Hiring when you’re a small business owner without an HR person is different than when you have an HR department walking you through the process. Speaking from my own experience, when I hired people at Macy’s, all I had to do was interview the candidates (mostly internal) HR sent my way; when I became a business owner in 2014, I had to start from the very beginning of the process. As a client-friend recently asked me for help with hiring, here is the 12-step hiring process I’ve come to use in hopes it will be helpful to her and you.
- Brainstorm all the tasks you need someone to do. If you’d like some help brainstorming on tasks, search online for “ABC Job Description” with “ABC” being the types of jobs you think most closely match the position you need to be filled.
[Note: If you find a job description that articulates exactly what you need, skip to step three. You can also use this research to help you benchmark the salary/wages expected for this type of position in your area].
- Write a job description and make sure you’re ready to pay for what you are seeking. Prioritize these tasks and then write them into a job description. Once you have a written list of tasks, you can put that into an AI writing tool and have a job description created for you.
After your job description (including any qualifications you are requesting) is written, take a look at job sites to estimate what the current market rate in your area is for such a person. If you are not willing or able to pay close to the current market rate for those skills, services, experience, and qualifications, something needs to change. You either need to lower the qualifications and requirements you are seeking or secure some outside financing to cover the difference.
- Consider having a few online tests be a part of the application process. This will save you time as it will help you screen out candidates and also discourage any not serious about the position from applying. These tests may include aptitude tests, personality assessments, or skill tests.
A few personality assessment tests we have found helpful:
- Share the job description, along with any minimum application requirements (e.g., education, experience, etc.). First share it with people in your personal network, and then through other channels. Be sure any applying know exactly what they need to submit by when and to whom.
- Do a FIRST screening of any candidates by reviewing their assessments and resumes. If you have an administrator who can help you, let them know the minimum requirements so they can first review all incoming applications. Have them only pass along viable ones to you. Ask them to prioritize applications in the order of their potential fit with the position.
The key questions you are asking yourself during the screening process are:
- Do they seem trustworthy?
- Do they have a proven track record of reliability?
- Have they any experience doing the tasks that you need?
- Does the data indicate they have the potential to successfully do what you need?
- Do a SECOND digital screening of any who passed the first one. Research the digital footprint of any potential candidates next. Do this to verify who they are and to gain a more holistic picture of them. If you have an administrator who can help you, ask them to “act as a digital detective” and find at least 5-7 additional public data points on the candidate.
A few places you can look for this include:
- Linked-in (i.e., review their work history, recommendations, etc.)
- Social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
- Blogs or articles the person has written or is mentioned in
- Whitepages or other similar resources
- Invite any who seem qualified for an online or in-person interview. After you have shortlisted candidates based on the first two screenings, then conduct initial phone or video interviews. Ask for permission to record the interview (so you can show it to others for feedback). Be sure to take notes during the conversation as you continually ask yourself whether this person is a good fit for the role.
The key questions you ask during this stage are probing for their:
- Experience level and knowledge
- Communication skills and professional demeanor
- Cultural and values fit with you and your team
- Alignment between their personal goals and the position you want to fill
- See if anyone in your organization has any input or advice about their candidacy. It’s important to consider all available information when making your decision.
- Do a THIRD final screening, checking references and any new information received during the interview. Contact previous employers, colleagues, or other references to validate the candidate’s claims.
This last check is to further inform your intuition about their trustworthiness. Finding someone you can trust is the number one requirement for any small business owner. If your intuition doesn’t feel right about something, pause with this person and consider other candidates. If they seem to be the best candidate, talk with advisors until you can articulate what is not sitting right with you. I
In the end, you need to be able to trust this person. If you can trust them and they are smart enough to learn how to do the job, they will probably work out fine.
- Sleep on your decision and share it with your spouse or trusted advisors. Let your body and mind sit with your tentative hiring decision for 24 hours before acting further. If you are a person of faith, let God know what you are thinking and ask Him to warn you, your spouse, or your advisors if this is a bad decision. Ask Him if there is anything else you should ask or consider before you offer this position to the candidate in mind.
- Offer the job and negotiate salary. There are many negotiation tools out there to use to prepare for this step. IFORESAWIT is the most usable thorough negotiation framework we know of. The most important part of the negotiation is preparation (e.g., understanding the current market rates, the candidates’ wage expectations and past salary history, etc.).
- Articulate clear expectations (e.g., SMART goals) and timelines. Make sure everything is in writing so that you can both maintain a win-win relationship with clear expectations. Go do something fun for yourself or your family to celebrate getting through this challenging process!
Hiring without an HR department can be a daunting task, but following a structured process can make it a manageable and successful endeavor. While the 12 steps shared above may initially feel like a lot, being thorough and rigorous upfront can save you a ton of headaches later on. As any small business owner who has been burned by a dishonest, incompetent, or ill-fitted employee can tell you, hiring the right trustworthy person for the right position makes all the difference in the world.
In the words of American entrepreneur Jim Roan, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” And when it involves a bad hire, those tons are heavy indeed. Our team wishes you the best of success in your hiring. May you experience much success today.
Ps. A colleague of ours recommended https://trainual.com for creating operations manuals, etc. We have not tried it yet (as of 2023 July) but wanted to pass it along just in case it helps