Seven Attributes to Look For When Hiring Small Business Employees

In a perfect world, all small business employees will come to the job with applicable prior experience and vast education in their field. However, small business owners who need to watch their budgets can’t always afford to populate all available positions with Harvard graduates.

You often need to count on new hires who have never performed the tasks that you hired them for. And, as a small business owner, you probably know that you will need employees who are willing and able to take on responsibilities that fall outside of their job descriptions from time to time. If you know the traits to look for when searching for candidates, you can find employees whose core personality traits deliver greater value than prior skills.

Small Business Hiring Tips

Some Traits Do Not Appear on Most Resumes

Granted, if your small business is a medical office, you need to hire employees with all appropriate medical degrees and certifications. However, even in that case, the degrees are not absolutely necessary when hiring office staff. But, any small business needs employees with some type of aptitude, which is revealed more during a well-crafted interview than on the resume. During the interview, ask questions that reveal the following traits:

  • #1. Raw intelligence: Many people assert that really smart people lack common sense. This, of course, is not true, but book learning does not guarantee an abundance of common sense, either. Ask some problem-solving questions to see if candidates show the ability to collect the facts needed to make decisions and solve problems — and if they know when to ask for guidance.
  • #2. Creativity: Do candidates show an ability to find better ways to do things and solve problems through unconventional thinking? The phrase, thinking outside of the box is probably overused at this point, but it refers to the type of creativity that comes in handy for small business operations. Yes, you definitely have to repair broken equipment, but the candidate who will get you through the day with duct tape or a rubber band (without hurting anyone, of course), might be an asset to your business.
  • #3. Enthusiasm: Some candidates answer your questions with appropriate detail; the enthusiastic ones show excitement and interest in the questions and often ask questions of their own. The enthusiastic applicant is more likely to say, “Wow! I’ve always wanted to learn to work with tools!” rather than “I’m sure I could learn that.”
  • #4. Curiosity: If you hope to hire a person who can grow with the business, look for someone who is curious about the underlying principles of the job. You can certainly use someone who understands that the job opening involves gathering widget parts. But, the candidate who asks what happens after the parts are gathered is more likely to perform other jobs in a pinch or become your second-in-command someday.
  • #5. Good communication skills: We’re talking about two-way communication skills here. The chances are that you will recognize a potential issue when candidates mumble or don’t seem to have the words to express themselves clearly. But, don’t forget that they need to understand you, too. If you frequently have to re-phrase questions because they don’t answer the questions that you ask, then this communications mismatch might be very frustrating for everyone on the job. Unless you are filling a position that involves writing, then written skills are only nice to have. Social media has taken a toll on details like spelling and punctuation, so you might have to work on these skills after the hire if you need them.
  • #6. A strong sense of purpose: If you want to make interviewees uncomfortable, ask them where they want to be in ten years. That said, candidates who show that they have personal goals understand the concept of company missions as well. Encourage them to express their interests to find candidates who can further company goals — and even help create new ones.
  • #7. Adaptability: Small businesses work best when the team members willingly do what it takes, even when tasks fall outside of their defined job descriptions. Applicants who express an interest in learning new things might be major assets when you need them to pitch in to help overworked employees or when you want to try something new. So, when discussing the job requirements, listen for “I welcome variety,” rather than any response that smacks of “That’s outside of the job description.”

The Ears and Eyes Have It

The verbal responses to your questions only tell part of the story. Candidates want to say what you want to hear, so you have to listen for tone of voice, which might better indicate traits that will appear on the job, like enthusiasm or even insecurity.

As for body language, you probably instinctively recognize ways that the body conveys important messages. But, the eyes say a lot. Does the candidate make eye contact with you? This alone means that he or she is paying attention, is confident and is connected. Of course, that connection breaks if you see an eye roll.

Do I even have to mention cell phone etiquette? Unless a candidate has a personal emergency, answering a call during an interview is an instant sign that the interview is over.

Good Raw Material Creates Entrepreneurial Employees

Your small business may not be large enough to pay top salaries and benefits, but it can attract employees looking for opportunities that big companies do not generally match. The flexibility that helps your business meet unexpected customer requirements creates a work environment that is rich in creativity, teamwork and growth.

When you choose personable employees who show a willingness and aptitude to learn, along with an entrepreneurial spirit that matches your own, you gain a team that can help your business grow — even as they grow right along with it.

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