Small Business Hiring: How to Hire People You Don’t Know Personally

By Alzay Calhoun

Edited Video Transcript:

You’re only going to get so far hiring friends, family, and people in your intimate network. At some point you’re going to have to hire people that you don’t know personally, and that can be a bit scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s talk about that in today’s video. Hey, it’s Alzay Calhoun with Coveted Consultant, and this video series is focused on giving leaders the tools to build best-in-class companies. There’s no way you’re going to be able to build the best-in-class company if you are chasing tasks every day. The transition here is all about moving from chief firefighter into chief executive.

Today’s video is specifically about hiring, and hiring is one of those things that can give us the itchies, because it’s this long, drawn out process. You got to get all these resumes, and CVs, and portfolios. Then you got to sift through all of ’em to figure out who you want to talk to. Then you got to talk to these people and interview ’em. You don’t know them well. They don’t know you well. You’re not quite really sure if you can trust them or not. The whole thing just feels strange.

Do you need to hire someone?

Download this job description to help you choose someone with the right character and skillset.

Download the Guide

Then you finally hire somebody and they don’t work, and then you get frustrated at the whole process, and you definitely don’t want to do it again. The core breakdown here is that you need people to help build the business, but if you’re uncomfortable or just not good at that process, then you end up with this strategic conflict. You need people, but you don’t hire ’em. You need people, you don’t hire ’em. We’ve got to break that. Let’s start breaking that right now.

Let’s talk about this leader to leader, and make sure that our thinking is clear about this. First of all, hiring is not a one-off task. It’s not this other thing that you do every now and again and kind of survive your way through it. Remember, your job as a leader is to maintain the health of the critical path, client acquisition, client service, client retention. The people that you hire support that function, and so if you want high-functioning, critical path you’ve got to hire high-functioning people. Hiring is not a one-off task. It is paramount in your job to maintain the health of that critical path.

Secondly, you are not looking for the perfect candidate, because there are no perfect people. Leaders can make this mistake of creating this job description that is miles long with all of these things you have to do, and things you have to be, and things you have to know, and the truth is you’ll never find anybody that matches that whole description. Here’s a better word. You’re not looking for the perfect candidate, you’re looking for an excellent candidate. Let’s talk about what excellence means right now.

Here’s a simple framework for how to think about excellent candidates. You want minimum aptitude, maximum character. Minimum aptitude, maximum character. In minimum aptitude, there’s some basic skills that they need to have to be successful. If there’s a certain background they need to have, educational background, then they should be able to speak the language, speak the jargon. There’s some vocabulary that you can kind of test them with and see how well-versed they are about that.

If they need to have a certain body of work, well then have them bring a portfolio. They can show you what they’ve done in the past so you can see what they produce. If they need to be able to navigate a certain software, then create a little workshop situation where they show you how to get from A to B in the software, or how to create certain things inside the software. That’s minimum aptitude. They are showing you that a base level they know how to do the tasks that need to be done.

Maximum character. What are we talking about here? Bottom line, you want to be sure that you’re hiring a real human being. You want to be able to have a conversation with this person. You also want to be sure that when you explain what you need, they can process that themselves and then give it back to you in their own language. You want to be sure that they care enough to listen to what it is that you have to share with them. You also want to be sure that they can show up on time and show up on time prepared. As you have your series of interviews, as you have your series of conversations, ask them. Say, “Hey, the next time we talk, prepare your thoughts on X for me. I want to hear those,” or, “Show me a document that outlines why,” and just ask them. These are people who want to go above and beyond, and so this is a chance for them to go above and beyond. They’ll show you the character that they have.

You also want to be sure that they’ll show you their responsibility, that they know that they are responsible for what happens in their world, and they’ll tell you about that as you have your series of conversations, or you can ask specific questions that dig into their level of responsibility. Pro tip is to see their understanding of how their effort leads to success. What I have found is that people typically have had success either athletically, academically, or in the arts, music, art, singing, painting, something of that nature. Just ask where they’ve had success.

What you’re listening for is not whether they’re gifted or naturally talented, because in that space success comes easy. You’re after a situation where they didn’t do so well up front, and they had to apply some elbow grease to get to that next level of success, because you want them to know very clearly that in your environment the same thing is appropriate. There are some things that they’re going to try that aren’t going to be so easy, and they’re going to have to apply some elbow grease to get success. You don’t want to have to prove that to them or inspire them to behave this way. You want them to bring this level of character with them into the job.

Remember, what you’re after here is an excellent candidate, an excellent employee, and so you need minimum aptitude, because you can always train for aptitude. You can bring in an expert. You can purchase some training. You can send somebody to a conference. You can train aptitude, but character is so much more difficult to train, and frankly, you don’t want to be in the character training business. This is a better outline for how to find excellent candidates.

Now, what’s your next step? How do you feel about this minimum aptitude, maximum character framework? Does that work for you? If it does or if doesn’t, let me know in the comments below. We can use it as a place for some conversation. If you’re already on the blog, you can scroll down a bit, and I’ve created a sample job description that would begin this minimum aptitude, maximum character type of conversation. That’s all for today. Please put a comment in the box below. Download that resource if it’s a good one for you, and I look forward to seeing you in the next video.

Do you need to hire someone?

Download this job description to help you choose someone with the right character and skillset.

Download the Guide
Real Time Analytics