When I had my first company, we ran on a shoestring budget for everything, including hiring others. Worried about running out of money, we always went the cheap route and hired people right out of college or even still in college. We offered internships and not just to students but to professionals who were in career transition and wanted to learn on the job. Their pay was hands-on experience with a high profile Internet company as well as projects they could reference on their resume or in their portfolio.
The downside of “cheap labor” was not immediately apparent, but as we began to grow - and grow quickly - we suddenly found ourselves with a dozen doers and no managers. As we tried to step away from day-to-day management, there was no one to hand over the reins to with the skills needed to do the job. Suddenly we were bottom heavy in personnel, and it dragged down our growth until we were able to bring on more management-quality staff. Sure, they cost a pretty penny, but we had to stop pinching those pennies hoping to save on the front end and realize that we needed to invest in our company longer term.
These days, with a new startup consuming my days, I feel that same fear of running out of money and not being able to pay people. I’ve given up my own salary on occasion just to make sure ends were met although now that I have a business partner who can crunch the numbers, that hasn’t happened since she’s been on board. Still, the temptation to hire fast and cheap creeps up when I least expect it.
So here are the things I remind myself each time we need to hire someone new:
1. Hire smarter. A mentor once gave me advice to hire people who are smarter than I am. This doesn’t mean check your local Mensa for your next hires. Hire people with more experience than you and they challenge you and can teach you a thing or two. And that’s a good thing.
2. Hire stronger. Identify the areas in business where you are weaker and hire people who are strong in those areas. So what if they can run circles around you in sales? That’s the point of hiring them - so you can trust them enough to know you can let go of sales and they can run with it.
3. Hire wiser. While I’m a firm believer in hiring people of diverse ages, the tendency is often to hire “people like me,” particularly in the same age bracket or often younger. Being younger than the people you oversee can seem like a daunting challenge, however, don’t overlook more mature candidates. They often have the professionalism to be just fine working for a younger boss and can offer you great advice from years in business.
4. Hire variety. Sometimes, you just have to make the extra effort to hire with diversity in mind, not because you harbor any prejudices at all, but we tend to hire from our own social and professional circles and even advertise open positions in forums that may not be that diverse. Diversity in your staff is a good thing. I look at the team my own company is putting together and a voice inside my head still says “we’re too white.” Before we hired our first male, we were “too estrogen.” Again, nothing wrong with that, but since hiring our first male, we have that yang to our yin which makes for a much more balanced company dynamic. Reaching out beyond our own circles is key to tapping into a more diverse workforce.
What are some of your tips for hiring the best person for the job, and not just because they have the right skills on paper?