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Owning a business: Hiring people

Updated on November 4, 2014

Hiring people for the first time can be tricky. Follow these advice to help you through the experience.


As someone with several business ventures behind me, I have many times found myself in recruitment interviews, both as employer and possible employee.

Many people don't realize that it is as hard for the employer as it is for the employee and that it's only experience that makes it look less trying for the employer. If you are employing for the first time, you won't have that experience. There are a few things you should think about when you are interviewing someone for a position in your company.

Be Professional

There is nothing wrong with being friendly with potential employees, but remember that the person you meet today will either see you as a boss tomorrow, or most probably never see you again.

If you have one position open, you will more than likely get 100 applications and you'll most probably select 5-10 of these to interview. Both you and them know that the odds are against them when they come for that interview. What they expect is someone to lead them through the interview, to show them what the company is about and display a certain professionalism. Being too friendly may put them off your company and it will make it a lot harder for you to detach yourself emotionally when you have to tell them that they didn't get the position.

Take Notes

Eye contact is very important. It shows your intentions and keeps your eyes focused on the face of the person you are interviewing. You will get a lot better answers from the involuntary facial expressions than the actual words coming out of the interviewees mouth.

If you have just asked about a vital skill and the words come out confident, saying "Yes, I know about that", but the face look a bit quizzical, you can follow up with a short explanation. If the facial expression changes to a more calm look, then you'll know the person knows what you're talking about.

With that said, it is also important that you take notes, because after interviewing 4 people in an hour, the faces and words will start to blend together. Therefore it is important that you learn the art of writing without looking.

You don't really need your eyes to write, that is just a comfort thing. Nobody else is going to use your notes, so it doesn't matter if it doesn't look too nicely written. You will still understand what it says, even if it's written in a squiggly line all over the paper. You only need a quick glance once in a while to make sure you're not writing over something you've already written.


Don't be afraid to ask for more

Did you miss a question at the interview? Maybe you are uncertain if the person can do something. There is no harm in contacting the applicant and ask for additional details over the phone. In fact, this may jog their memory as well and they might mention something they missed as well.

You can't always get what you want, but you can get what you need

It is very rare to get an applicant that fits everything you want. Even more so if you include all those things you couldn't write in the ad (such as personality, fashion sense, attitude or dialect).

It can be easy to overlook someone who doesn't seem to fit the role at first, but after some careful consideration, you might see them in another light. Is that skill they lack something they can learn while working? Is that attitude something that will get in the way of their work? Is the applicant willing to use that first paycheck to buy that suit you wanted them to have?

It is likewise easy to overpraise someone who gets along with you well. They seemed nice and all, but did they really have that important skill? The suit looks nice, but are they right for the job?

Don't make the decision the day of the interview. Save your notes, read them through carefully the next day and compare to the list of needs. If you don't have anyone who fits all needs, who fits most of them? Is that enough? If more than one person has as many things right, you might need to prioritise the items on your list. What do you need the most of the things presented?

Samples are free

You can ask the applicant for a sample of their work. If the position is more physical, like workshop attendants or store attendants, you can ask them to do a free trial day to evaluate them better.

Most of the time, it is much easier to see what someone can do by seeing an example of their work, rather than hearing them talk about what they can do. A lot of the times, the applicant might not know what to highlight among everything they can do, but with a work sample, you will see right away if they have the necessary skills. You might even see things you didn't even think about asking for.

Reply to all applicants

There are few more devastating things than to get a denied application. Something that can ease the pain for the failed applicant could be if they feel they were really under consideration.

Many employers feel uncomfortable with saying "I'm sorry, you didn't get the position", so they simply don't. This is the worst thing you can do, because you will keep the applicant's hope up and often keep them from applying for other jobs.

You don't need to phone them, often times an email or a letter is enough. It may feel a bit less personal, but surprisingly few employers take the time to even do that. It will be appreciated by the applicant to know for sure that they didn't get the position.

"Don't call us, we'll call you" never works

This is closely related to the last point. You sit there at the interview and think that it would be easier for everyone involved if you call them instead of them calling you. That way you'll be sure you have time to talk.

The problem is that even though you write it up, chances are that you will forget at least some of the applicants. It's better to tell them to call you up in a week, in case you forget. This is also a great excuse to hand over your business card, which will increase the exposure of your company, but that's something for another article.

A learning experience

The most important thing to remember is that this is a learning experience for you as well. Every interview you make will bring something new to the table. You will get ideas on how to improve your own techniques and what to ask for next time.

In the beginning, it could be a good thing to contact the first few applicants again and use some of the things you've learned along the way. Who knows, maybe the right applicant was there from the start?

© 2014 Chris Carlsson


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