Employees can make or break a small business, particularly one with just a handful of workers to perform the tasks necessary to the business’ success. Unlike larger businesses that can absorb a certain amount of “deadwood,” every employee of your small business needs to be a contributing, vital member of the enterprise.
The best way to ensure you have great employees lies in the hiring process. Finding out an employee may not be suited for your business can sometimes take weeks or even months to discover, and in some cases, it could take you months to make the appropriate change because of legal or moral issues. By making sure you hire the right people, you save yourself and people who just aren’t a good fit for your business a lot of trouble.
While there’s certainly red flags that should put you off hiring a person, there are also quite a few indicators that can be used to identify a potentially great employee. Here are a few green flags for prospective employees:
1. Resume. A potential employee’s resume is his or her first opportunity to communicate with you, and an employer can learn a lot about about a job candidate just from his or her presentation on the resume. Is the resume well-organized and easy to read? Are good spelling and grammar used? These may seem like nit-picky items, but an employee who pays close attention to his or her resume is more likely to pay close attention to the important details you assign on the job.
2. Experience. A job candidate who is experienced in the work you’re hiring for has big advantages over less experienced candidates. The experienced candidate will likely require less training and supervision than a less experienced candidate and may be able to help fill gaps in your knowledge if you’re a first-time entrepreneur. In fact, it’s recommended that first-time business owners hire well-seasoned workers in the field in which they’ve started a business to help sherpa them through the early stages.
3. Education. Formal training in a job field is a plus, especially when it’s training specific to the job field you need to fill. Candidates with formal education have important practical training and a grounding in the theory that helps them think through problems rather than just being good at a few narrowly defined tasks.
4. References. Always be sure to check an employees references. You can tell a lot about an employee by what former associates and employers have to say about them. Also consider who they list as references. If an employee only lists co-workers and not managers, this may be a problem.
6. Stable employment history. If an employee has bounced around from job to job, chances are that he or she won’t stick around long at your business, either. Unless you’re in a business where high turnover is common or desired, you may want to find someone more willing to go the long haul.
7. Letters of recommendation. If someone took the time to sit down and write a letter of recommendation for a job candidate, chances are you’re looking at a good employee. In today’s busy business climate, time is at a premium. An executive or community leader making the time to recommend a former employee or business associate is a major statement of confidence.
8. Appearance. If an employee presents a clean and neat appearance at an interview, there’s an excellent chance that the employee will present the same respect and attention to detail to your business. Image is a big part of business, and employees who understand this make excellent representatives of your company to the public.
9. Membership in professional or trade organizations. Job candidates who are members of professional or trade organizations show a devotion to their careers and craft that mark them as a cut above average job candidates. Many professional organizations are invite-only groups, so your prospective job candidate has likely already had to meet some pretty stringent requirements. If your prospective employee is an officer in a trade organization or professional group, that shows further personal and professional acumen.
10. Your gut feeling. If you strongly feel that an employee is a good fit for your company, go with that gut feeling as long as there’s no major red flags. Your intuitive thought process may have picked up on something your conscious mind did not.
When hiring employees, remember to be mindful of federal employment laws, and avoid asking questions about race, creed, nationality or other protected status. There’s enough job-related material you can use to evaluate prospective employees without running afoul of the law.