How to Spot Job Candidates Who Can Grow Your Business

by Stephanie Taylor Christensen on January 31, 2014
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Costs associated with employees are among the biggest expenses you may bear as a small-business owner — and there’s no guarantee you’ll get a return on your investment from them.

So, when hiring, how do you figure out which candidates will be able to grow your operation? Here’s a short list of questions to ask yourself about potential employees before you extend any job offers.

1. Do they see — and support — your vision? Lea McLeod, founder of the Job Success Lab, says hiring candidates who can get behind your vision for the business is key to your long-term success. To help determine whether their interests align with your products or services and objectives, ask applicants about their hobbies, passions, and personal goals.

Of course, that means you’ll first need to clearly articulate your company’s purpose and goals. “For example,” McLeod says, “when I wanted to expand the email marketing side of my business, I knew that I was not the one to work through the science of auto-responders and follow-up sequences. I needed to hire someone who was.”

2. Can they adapt to business demands? You may be thrilled to receive a resume from a former Google intern or an Ivy Leaguer. But “pedigree” isn’t indicative of a person’s ability to thrive at a rapidly evolving small business. “If you hire talent who only wants to do one thing all the time, and only that thing, you may lose the agility you need to support key initiatives, like a product launch or a major event,” McLeod warns.

How do you tell whether a candidate can be flexible and versatile on the job? Get creative with your hiring process, suggests Melanie Young, founder and president of The Connected Table. After a string of experiences in which employees with impressive resumes failed to live up to her expectations, Young found success in “test-driving” candidates. “I now assume most resumes are hyped,” she says. “I tend to hire people on a trial-by-fire basis to make sure they can keep up [with] the pace in my business.”

3. What makes them tick? Resumes, references, and formal background checks can help you vet candidates to some extent. But Chris Dyer, founder and CEO of PeopleG2, thinks that a candidate’s character should trump his or her skills and persona on paper. “Usually a person with the perfect amount of experience and skills for the job is out of reach, salary-wise, for a small-business owner. Hiring highly motivated, high-character people who will work really hard is the next best thing,” he says.

To get a sense of how a candidate’s personality meshes with your company’s culture, Dyer suggests the DiSC (dominance, influence, steadiness, conscientiousness) assessment tool. For core skills assessment, McLeod recommends StrengthsFinder 2.0. “The greatest talent in the world will be an effort to manage if they don’t fit in or complement the skills you already have,” McLeod says.

4. Does their approach differ from yours? Yes, you want employees who will support your objectives and who possess the skills you need. But their ability to challenge the status quo and effect positive change can also benefit your business.

To find such candidates, McLeod urges small-business owners to consider recent college graduates. “They are smart, move fast, and most are willing to learn. Additionally, they may have great ideas about making processes simpler, faster, and more efficient — making up in perspective what they lack in deep experience,” she says.

Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer who brings more than a decade of experience in marketing and writing to her career as a full-time freelance writer and small business owner.

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