Our company is in the fortunate position of growing at a significant rate. We have more than doubled in size in the past year and anticipate the same rate of growth over the next year. Not a day goes by when we don't have at least one candidate in the office seeking out a job in one of our many departments.
For an entrepreneurial company, few decisions are more important than hiring decisions. Every hire is an investment in money, time and effort. A single bad hire can result in a significant setback to a business. A great hire, on the other hand, can be a godsend to a small business.
No employer has a perfect record when it comes to hiring. There will always be candidates that seem like a perfect fit and then turn out to be duds… or worse.
At Blue Fountain Media, we've been fortunate enough to make some tremendous hires, but we've also had our share of mistakes. Over the years, though, we've gotten much better at identifying individuals both with the talents we are looking for and the personal qualities we seek in our team members. Here's how we do it:
The Job Description
Some job descriptions are written like a kid's list for Santa. They ask for the impossible and hope someone responds who has half the skills listed in the job description. We have found that it is much smarter to take the time to focus on exactly what you'd need from the position and lay it out clearly.
If you are an entrepreneurial company where everyone wears many hats, make sure you emphasize that in the job description. A lot of people aren't cut out for working in small, hectic workplaces and you don't want to be stuck with someone who can't handle the pressure.
Writing a clear job description also helps you to focus on exactly what skills you need to add to take your team to the next level.
Reading the Resume
I have found you can learn a lot from a resume. More often than not, a resume will have at least one significant red flag. Make sure you pay attention.
- Typos, Grammatical Errors, and Terrible Writing Skills: It all goes back to discipline. If you can't take the time to do things right, then don't waste my time by sending me your resume. Since I need the members of my department to have excellent writing skills, I always make a major point of this in the job descriptions I write. You'd be amazed how many people who can't put together two coherent sentences profess to want to be communications or content specialists. The worst instance of this- and I'm not making this up- was a guy who misspelled his own name in his logo!
- Ignoring the Job Description: A job description is not a wish list. It is a specific blueprint for the person we feel will be suited to the position. When I say "minimum four years communications experience," that does not mean four years of texting your friends in college. It means working in the communications field for four years!
- Self Aggrandizement: When you are applying for a very junior position, don't call yourself an "expert," unless you can prove your expertise immediately and convincingly. If you interned at a large company, don't tell me how you "coordinated the project" you were working on. I really don't mind that you did grunt work- that's what interns do.
- Liars: This may seem like a no-brainer, but misrepresenting your background can come back and bite you in the butt. I routinely do Google searches on job candidates and I can't tell you how often information on the web contradicts information on a resume or in a cover letter.
Social Media Inventory
In this day and age, an employer who fails to check out a candidate's social media presence is making a huge mistake. How a person presents themselves in social media can tell you an enormous amount in relation to what kind of employee they would be. Positives include a network of close friends, creativity, writing ability and humor. The negatives, of course, can range from clear substance issues to a dramatic lack of judgment.
Also, social media pages can help verify or put into question information contained on an applicant's resume.
Don't waste your time interviewing dozens of candidates for a job. If you've reviewed the resumes carefully and done your social media homework, you should be able to narrow the search down to a handful of seemingly qualified applicants.
Once I see a candidate face to face, I'm looking for the intangibles. I try to see how quick they are on their feet, how much preparation they've done for the interview and how excited they are to be there. You are not looking for your next best friend, but you are looking for someone you will enjoy working with for a long, long time.
A candidate who has only the sketchiest idea of what your company does is someone who is either a fool, interviewing at dozens of places or simply has no interest in the job. We have a website that gives great detail on our people, our services and clients. If a candidate can't take an hour to carefully review our website in anticipation for an interview, then that person is likely to be sloppy or careless in doing
Another great "test" of a candidate is to go through the resume and ask about specific results. Anyone can tell you that they are a great marketer or salesperson, but I want to hear them tell me about a project they were involved in, what they contributed to the project and what the specific outcomes were.
Even if a candidate is right out of school, I ask them to tell me what you attempted and what the results were:
"I wrote an article in the college newspaper about waste in the dining halls and a new program was implemented…"
"I organized a fund raising event for my fraternity and due to my efforts (with specifics) we raised $12,000 for…"
"While in college I started a web design business and was able to pay my tuition for junior and senior year…"
Every hiring decision you make will either advance your business or damage it. Failing to take the hiring process seriously is one of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make. When you hire someone, you are putting a piece of your business into their hands. So do it right!
Jon Gelberg is the Chief Content Officer at Blue Fountain Media, where he oversees a wide range of content initiatives including Blue Fountain Media's "Business Learning Center." Read more about Jon here.