s input, but total consensus is not always required.


Interview to the standard.

It’s important to document your criteria for the ideal candidate and the minimum job requirements and use that as the basis for your interview. Sometimes we get hung up on needing to interview a minimum number of candidates when the ideal candidate was the first to interview. While we ponder our decision or interview 10 other candidates the right one is likely to get a job offer somewhere else.


So Maria, below are some questions that may help your friend determine his/her candidates inclination to, “take pride in their work.”


Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?

When we contact your former employer, what will he/she say about you?

Is there an area you would like to work on in order to reach the next level in your career?

What steps are you currently taking to achieve that goal?

Do you have any questions on the position?


Each of these questions will help determine the candidate’s capacity to take pride in their work, their desire to improve and evolve in their role and their curiosity and genuine level of interest in the new role and where they will work.


Bringing it all together.

Our team is our biggest asset. It’s important that we don’t allow our small business to make us small minded. We need to focus on the bigger picture, and invest in the infrastructure that will ensure our future success. Key areas include strong Leadership, a good work environment and a structured hiring process that ensures we hire people that are in alignment with our core values and are focused on common goals. We need to think along the lines of hiring collaborators versus employees. In order to do this we need to focus not just on their skillset, but their personal attributes as well.


“We can always teach a new skill, but caring is a product of free will.” – Gerry Toledo


So Maria, thanks for the question. I hope it helps your friend’s situation, and keep the questions coming.


Do you agree? Let me know what you think. I would love to hear your unique perspective.


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