Do you know what you should be looking for in an ideal employee? I didn’t really know what to look for when I started my entrepreneurial journey, but after making dozens of hiring mistakes I’ve learned what to look for and what to avoid.
If you are trying to grow your business, especially during its early days, it’s really important to hire the right people. Hiring one bad person can derail your whole business and potentially cause you to fail.
Don’t make the mistakes I made by just hiring the cheapest employees out there. Make sure you hire the right person for the job. Here are the qualities you should be looking for:
Hire people smarter than you
You should never hire anyone who isn’t smarter than you. Now they don’t have to be a jack-of-all-trades, but they do need to be smarter than you when it comes to their job.
For example, if I were to hire an online marketer, I would hire someone who is much more knowledgeable in this area than I am. Plus, that person needs to be able to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. If they can’t execute on their knowledge, they typically aren’t the right fit for any job.
If you don’t hire smart people, you’ll end up wasting your time micromanaging. Employees hate that, and it will consume too much of your time. Smart people, on the other hand, are independent and they’ll figure out how to get stuff done on their own, while being able to do a better job than you.
Don’t take culture for granted
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that culture is really important. I used to think that you could just hire smart people and expect them to do wonders for you.
But if people don’t fit within your company culture, they will be more likely to butt heads when it doesn’t make sense, quit when things aren’t going well and not care for your company.
Zappos does a great job of hiring people who fit within their company culture. During their interview process, they even offer you money to quit, which helps them weed out all of the bad apples.
Over the years, I’ve learned that if someone doesn’t fit your company culture, you shouldn’t hire them…even if they fit all of your other requirements. We followed this strategy at KISSmetrics, and we were able to keep every one of our employees during the tough times…even when we went through a class-action lawsuit last year.
Hire hungry people
The main reason companies don’t hire people who are over qualified is because they aren’t always willing to do what the job requires. People who are very successful, such as corporate executives, usually aren’t as willing to get their hands dirty compared to someone who is trying to get his or her big break in the corporate world.
If things don’t work out for that big corporate executive, he/she can always get another high paying job. But if things don’t work out for that young kid, the kid will be left with nothing. For this reason, you want to hire hungry people because they have no choice but to work hard and strive to succeed.
When we started our sales team at KISSmetrics, we had a choice of hiring a sales executive from Web Trends who managed a large team and was producing over $30 million in sales a year or a Director of Sales from Truste who managed a small team and was producing over $16 million a year.
Do you know which one we hired?
We didn’t hire the sales executive from Web Trends even though he was in the same industry as we were. It wasn’t because of his qualifications or salary requirements; it was because he was a high paid executive who already was successful and was used to managing big teams that did all the heavy lifting for him.
The guy from TRUSTe, on the other hand, badly wanted to be a VP of Sales for a company and was willing to do whatever it took. He wasn’t just a manager like the Web Trends candidate; he was actually selling for TRUSTe while managing. For that reason, we went with him because he was willing to do whatever it took to earn the job.
In the end, it worked out well because he put in more hours than required to ensure the company’s success. He didn’t have the luxury of failing due to the fact that he needed things to work out to improve his future.
Focus on hiring people who are hungry because their output will usually be much greater than a high paid executive. In the worse case scenario, you can always pay the high paid executive to mentor your scrappy hire.
Money isn’t everything
If someone cares for money over everything else, they probably aren’t a good fit for your company. You want to hire people who love your company and want to work there because they believe in your vision.
The right candidate will take equity in your company with less pay because that person really wants to work with you. They’ll get the opportunity to learn from you, work with like-minded people who can challenge them and be in a fun work environment that isn’t filled with useless meetings and boring calls.
When negotiating compensation, keep in mind that people have bills to pay and they need money to survive. So you can’t expect people to work for free, but you can expect them to work for you below the market rate.
It’s hard to scale without process
As you become larger, you will have growing pains. You’ll have to figure out how to make things more scalable, and you’ll have to train more employees. You’ll also have to figure out how to make things more efficient. There’s no quick solution in solving all of these things, but employees who are good at creating processes will make your life a lot easier.
If you hire people who aren’t good at creating processes, it will be hard for them to determine the bottlenecks in the business and areas of improvement. For example, my VP of Sales created our sales process and continually adapts it to help his team maximize their efforts because the last thing they want to do is to make hundreds of sales calls and close no deals.
If you want to grow fast, you’ll have to fine-tune your business, and it’s hard to do that without processes.
Don’t accept candidates from recruiting firms
I know this really isn’t a quality in a candidate, but I had to include it. In most cases, recruiting firms don’t have the best candidates. “Why?” you may ask. It’s because talented people don’t need recruiters to help them find a job.
If someone is really good at what they do, they’ll constantly be bombarded with job offers. And if someone isn’t too good at what they do, they won’t receive too many job offers.
For this reason, you should try to avoid recruiting firms. By no means am I saying that recruiters are bad. Having recruiters work for you internally is a much different experience than using a recruiting firm to help you hire.
The candidates who aren’t receiving too many job offers usually use recruiting firms to help them find a new job.
I know when you are starting out, it’s going to be hard for you to find the perfect employee. But don’t settle on hiring someone who is mediocre because it can hurt the trajectory of your business.
If you want to find the best candidates for your job openings, my recommendation is that you should manually hit potential candidates from your LinkedIn profile. Using your LinkedIn account will achieve a higher response rate than using a random person’s LinkedIn account.
What other traits should you look for in an employee?