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8 Qualities to Look for When Hiring Employees for Your Small Business

by Daisy McCarty

When you own a small business, every employee counts. These trusted workers are the face of your brand and the hands working behind the scenes to help make your business what it is. With your own success riding on every employment decision, how do you hire the right people to help your company flourish?

Here are eight key characteristics to look for when hiring small business employees for your company, as well as some additional pointers to help you in the process.

1.    Engaged with Your Vision

Not every new hire has to be ecstatic about your product or service, but they should be passionate about the way you do business. Take note of what they ask about your business beyond the job description. And try asking the old standby, “Why do you want to work here?” It will help you ascertain candidates’ enthusiasm. If they respect your company values and believe wholeheartedly in your mission statement, they will be great ambassadors for your company in your community.

2.    Eager to Learn

The ability to learn new things is essential in a small business employee. Recent graduates are an obvious choice if you want flexible minds that can acquire new skills with ease, but keep a special eye out for people who never lost their love of learning even after years on the job. While continuing education and certifications are clues to lifelong learners, also ask them what keeps them motivated on the job. If learning plays a role in what fuels their professional fire, then you know you’ve identified some real gems.

3.    Willing to Take Responsibility

All employees have to pull their own weight (and then some) in a small company. During the interview, ask a few behavioral questions, such as, “Tell me about a time when you had to pick up the slack for a coworker.” You want to hire job candidates who will ask, “How can I help?” when they see something that needs to be done.

4.    Easy to Like

Working in a small company means employees can’t avoid each other. It’s important to find people who mesh well with their coworkers. This doesn’t mean they all have to have the same disposition; aim to hire a nice mix of individuals, including those with bubbly personalities and those with calm, quiet and laid-back attitudes. And don’t be afraid to try people out before you bring them in. This will allow you both to assess that this is a mutual fit.

5.    Ambitious

Ambitious employees are assets to any team, as they’re always willing to take on new tasks and projects. They’re proactive and looking for ways to grow within your company — especially helpful if you need to add a second-in-command who can take over some of your daily management decisions. Look for résumés that show a track record of advancement within the same company — this will show you the potential employee has been ambitious in the past. To gauge a potential hire’s ambition, ask her, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

6.    Skilled at Multi-Tasking

Employees need to be able to wear many different hats and perform a variety of tasks in order to succeed in the fast-paced, often challenging small business world. During your interview process, ask potential candidates for examples of successfully managing multiple projects simultaneously. People who have worked in small organizations before are a good bet if you need capable multi-taskers.

7.    Not Exactly Like You

Have you already experienced a close call with a business disaster because you missed something important? Your own blind spots can be your worst enemies. To make your business more robust, hire employees who can bring something to the table that you don’t have. That might be a different personality, experience in a related industry or simply a novel approach to solving problems.

8.    Happy to Be Noticed

People who prefer to be a number on a time card aren’t the best employees to hire for a small company. Scan résumés for candidates who have earned awards at work or at school, and ask how the acknowledgements impacted their work. When you hire candidates who respond well to positive reinforcement, be sure you can give them what they need to stay motivated. These will be your most loyal employees.

Are you likely to find all eight of these traits in a single employee? Probably not. But building a team that encompasses these qualities as a whole will be brilliant for your business.

Hot Hiring Tips

Once you think you’ve found the perfect employee based on the qualities above, you have to work through the rest of the hiring process. Follow these tips before officially extending an offer of employment:

  • Always Check References: The interview went well — so well that you’re ready to hire the candidate on the spot. Don’t. Make sure to call his references and get confirmation that he’s just as great as he seems (and that his résumé isn’t too good to be true). The extra effort could save you from having to rehire for the position in a few months when you learn that he twists the truth on the job as well as on his résumé.
  • Take the Job Candidate for a Test Drive: Once you’re ready to hire, consider starting with a short-term contract. This will give you the opportunity to evaluate the person’s level of commitment, attitude, work ethic and overall fit in your company. There’s no way to truly know if a candidate will be a match until she’s on the job.
  • Listen to Your Gut:  He’s experienced, wrote a lovely cover letter and answered every question competently in the interview. He seems like the perfect candidate, but for some reason, you hesitate to hire him. Listen to your instincts. If you can’t put your finger on what’s bothering you about a potential candidate, don’t make the hire. You’ll eventually find someone who does feel like the right fit, and you’ll be so glad you waited for a better match.

Daisy McCarty is a professional writer who covers a broad range of topics including business, IT, health and human resources. Daisy is based in the Dallas area and can be contacted via her company’s Facebook page.

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