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Hiring Like A Boss: Asking the Right Questions to Find the Best Fit

interview image 1In last week’s post, I talked about how to start your search for a new team member. Remember, your focus is on narrowing down the resumes you’ll receive so that you can interview the candidates that have the skills and personality that will work best with your existing team. Think of it like this: if you were dating these candidates, would you ask them for a second date? At this point you already know (from their resume) where they went to school and whether or not they have any additional certifications.

That being said, you have to be ready to ask the right questions.

  1. Choose a set of standard interview questions based on your “must haves” and ideal qualities. The entire purpose of the first round of questions is to determine if they have your “must have” requirements. Here are some sample questions:
  • Tell me about your current end of day process. (Must Have=organization skills, work processing).
  • We all work better with some people more than others. If I were to speak with the person that least gets along with you at work, what would they say about you? Tell me about a recent interaction between the two of you (Must Have=team player).

Ask every candidate the same questions and record their answers. A table format like the one here will be the easiest. Note their responses, but also watch their body language. Are they open? Are they listening and communicating well?

2.    As you begin each interview, let the candidate know that “this is not your typical interview.” Prepare them for the process: you have a list of standard questions, they will do most of the talking, and you have 30 minutes together. Let them know that you will bring the top two candidates back for a second interview.

3.  Prepare yourself, as well, for a different sort of interview. We worry about job applicants liking us, worry about what they will think about our business and us as a business owner; to compensate, we tell them about our business, how great it is, how our customers love us. This may sound harsh, but this is not the time for that. The first interview is very much like a first date: its sole purpose is to decide if you want a second date/interview. Get comfortable with silence: don’t feel the need to fill it with your voice. The job applicants will also be uncomfortable with the silence; you will learn a lot about them by how they choose to fill the silence.

4.  At the interview conclusion, let applicants know what to expect; you will bring the top two candidates back for a second interview within the next week, and that you will let all candidates know if they are being invited back.

5.  Again, rate each applicant post-interview as a 1, 2, or 3. Invite the #1s for a second interview. Thank the other candidates for their time, but let them know that they are not the right fit for your organization.

6. The second interviews should run fairly similarly to the first; as close in time to each other as possible, in a set schedule, and with a list of standard questions. You are looking for those ideal qualities, the “extras” that each candidate has to set them apart from the other. The second interview is your chance to tell them more about the organization and its future, although they should have already gotten the basics from their research.

Remember the ultimate goal: you need a team member that will be a vital part of your business or organization. With that in mind, this is not a process that is to be rushed or done haphazardly. Take your time. Really focus on what your business needs, and not necessarily on what you think you should have.

5 Things You Must Do First When Hiring

orange-and-black-help-wanted-sign-e1328943663785My clients are hiring, and if your business is growing you are, too. While employment numbers are improving across the country (this is great news for the general economy), it may also mean it’s more difficult for you to hire your next employee. You may be in a better position to hire, with more available workers than ever, but lack the time and patience to actually “hire”. Sometimes business owners postpone the hiring process because “it’s just such a hassle” or “takes too much time”. One client recently received almost 30 resumes in the 24 hours after posting an opening. Not to worry; I have helped many of these clients hire more quickly, easily and successfully with just a few simple tips that I am going to share here. 

  1. Yes, you need a job description (most often asked question!) but I want you to break it down between the following: 

  • Must Haves. These are skills as well as attributes that a successful candidate absolutely must have. Consider these to be your non-negotiables. Remember, skills can be taught; what will make an employee successful or not in your organization are their values, perspective, and attitude. Business owners are often confused about how much experience to require; decide before you hire if you want someone to hit the ground running and prefer not to do a lot of training, or if you are willing to train your future hire. If you love training and grooming staff, less experience is acceptable. Remember that the more specific you are in your description, the more detailed applicants will be. You still may have applicants apply even if they don’t meet the stated experience requirement, but your specificity will help narrow down who meets the qualification and who does not. 
  • Ideal qualities. These are applicant skills, attributes or personal goals that would make you giddy with excitement. Although this is a personal example, it makes the point: I once hired a babysitter who loved to do errands because that was a skill that I knew would help me, even if it’s not part of the typical job description.  
  1. Your job opening posting placement can make or break your success. Think beyond skills: what kind of person are they? Craigslist.com is a different audience than your local coffee shop and LinkedIn. 

