When I first started Step & Stone, I was figuring out everything, as well as doing everything. Hiring the ‘right’ team was yet to cross my mind. But like all business owners, I had to teach myself as I went, sometimes spending days trying to figure it all out.
As my business grew, I was able to hire service providers for graphic design, web design, accountancy and social media management.
By 2019, I felt like this wasn’t enough. I was spending a ridiculous amount of time on the day-to-day tasks required to run my business. The more time I spent on these, the less I could spend on revenue generating activities.
it was time to hire
I realised that I could do with an extra pair of hands in my business. Someone who could take care of social media, perform general office administration, and help me manage my Simplicity program.
But I also wanted to hire the right person… or people.
My selection criteria would be guided by talent, drive, and willingness to learn; someone who was genuinely excited about working for me and my business, and who I also felt inspired by and wanted to work with.
how to hire the right team
Finding your first or next team member is not a task that should be taken lightly, particularly in a small business where you can’t really afford to make mistakes.
You want to ensure that the person you hire can not only do the job required, but can also fit into the culture, values and vibe of your business.
Give yourself ample time to create and share your job description, screen applicants, interview suitable candidates, make your decision and negotiate contracts.
For me, this whole process took about 6 weeks. Here’s the process I followed:
1. create a job description
The first step in this process was spending time to evaluate what I wanted my potential employee to do for me. So I wrote down all of the activities that I was performing in my business.
Once I had a full list, I revisited the items to determine which activities I must perform (i.e. strategy, business development, working with clients, etc.) and which I felt comfortable delegating to someone else.
From this, I developed a job description outlining these responsibilities as well as required skills. I then posted it directly on my website.
Because I wanted potential candidates to see my website. I wanted them to understand as much as possible about me and my business. And by directing them to my site, a proactive candidate would click around and do some research.
I shared the link to this job description on my social media accounts and with some people in my network.
Within a week, I had received 28 applications from 25 women and 3 men. I responded to them each personally, acknowledging receipt and letting them know when I would next be in contact.
2. screen applicants
To make it easier to compare the applicants, I created a spreadsheet to capture how well a candidate matched my needs.
The columns included:
- experience in social media.
- experience in accounts.
- previous office experience.
- and remote work experience.
I then had two columns to capture softer skills that are important to me:
- followed instructions?
- researched my business?
In the job ad, I’d asked candidates to email a cover letter highlighting their motivation for the position along with a CV, by a specific date. A few applicants did not follow this process and were automatically rejected because they failed to show a required skill: attention to detail.
Other applicants were rejected because their cover letters were too generic and their personalities didn’t show through. There were also a few examples where the cover letters or CVs showed a strong preference for a particular type of role in a particular type of organisation, and it didn’t match what I was offering.
I rejected very few on skills or experience alone. I was willing to teach on the job and build the right team.
After this process, I was left with 17 applicants.
3. use questionnaires to dig deeper
There was NO WAY I could interview 17 people. Yet, I felt that I didn’t know enough about any of the candidates to narrow that down to a more manageable number. The information in their cover letters and CVs wasn’t enough.
So I create a questionnaire and invited them to submit answers to the following questions:
- What appeals to you most about working with me?
- How do you prefer to work and be managed?
- What skill would you most like to use / develop and why?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- What sets your soul on fire?
I hoped that this would help me learn more about the personality of the applicant and if they would be a good fit for me and my business.
And it worked!
Personalities shone through. I was able to understand more about their motivations and desires. And I learned more about how I could be a good manager to the applicants.
4. conduct interviews
I invited 8 women to come in for 1-hour interviews and asked them to choose an available slot through Calendly. I also provided a few tips to them to make our time together as effective as possible.
First, I highlighted the importance of punctuality. Then, I asked them to bring something to show me, anything that they were proud of and that they felt showcased their talents.
Next, I assured them that I wanted them to be themselves and show me their personality. To help them feel more comfortable in doing so, I was vulnerable myself and shared my business philosophy with them.
Finally, I told them all not to show up in a suit 🙂
I prepared for the interviews by coming up with a set of questions to start the conversation. Here they are:
- Tell me about your experience with… [social media, accounts, etc.]
- What tasks do you struggle with or perhaps not enjoy so much?
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
- What did you love most about your last job?
- What did you bring to show me?
I also asked about preferred working hours / days and salary expectations. I gave all interviewees an opportunity to ask me questions, too.
5. make the big decision
I was SUPER impressed with all of the women who came in to meet with me. They were talented, driven and passionate. I felt fortunate that they all showed interest in working for me.
During the interview process, I learned more about what type of person I really needed. I realised that I preferred someone who was dedicated to my business and strategy over someone working for multiple clients. I wanted someone who already had some experience with social media, as that was an area I needed help with straight away.
Plus, I needed to feel a connection.
These insights helped me narrow down my decision, but there were still two people I was struggling to choose between. I was so impressed by both of them; they had different yet complimentary skills.
Initially, I thought that I would ask them to complete an assignment so that I could better assess their skills. But I realised that testing one skill or task wouldn’t be a great indication of overall performance. And it wouldn’t necessarily be fair, since their skills and experience were different.
So I decided to hire them both!
the right team for me & my business
I was excited about what having a team meant for me and my business!
I have since made a few transitions and additions. This has allowed me to free up a lot of my time to focus more on strategy, implementation and clients. I have support in hitting some of the big targets I’ve set for my business this year. And having a team to depend on me for decision-making and direction forces me to be more considered and organised.
Although it increases my running costs, a team also increases my potential.
a chance to inspire
Having a team also gives me the opportunity to share my vast experience and knowledge with others in early stages of their career, helping them to grow as professionals and make money doing work they love.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have others to teach me, encourage me and guide me. I feel it’s our duty to do the same for others coming up behind us.
So, I’m willing to teach them everything I know, if they are willing to learn it. And I believe that they will also teach me things that I don’t know!
over to you
I feel like this hiring process has really helped me to build the right team for my business. By using clear and open communication throughout, I was able to attract the right women who seem like a great fit. We’re only two days in, but it is going really well so far!
I’d love to hear more about how you’ve built the right team for your businesses. Please share with us in the comments below.