4 Ways Not to Hire: A Guide for New Business Owners

Hiring — it's tough. But it's arguably the most important thing you'll have to do to get your new business off the ground.

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Hiring — it's tough. But it's arguably the most important thing you'll have to do to get your new business off the ground.

Knowing what to hire for is fairly easy: You hire someone who can do the tasks of the role that needs to be filled. So, what does this candidate look like? I find that new business owners tend to get caught up in the minutia of the hiring process. And, as someone who was once a small business owner myself, I can speak from experience.

Here are my four suggestions on what to avoid next time you're looking for a new member of the team.

Hire for Your Needs, Not Your Dreams

The No. 1 problem with hiring is that new business owners often hire for the business that they want, not the business that they have. It's great to have aspirations, but you should probably confine them to elements of your business that don't cost you a lot of money.

My advice here is to hire by need. What are the main tasks that are either essential to producing your product or essential to keeping the office running smoothly? Evaluate how much you can do yourself and take on those tasks until you generate enough profit to hire a more robust staff.

You can always scale your operations up, but it's embarrassing and can be bad for business to have to scale your operations down because you hired beyond your means.

Stop Looking for 'Unicorns'—They Likely Don't Exist

"Unicorn" is not a term I made up. I actually just heard the term for the first time during a panel I was recently on. But I think it perfectly defines the kind of employee that most new business owners seem to be looking for: a fictional one. They want an employee with diverse experience, a niche skillset, charisma, the ability to easily adapt to new skills, and leadership potential, who is a natural team player and will also bring them coffee without needing to be asked.

Now, there are a few reasons why you should dial down your expectations when it comes to hiring. If you begin the hiring process looking for someone who checks every box (even the boxes you didn't know about), you're bound to end up disappointed. Because, as I said, there is no such person.

What's more likely is that you'll hire a perfectly suitable candidate who has the ability to perform well, but because they don't fit the unachievable unicorn profile you were looking for, you'll end up placing unreasonable expectations on them. This could cause them to quit.

Avoid Specialists

As a new business owner, do you really need a specialist? Can you really afford a specialist? What does specialist even mean?

Here's a secret I'll let you in on: When you give a great employee the right learning opportunities, they can become a specialist in whatever area you want them to. Create your own specialists if you need them because anyone who labels themself as a specialist is going to come with a specialist's pricetag. When you empower your own employees to learn as much as they can, you get not only a specialist but someone who has adaptability in other areas and can still perform a wide array of duties while you're getting your business off the ground.

Don't Get Hung up on Prior Experience

One thing I think almost every job listing gets wrong is listing a set amount of years for the required job experience. The lowest bar for prior experience that most job descriptions set is three to five years, but is there really a difference between two years of experience and three years? All this does is chase away and discourage applicants who are still perfectly qualified but don't meet your arbitrary number.

You do not need three to five years of prior experience to be an account manager. You need people skills, good time management and admiration for processes. And those can come from anywhere. From my perspective, there's no reason that a general manager for a retail store couldn't make a good accounts person or a recent grad with a PR degree couldn't be a copywriter. Hire based on potential, not arbitrary numbers that other Indeed listings put in their job descriptions.

Hiring is the most important part of building your business. Hiring the wrong people, or too many people, could easily sink the ship before it gets too far from the dock.

You know what tasks you need new employees to fulfill — but don't hire solely on the ability to perform tasks or arbitrary factors like years of experience, and certainly don't let your expectations of the perfect candidate prevent you from hiring the right one. Hire based on attitude, adaptability, willingness to learn and passion and you'll find that you built the right team.

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