So business is booming, and you need to expand your team to keep up? Congratulations! And be careful.
You should make all hiring decisions with care, but this is especially true for hiring decisions during periods of high growth. Bringing new employees into your growing startup is a momentous and somewhat intimidating process. Your employees are your greatest asset; they decide the direction of your company’s future and act as the building blocks of company culture.
Getting the right candidates into the right seats at a moment of massive growth is a make-or-break move. Follow these four best practices to make sure your high-growth company is staffed by rock star employees:
1. Keep Your Standards High
When your small team is drowning in work, it’s all too tempting to lower your standards to fill a position quickly just to get some extra hands. However, you have to resist this temptation.
Filling a position with a candidate who isn’t a good fit can have much worse repercussions for your company than leaving the position vacant for a little while longer. Estimates of the cost of a bad hire vary, from 30 percent of the hire’s salary to as much as $240,000, but no matter what the price tag is, it’s one your company can’t afford at such a critical juncture. It pays to take your time when hiring, even during periods of rapid growth.
2. Prioritize Attitude and Soft Skills Over Technical Skills
Employees can always learn technical skills on the job, but it is more difficult to teach someone soft skills. Moreover, working successfully in a high-growth setting requires a specific type of attitude. Only employees with the requisite grit, agility, and willingness to help can drive the company to capitalize on its moment.
The employees who will add value to your growing company are those who are prepared to lend a hand where it’s needed, even if it’s not part of their job description. They should demonstrate top-notch critical thinking skills and take initiative to solve problems. These kinds of personality traits take more time to cultivate than technical skills, and that’s time your organization doesn’t have at this stage.
That said, it can be very difficult to assess a candidate’s soft skills. Here are a few creative tips you can use to get a better read on your applicants:
- Ask candidates to list the soft skills they think would be required for success at your company. Look for detailed responses.
- Have candidates rank themselves on a list of your company’s most valued soft skills.
- Have references rank candidates on a list of your company’s most valued soft skills.
- Administer online tests that evaluate soft skills.
- Ask a candidate how they feel they could improve their soft skills.
- Host a group interview with some type of gamified simulation that puts candidates in a position to showcase their soft skills.
Remember: Attitude is everything when it’s all hands on deck.
3. Acknowledge Your Biases and Keep Them in Check
It’s important that anyone involved in any hiring decision be honest with themselves about their unconscious biases. Everyone has some degree of bias, and the sooner you recognize it, the sooner you can take intentional action to overcome it.
Unconscious biases can destroy your company’s chances of finding a valuable employee by turning you off from certain perfectly capable candidates for irrelevant reasons. This needlessly puts a kink in your talent pipeline when you need candidates the most.
Check your biases with these practical steps:
1. Cut Gendered Language From Job Descriptions
Certain words can be subconsciously perceived as masculine- or feminine-coded, even if no specific gender reference was intended. For example, many people perceive “assertive” to be masculine, while “nurturing” is often taken to be feminine. Try using a gender decoder tool to help you detect implicitly gendered language in your own job posts.
2. Don’t Ask for Unnecessary Qualifications
Is a bachelor’s degree really absolutely necessary, or could relevant experience be enough? When you really reflect on it, you often find that the criteria you think you need aren’t really required to do a great job.
3. Use Blind Screening Software
A 2004 study found that job applications with “white-sounding” names like “Emily Walsh” and “Greg Baker” received nearly 50 percent more callbacks than applications with “black-sounding” names like “Lakisha Washington” and “Jamal Jones.” According to the researchers, simply having a “white-sounding” name is roughly the equivalent of having eight additional years of work experience!
This is where blind screening software comes in. It strips applications of demographic data, allowing hiring teams to focus exclusively on a candidate’s relevant qualifications for the role.
4. Get Comfortable With Delegating
In a small company, leaders are often involved in all hiring decisions. As the company grows, this becomes more and more difficult. If company leaders insist on offering their input on every new hire, they could end up slowing down the recruiting process at a time when it needs to move even more quickly than normal.
Learning to trust others with big decisions is a scary but critical step in expansion. Before you can get comfortable with giving control to others, you need to find a trusted partner. Make sure to delegate hiring duties to your most capable team members. If you need additional help, it may be worth considering outsourcing options. In periods of high-growth, that investment can be very well worth the price.
A version of this article originally appeared on the IQTalent Partners blog.
Chris Murdock is the cofounder and senior partner of IQTalent Partners.