How to make smart hiring decisions for your small business

Hiring decisions can (quite literally) make or break your business. But the secret to making them your business’ biggest weapon, as opposed to its big downfall, probably isn’t what you think it is… 

Running (and growing) a small business is rarely a linear journey, especially when the time comes to start hiring the employees that will work in the business alongside you.

Each opportunity that presents itself to hire the right person, for the right role, at the right time is a pivotal moment in any business’ growth trajectory. 

When we get it right it feels like poetry in motion. 

But when we get wrong? We waste a lot of time, money and energy – three of the most important ingredients for any business’ success.

So what exactly is the key to successful hiring decisions?

In my experience, it’s this: Focusing on finding individuals that hold values that align with yours and have attitudes that can’t be taught. 

You’ve probably heard the saying before: “Hire for Attitude, Train for Skills.” 

When you hire the individual with the best aptitude rather than the individual with the most qualified skill set, you’re more likely to find a successful, long-term match for your business.

A study by Mark Murphy, the founder and CEO of Leadership IQ, revealed that 89% of new hire failures were the result of attitudinal issues. That’s a stat that’s hard to ignore.

How our values inform our attitudes

If your business doesn’t have documented values – whether you just haven’t gotten around to it yet or don’t see it as being of importance for your organisation – I highly recommend you stop here and check out another blog I’ve written – Why Values-Based Businesses Are More Successful.

Seriously. I would absolutely encourage you to spend some time crafting (or recrafting) creative and passion-driven values for your business as these will enable you to identify the behaviours and attitudes that show you an individual’s values align with yours.

Let’s take the value of accountability as an example. 

If this is a value of your business, you’ll want to be able to describe the specific behaviours that show the value is important to an individual (rather than them merely saying so because they think it’s what you want to hear).

A behaviour associated with valuing accountability might be to proactively suggest solutions to problems or minimal complaining – because regardless of how the problem started, the individual understands that they need to be part of the solution. 

Hiring the right values and attitudes

Once you’ve got a strong grasp of your values and the behaviours that flow from them, here’s how to hire someone that fits the bill. 

  1. Write your job advertisement in a way that attracts candidates that are naturally aligned with your values. Write with personality! For example, if your business celebrates quirkiness, write a job advertisement that’s a little less typical – show your personality.
  2. Craft clever interview questions. Make sure you ask specific questions that will allow your candidates to give examples of the behaviours you’re looking for in your business. Going back to the accountability value, you might ask… “tell me about a time, when you saw a problem and what happened next?’ You’re seeking a response that tells you the proactively sought a solution. Not just that they saw the problem and said “oh well… not my issue”.
  3. This one is the icing on top! Don’t just listen to what they say, listen to HOW they say it. Their attitude to the question is key. For example, if you value passion but they fail to inspire excitement in your interview, they’re probably not a match…

If you need a hand crafting your business values or clever interview questions to test the prospective candidate’s alignment to them, I’d love to help. Get in touch with me today.


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