  1. Shift the hiring work load to applicants. The prospect of wading through piles of resumes and cover letters is daunting and has stopped many business owners from hiring anyone or hiring well. They just want the process over. Here’s my favorite trick: require applicants to answer 2-4 questions to send along with their resume. Well-worded questions allow you to determine which applicants are willing to put some quality effort into finding a job and which possess your “must haves”. These questions can be used to assess skills that people may leave off of their resume: are they creative, are they flexible, do they have a sense of humor? Do they look at information with a fresh perspective? Rather than plowing through resumes and cover letters only to possibly find which applicants might be a fit, ask them straight out about the attributes you need. Let me give you a couple of examples: 

  • One business needed an employee who worked well independently and who was willing to dig around when they didn’t know the answer. In the ad, we gave applicants a part description and asked them to find 2 suppliers, the part number, and the price of the part. We weren’t looking for perfection, only looking at their research and deductive reasoning skills. 
  • Another business owner for whom customer service is paramount asked applicants to describe the best customer service they had ever experienced. This let the business owner compare what the applicants described as extreme customer care to his own expectations. 
  1. Rate each applicant a 1, 2, or 3.  

  • 1=must speak to/must interview 
  • 2=acceptable if #1s don’t work out. Need more info to decide if they are a 1 or a 3. 
  • 3=not acceptable. Let them know immediately so you’re not tempted to bring them in. 
  1. Invite your #1 candidates for an interview. Schedule them for 30-40 minutes each, back to back. If they want the job, they will find a way to make it work. At this point, we are still making it easy for you and, to some extent, testing applicants. 

Keep in mind that at this point, your goal is to find the people that you want to interview, only. Do NOT try to make a hiring decision simply on someone’s resume: some people look great “on paper”, but may be a poor fit for your business when you meet them in person. Decide early on what you want, and use this method to filter your applicants. Happy Hunting!

How to Handle Change? Think Like an Employee

Most days, I’m reminding my clients to step into their leadership shoes, their successful entrepreneur shoes, or sometimes their confident small business owner shoes. But this week, I’ve been reminding several business owners to step into employee shoes. That’s right, when it comes to workplace change I want business owners to step into the shoes of their employees.

change4For the most part, employees and business owners just think differently. Chances are that if you’re reading this you wonder what’s next, how you can improve operations; you’re ready to move on to the next thing before the last new idea is complete. The typical employee prefers work to stay the same and when change is introduced some may dig their heels in. You may be lucky to have some employees who embrace change and some who like to perfect current operations before moving on. Either way, when you are introducing change you need to sit in your employees’ shoes and think through how the changes will affect them. Let me give you some examples:

  • A medical practice is bringing on a new practitioner. Other personnel will be wondering not only how this will affect their schedule and work load, but on a deeper level they will wonder “will my boss still have time for me? Will my boss still ask for my opinions, or will he ask the other doctor instead?” Basically, the question they want answered is “will I still be loved?” Be up front that the relationship may change, but let them know how you will still rely on them, and how they will fit in.
  • Another business is promoting an employee into a new managerial position. Before the change is announced to the whole staff, it’s critical that the effect of the promotion on the rest of the team is sorted out. Will they pick up new tasks? Will some of their tasks be given to the manager? Who will they report to? Office real estate is important even in small businesses, so decide if the promotion means a change in office or desk space. Employees will ask how decisions will be made; what they really want to know is “do I still have a say?”. Be up front about how decisions will be made, how input is to be given, how they can still reach you, the business owner, with their thoughts and concerns.

If change is in the works for your business in 2015, sit in your employees’ shoes before spreading the word. As excited as you may be about rolling out the changes, take some time to think about how the change will affect your team in terms of responsibilities, communication, and personal fulfillment.

6 Things to Consider When it Comes to Employee Healthcare

Health InsuranceAs we approach the first anniversary of the Affordable Healthcare Act’s implementation, more and more small business owners are looking at their options for themselves and their employees. Here in New Hampshire, consumers will have more choices and with more choices often comes indecision. If you are looking at healthcare options for your employees and feel confused or indecisive, read on.

