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Should You Hire Family, Friends or Customers?

Should You Hire Family, Friends or Customers?

By: Eric Herrenkohl

I have never heard a piece of advice more widely given and more extensively ignored than ‘‘Never hire family or friends.’’ This can be tough advice to follow, particularly for those just starting a business and looking to hire the right candidate — friends and family may be the only people you can persuade to join you!

When you're looking to attract top talent, A-players come from all sorts of different sources. If you know a terrific person from your own clan or with whom you have been friends since kindergarten, don’t reject out of hand the possibility of hiring him or her. Instead, treat that working relationship the same way you would any other: Define roles and responsibilities before you make any hiring decisions. Agree on the financial compensation and absolutely put it in writing.

State, up front, how you will exit this working relationship if things don’t work out. Handled right, strong people with personal ties to you can be the foundation of a fantastic team.

Turning Customers Down
You don’t want to lose a customer in the process of recruiting and evaluating him or her for employment. The key here is to be extremely clear from the very beginning about the realities of the position. Give people plenty of opportunities to disqualify themselves from the role once they understand what’s really involved. Let them know that you value them too much to hire them if you don’t think it will be a good experience for everyone involved. People who have never worked in your industry, for example, may be passionate about the focus of your business (fitness, technology, media, or the like) but might not want to turn that passion into a real job with all the requirements that go along with it.

In other situations, customers may not be able or willing to work the kind of hours that a position with your company requires. List the negatives as well as the positives of the job early on in the recruiting process. Tell customers that if a job with you is not the right fit, you will help them connect with other companies that would be good for them. Be clear and direct with every applicant about the position’s requirements. This helps you to reduce misunderstandings and bad hires in general — and particularly with customers.

Use a ‘‘Soft’’ Approach to Recruiting Customers
When the employees of Fleet Feet Syracuse approach a customer about working for the company, they use a classic recruiters’ line that I recommend to you as well: ‘‘If you know anyone who is interested in working for us, we would love to talk with them.’’ What they are really asking is ‘‘Are you interested in working for us?’’

This is a soft, non-offensive way to recruit. People don’t want to be hounded, but they do want to be wanted. Take this low-key approach to recruiting and don’t get your feelings hurt if people are initially uninterested. It often takes months (even years) to recruit an A-player. But the wait is well worth it.

Have a Simple Employment Application Process
Have a straightforward job application process in place and make sure your employees understand it. It’s one thing to spot great candidates, but you have to get them to apply for a job in order to hire them. The process can be as simple as the five steps outlined next.

  • Get to know customers or other people and determine whether they match up with your A-Player Profile.
  • If you think they do, tell them about your company’s growth and resulting employment opportunities. Talk about your A-Player Profile, then ask if they know anyone who might be interested in such an opportunity.
  • If they are personally interested, provide them with the business card of the manager or human resources person to contact.
  • Have them fill out an employment application in person or online.
  • Schedule an initial phone screen or interview.

If your people don’t understand the employment application pro¬cess or find it to be a hassle, they are more apt to ignore opportunities to recruit potential A-players.

Treat Everyone Well
Make sure that everyone who applies for a job is treated well. This means that you communicate with them, keep them updated on your process, and talk with them early in the interview process about who is and is not a good fit for your company. If your employees don’t have confidence that you will treat their customers respectfully, they are not going to refer them to you for employment. 

A-Player Principle: Your customers often share your passion and can be great A-player employees. Establish a simple process for appropriately recruiting customers. Then overcommunicate during the interview process by answering their interview questions to avoid bad feelings if you don’t hire them.

Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Copyright © 2010 by Eric Herrenkohl & Herrenkohl Consulting.

Author Bio
Eric Herrenkohl
is the author of the book, How to Hire A-Players, (John Wiley & Sons, 2010) and is President of Herrenkohl Consulting. Herrenkohl Consulting helps executives create the organizations they need to build the businesses they want. To receive Eric’s free monthly e-letter Performance Principles, go to www.herrenkohlconsulting.com to subscribe.