My business partner Jeff and I recently hired our first full-time employee, and we were nervous. We knew that choosing the wrong employee could be a devastating hit to our business. Before extending an offer, we read a lot of research and talked to consultants about how to make a good hire. And ultimately, we went the other way on a lot of decisions.
Here are some of the hiring myths we didn’t listen to — and are all the better for ignoring:
1. Keep the Job Listing Vague
That’s the advice we got from an HR consultant. She thought that we’d included too much detail about the job responsibilities, and she told us it was a bad idea to include a salary range in the listing itself. She thought we’d get far more applications by being less detailed about what we wanted.
Chances are, she was right. But why would we want to waste applicants’ time — and our own time — by encouraging them to apply for a job that wasn’t the right fit?
We wanted to be as clear, precise, and transparent as we possibly could to make sure that anyone applying for the job had a solid understanding of what the role would entail and how much it would pay. We weren’t interested in playing the negotiation game. We told applicants from the get-go that we were a small business, so the salary was based on what we knew we could afford, instead of using an inflated number that would mean we’d have to lay someone off after a single bad month. If applicants weren’t willing to work for that amount or to do the (sometimes unglamorous) work that needed to be done, we didn’t want to waste their time.
2. Don’t Include Anything in Your Listing That Might Turn People Off
Our HR consultant also flagged our use of the work “kick-ass” in the job description, suggesting that “energetic” might be a better synonym. She worried that the phase might offend some applicants.
We left it in. While we’re a very small team, Jeff and I still want to build a company culture. A culture where people are offended by the term “kick-ass” is not the one we’re looking for. Better to alienate someone in the initial job listing than have to walk on eggshells after we hire them.
3. Pay for Premium and Targeted Job Sites
If the role we’d been looking to fill were a highly specialized technical role, we probably would have considered investing in targeted job-site listings. But for our content marketing manager role, we knew there was a good chance we could find just the person we needed through free channels before spending any money. After all, being social media-savvy was one of the requirements, so we figured the right person could probably find us through the social media promotion that we’d done.
We listed the job on our website and shared it on our social networks (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn), Indeed, and (horror of horrors) Craigslist. We knew that most job seekers were going to be on top of identifying every possible source of local job leads, so there was no reason for us to go overboard in paying to spread the word. As it is, we received more than 40 applications during a month-long listing period. And to our hire Jesse’s surprise — and ours — she actually did find us through Craigslist. Sometimes, it pays to be cheap.
4. Don’t Focus Too Heavily on the Interview
While a lot of recent research has found that how an employee performs in a job bears little relation to how well they did in an interview, we considered the interview stage one of the most important when hiring a candidate. Why? Because it helped us see how the potential employee would relate to both us and our clients, and it enabled us to see how well the candidate could think on their feet.
While we could see past some interview-related nervousness, we could tell from the interview what each candidate’s overall attitude was like. We ruled out some candidates here because even if they’d looked good on paper, they seemed too brash and arrogant or too submissive and deferential in person. We needed someone who could come in as a peer and rise up quickly to a high-level role within our company. We didn’t just want an admin assistant. We wanted someone who could step in on any task and be proactive in getting things done. Jesse had the kind of down-to-earth confidence that we were looking for. We knew she’d be able to step in and work directly with our clients and our freelance team, and she’s done an amazing job at it so far.
Of course, there were a lot of rules we did follow, because they just made good sense: we checked references, verified work histories, made a written offer, etc. But by trusting our guts where it counted, we were able to find a great employee who could help take our business to the next level.
Kathryn Hawkins is a principal at Eucalypt Media, a content marketing agency that works with national B2B, B2C, nonprofit, and education clients, including Fortune 500 companies. She specializes in spearheading comprehensive content marketing and PR strategies to spotlight her agency clients’ thought leadership and developing custom content on their behalf with their internal teams and a pool of freelance journalists. She’s also publisher of Gimundo, a website and daily newsletter focused on positive content and inspiring videos.