  • Healthcare costs can be a significant budget line item especially if you haven’t covered healthcare costs in the past. You wouldn’t be the first small business owner to exclaim, “HOW much is it going to cost me?” While cost is certainly important, start with a broader view and look at it from a philosophical standpoint: do you believe that you have a responsibility to your employees to provide health insurance? What part do you think you should play in your employees’ health?
  • If you’re not sure what your role should be in providing health insurance, consider these statistics: A 2012 monster.com survey revealed that prospective employees consider healthcare as the most important benefit a potential employer could offer. More recently, MetLife’s 2014 annual benefits summary reports that benefits are an important reason that 50% of employees stay at a job.
  • If you’ve decided that you want to pay for some part of your employees’ healthcare costs, start by contacting an experienced benefits agent. The ACA healthcare environment is confusing; rather than trying to navigate alone and potentially making a costly mistake find someone who has been in the market for years and stays current in the market. These agents are paid through fees from the insurance companies, not by you. They are knowledgeable about options as well as what your competitors are offering.
  • Healthcare coverage can vary by employee class, allowing you to provide a higher level benefit to owners or based upon position. For example, one client is offering three levels; owner, professional staff, and hourly staff.
  • Healthcare is costly and if you haven’t been offering any coverage, adding the cost can be overwhelming. Look at the cost as a percentage of revenue, in addition to actual dollars. Costs relative to your revenue can be enlightening (both good and bad!).
  • If you choose to offer healthcare, education is key for everyone involved. Your employees are probably confused about the new healthcare market and will soak up any information available to them. Rely on your agent to provide this (discuss their employee education plan up front).

More and more small business owners are looking at healthcare options not only for their own family but also for their employees. If you are one of those entrepreneurs, start the decision making process by considering your values – they will never steer you wrong. If you decide to look into your options, save yourself from confusion and overwhelm and get help from an expert.

How to Get Your Employees to Walk Off Their Job for You

New England has been watching a family feud better than any “reality” show could dream up; after years of imagejpeg_0in-fighting, Arthur T. DeMoulas was fired in June as CEO of Market Basket, a grocery store chain with 71 stores and 25,000 employees, by his cousin-led board of directors. What has happened since then will be the subject of management classes for years. Here is a sampling:

  • Employees have held rallies at company headquarters, the latest with estimates of between 6,000 and 15,000 attending, protesting “Artie T”’s firing and demanding his reinstatement. Customers have joined the rallies wholeheartedly.
  • Some store managers have signed a petition stating that they would resign if their boss was not reinstated or if the company was sold to an outside buyer.
  • As I write this, the Save Market Basket Facebook page, in support of Arthur T., has almost 76,000 Likes. The Page started on July 12, 2013.
  • Warehouses are full, as warehouse employees have refused to show up for work.
  • Store parking lots are virtually empty, as loyal customers support the employees and Artie T.

As I listen to the ongoing saga every day and listen to the impact on virtually every grocery store customer in New England, I wonder about a boss so well-loved that employees across all levels, departments, and locations would walk away from their job.

  1. Arthur T. was known for treating employees, who are not unionized, very well, with good benefits, above-average pay and an employee retirement fund. Well, there are other companies who pay their employees well.
  2. One protesting employee remarked about Artie T’s business skills and said that profits doubled during his eight-year tenure as CEO. Again, there are many companies who have grown profits.
  3. Artie T. created a vision for the company: The customer comes first. Market Basket is known for fresh products, low prices and high levels of customer service, fulfilling that vision in every store. Thankfully, there are examples of fabulous customer service in virtually every industry so again, I ask, what would make employees walk away from their job, some held for decades, to support an ousted CEO?

The answer, it seems to me, is something every single business owner has the opportunity to give and to be: employees repeatedly say that Artie T cares. He remembers family member names, he asks how the kids are doing in school (and he remembers the school names, too); he attends employees’ family weddings and funerals; he congratulates team members for their accomplishments, able to cite specifics; he celebrates in store openings, talking with employees and customers and shaking hands, seemingly more happy to be in a store rather than an office. Employees mention their former CEO’s integrity, approachability, and generosity.

Arthur T. has shown employees how he wants customers treated by the way he has treated employees – with care.

Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.