Small Business and Startups: Finding Your Match Mike | July 27th, 2015

Last week I wrote about customer service and the importance of scheduling and allocating your support resources. Lots of small businesses find that they can deliver top-notch, high-volume customer support with very small teams of people as long as they have the correct tool and as long as they pay close attention to the kinds of problems their customers are trying to solve and (just as important) when those customers are trying to get their issues resolved.

But of equal importance to how you apportion resources is in who you hire to do the job. Hiring a great support team is like casting a great movie or finding the perfect match on PlentyOfFish. But anyone who has played the online dating game also understands how much “noise” exists and how challenging it can be to sort through dozens or hundreds of potential matches to find “the one.” Recruiting a new team member is an equal challenge, and this goes for all of your departments, whether support, or technology, or marketing, or sales (and especially at the C-level. There will always be plenty of rejects and plenty of false positives in the game of love and the game of hiring.

The trick in hiring, as in dating, is to find the right match through a combination of careful planning, creative process, clear understanding of who you are as a company and a team, and the willingness to look beyond whether an applicant comes with the required experience, skills, and  qualifications. Here are 6 things you should be thinking about as you begin the search.


1. Who are you?.
As in finding a love-mate, finding a work-mate starts with an understanding of the character of your company and your team. Like people, companies have personalities and experiences that shape who they are. I am talking about what people usually call company “culture.” Start with characterizing your team by applying descriptive adjectives to describe your nature: Heads-down focused? Partiers? Laugh-factory? Buttoned down? Corporate? Innovative? Caring? Wipe the whiteboard clean and make a list because, when your list is finished, you will have a first draft description of the personality you are looking for and a clear grasp of the kind of person who sill fit in successfully.

2. Where do you look?
Where you search for this person is just as important as who you are searching for. There are hundreds of hiring and job posting resources, ranging from professional search firms to online SaaS providers to sites like LinkedIn and all the way down the spectrum to Twitter and Craigslist. Any of these are good options, but when you know exactly who you are stalking for you will get a pretty good idea of where you should be hunting.

3. How do you whistle?
If you’ve ever owned a dog, you know that she will respond to the unique whistle or call you let loose when you want her to come. Same thing with that perfect hire – only instead of whistling your task is to craft the perfect job description. Like any good piece of written content, the description you craft should be aimed at a very specific audience – indeed an “audience of one.” Remember that the person you are speaking to when you post a job listing is the one person you want to hire, and just like that distinctive dog-whistle, that person is out there just waiting to respond when you put your lips together and blow.

4. Look them up and down
So now that you have these perfect applicants knocking on your office door, what’s next? Assess them. Carefully. How did he dress? What’s her smile like? Would you enjoy hanging out? Is he a killer ping-pong player? If you already know what’s important to you to get a good fit, look these people up and down and ask yourself if it is her. Once you have dispensed with the objective points of experience, qualifications, and references, this gets to be pretty subjective and you have to rely on your own judgement as to whether the person in front of you is indeed the “one.”

5. Ask the right questions
Now that you’ve had a chance to look at the candidates, take this opportunity to ask questions that are personality and culturally focused: what do you do for fun? what kinds of books do you like best? movies? what do you do for fun on weekends? These questions can help you to tease out a person’s ‘true’ self and can help you better understand how well he or she will fit in with the team and the company.

6. Set expectations.
This is really important. Your job description should be very clear about the kind of company you are and the type of person you are looking for. Smart applicants will emphasize how well they will fit in on the job and with the team and. as a smart hiring manager, your own expectations about the applicants will be well aligned with your finalists for the job. So take the time to understand who you are and what you are looking for and craft a strong description that emphasizes the cultural aspects as well as the baseline requirements for the job!

Happy hiring!

Macrophoto of two match heads, Wikipedia

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