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Get Better at Assessing Talent

Get Better at Assessing Talent

By: Linda Childers

Small business owners are faced with a variety of challenging hiring decisions

So how can you best assess talent as you hire a team?

“Being a small business with a tight-knit team, it is very important to make sure new employees fit in with the company culture we are creating,” says David Kroening, president and general manager of Buoy Beer Company, a brewery and restaurant in Astoria, Oregon. 

Before you place your next job description, here are five of the most common misconceptions small business owners often have about talent assessment. 

Misconception #1: Benchmarking. Many human resources firms recommend using benchmarking in the recruiting process. The practice involves identifying the behavioral capabilities and qualities of existing employees who perform well and hiring candidates based on the same criteria. 

While benchmarking is an important tool, it doesn’t always ensure a candidate is a good fit for your company’s culture. To do this successfully, some human resources experts recommend using the “airport test” to assess potential candidates -- ask yourself, would you be willing to be stuck in an airport for two hours or more with this person? 

Kroening says they quickly learned to put a bigger emphasis on the personality of candidates and their potential to fit into their culture. 

“At times it can be tempting to hire someone because of one of their specific skill sets, experience or even ease of the situation compared to other candidates, however if they don't fit into the culture, neither the company or the employee is happy,” he says. 

Misconception #2: Hiring High Achievers. It’s not enough just to hire good people to fill specific positions.  Having a plan in place to retain top talent also needs to be a priority and part of the hiring process for small businesses.

CEO Jill Zuckerman at Leads Bureau LLC, an online lead generation and full-service marketing company in Island Park, NY, strives to ensure that each of her company’s 10 employees is always fully engaged and part of the company’s ongoing success.

“I encourage employees to bring new product ideas to the table to be reviewed by myself and the company’s executive team and we also have a number of incentive programs in place,” Zuckerman says. “I’m lucky to have long term employees who I deeply value.”

Misconception #3: Competing for Talent with Larger Companies. While small businesses may believe they can’t compete with a larger company’s salaries and benefits packages, they can create a recruiting strategy that offers  more intangible perks such as a casual work environment, flexible schedules, and a desirable company culture.

At Buoy Beer Company, Kroening says non-monetary incentives are a big factor in how his company is providing a better experience for employees.

 “We offer monthly food and beer perks for every employee to use for themselves or their family ad friends in the restaurant and brewery,” Kroening says. “We also have regular employee parties to spend some time together outside the work environment, and we regularly provide opportunities for employees to go to classes, courses and conferences.”

Even small companies on a budget can offer employee training

Misconception #4 It’s All About Hiring. While small business owners put an emphasis on hiring new employees, they often neglect to complete traditional human resources tasks such as outlining and enforcing policies, and keeping proper documentation. By failing to address these issues, small businesses can open themselves up to the possibility of lawsuits.

At Leads Bureau, Zuckerman maintains consistent employee policies and holds a conversation with candidates post hire where she discusses performance issues such as tardiness, absenteeism and unprofessional behavior.

“We have a two-time rule for these issues,” she says. “If they break it, they’re terminated.”

Zuckerman also makes documentation a priority, whether it involves recording cases of workplace misconduct or performance evaluations. She also advises candidates that new positions have a specific probation period that allows both the company and the employee to assess if the job is a good fit.

Misconception #5: The Best Candidates Look Good on Paper. Some candidates have resumes that shine, only to fizzle in an interview.

In order for an interview to be effective, make sure you have a clear idea about the skills and competencies you’re seeking. Ask specific interview questions to determine if they have the qualities your small business needs.

Zuckerman says that when she conducts an interview, she asks about their experiences and goals and how they see themselves being an asset to her company. She also recommends developing your listening skills to better hear candidate responses, particularly about how they viewed their previous employment. This will give you a more accurate read on their true personality.

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