It’s an old saying that finding the right people is key, whatever the size and age of your business. The fact is, you especially cannot afford to make a hiring mistake at the start. A bad apple in your first basket will turn customers away and bring the house down.
So how can you make sure not to put your foot wrong in the minefield of interviews, candidates and an inbox cluttered with CVs? Happily know that there are some tricks and shortcuts to making sure that at worst an incorrect hire won’t cripple your start-up.
Start at the beginning
Let’s start by focussing on the most important part of any recruitment process: the reference. Surprisingly, it’s the piece that most people leave out! A reference is more than essential, and will tell you more about someone than their CV and interview put together.
Just imagine – someone has applied, their CV looks hot, they aced your interview and then their referee says “Don’t hire!” Now imagine the same process without the last bit.
The first step to doing it right is to make certain of the facts. A reference can absolutely only be the candidate’s previous boss.
If you’re interviewing a student with no work experience, maybe their professor. But never, ever take a reference from a priest, teacher, friend, colleague or anyone who is not their direct previous manager.
The reason we want their previous boss is that you need to ask questions to someone who managed them, since you will now be in those shoes.
The only exception could be if they have been at their company for 10 years – their previous boss’s information will be old. But even then, you’ll find that less than one in a hundred people are “un-reference-checkable”.
Check up on the reference-giver
Next, verify that the referee is real. No cellphone numbers, you should always phone the referee’s company and ask the switchboard for him or her, to check that they do in fact work there. It’s also advisable to check that the candidate works where they say they do. Call and ask and hang up.
Taking a reference isn’t a quick call to ask one or two short questions. It’s your chance to have a meaningful conversation with the person that knows them best as a reporting employee. That kind of information is “make-or-break” stuff.
The best way to ask the right questions is to plan them upfront. What do you want to know about this person? Anything in the interview or CV you want to clarify or find out more about? Get it on paper so you don’t forget to ask it. Remember, a reference is a conversation.
Take copious notes while you are on the phone. You’re literally getting an upfront version of what you can expect from your new hire, telling you things like how to best manage them.
Do your reference checks right, and you’ll find that they don’t only secure you great employees, but your skills here can be applied to finding excellent suppliers, clients and more.
What people say about other people is important. After all, the best way to receive a referral is by word of mouth, isn’t it?