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2015

5_Essential_Interviews_Qs_body.jpgBy Heather R. Johnson.

 

Each employee plays an integral role in a small business’s success. When the time comes to hire, it’s critical that the new recruit has the motivation and skill to help move the company forward. “Employees can either help you succeed or create internal roadblocks,” says Ernie McGray, hiring and human resources manager at San Francisco-based startup Meta Co. “At a small company everyone needs to contribute and understand that their work impacts the company.”

 

During the interview process, a few carefully chosen questions, like the ones below, will help you separate A-plus talent from the average job candidate.

 

Why are you looking for a change? Knowing why a candidate applied for the job will help you determine if her goals align with the position and with company values. It also helps determine whether the candidate is serious about accepting a new position. “I want people that are comfortable and confident in sharing those experiences and won’t just say what they think I want to hear,” says McGray.

 

Why are you interested in this company? With this question, a business owner can quickly determine whether a candidate has done his homework and is genuinely excited about the company. “I want someone who’s really done their research,” says McGray. “I’ve interviewed people that didn’t even look at our website.”

 

5_Essential_Interviews_Qs_PQ.jpgWhat goals did you achieve at your last company? Go beyond a list of tasks to find out what the candidate accomplished. Ask for details, such as: Did you lead the project? Did you design the goals? Were other decision makers involved? “Truly understand their participation in the goal and why they are proud of it,” he says.

 

Do you have any questions for us? Rather than save this for the end of the discussion, McGray leads the interview with this question. “I want an unfiltered, honest starting point,” he says. “When you ask this question as the interview process winds down, you have already given clues as to what is important to you.”

 

McGray also steers away from behavioral questions, such as, “Tell me about a situation in which you had to deal with a difficult coworker.” “There are so many variables that are different at your company,” says McGray. “Behavioral questions don’t give the business owner a sense of whether the candidate can do the job. Instead, discuss the company, the role, and what problems the candidate plans to solve by filling this role.”

 

How would you do the job? Give details about the position and what problems the company intends to solve by filling it. Ask the potential employee, “How would you tackle these problems?” Problem-solving questions allow the interviewer and interviewee to brainstorm about how the candidate can fulfill the role. “I don’t expect them to have all the answers, but we get a sense of their experience and they get to understand who we are as a company. It’s a true discussion about what the candidate thinks he can accomplish.”

 

After determining that the candidate has the experience, personality, and critical thinking skills of an A-plus employee, check in with your gut instinct. Says McGray: “You want to be as excited about hiring someone as they are about getting the job.”


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

 

 

 

Counteroffers.jpgNo business owner wants to lose a valuable employee. But if that employee resigns to accept another company’s offer, evaluate the situation thoroughly before making a counteroffer. Some experts say that if an employee resigns, it’s best to look for a replacement. That’s because most of the time, money isn’t the sole reason an employee looks for another job. He or she could have a personality conflict with a direct supervisor, a draining commute, or a stalled career—problems that won’t go away with a raise. Other hiring experts say that counteroffers provide a way to retain employees and avoid the expense of hiring a replacement. Before deciding the best path for your small business, read on to hear what our experts have to say.


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I have a friend who loves to tell prospective employers that he is “as honest as the day is long.” It seems to me, however, that having to announce how honest you are during the interview process is tantamount to declaring that you are probably not to be trusted, after all, isn’t being an honest employee a given? Why feel the need to highlight that?

 

Maybe that’s why he always seems to be looking for work.

 

But, it does bring up an interesting question: Just what traits are most important when hiring new staff? It is not an insignificant question, that’s for sure. After all, a new employee can improve morale, can become a new profit center, and can keep customers content.

 

On the other hand, they could do the exact opposite.

 

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If you let the wrong people in the door, there is no end to the potential havoc they may sow. They can steal from you, anger customers, hurt sales, not complete projects, or even sue you when they are eventually fired (i.e. alleging “wrongful termination”.)

 

So finding the right person or persons is critical. In a recent article here in the community, I shared three tips for hiring the right way, including thinking it through thoroughly beforehand, casting a wide net, and taking your time. Today, I want to drill down a bit more into the type of person to be looking for throughout that process; the type of employee that makes everyone better.

 

Let me suggest that there are three underrated traits that are more important than any other.

 

Of course you want someone who is smart and capable. Like being honest, that is a given. You likely want someone with some experience (although that is not always critical). Being dependable is also an obvious and important trait. These qualities can be easily discovered in the early stages of the hiring process. A person’s work and school history, and how they answer a few key questions can reveal if they have these “baseline” key traits.

 

Though often overlooked, here are three other characteristics that, if you find in a candidate, you can almost assure he or she will be a successful hire:

 

1. Coachability: A key characteristic of a great employee is the ability to adapt and grow. That is, can they not only take direction but can they incorporate that feedback, pivot, and make different and better choices? The ability to adjust and make changes is key to hiring an employee who fits in and does things the way you want them done.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, it’s also true that not everyone is cut out to be an employee (yes, that’s me you see raising my hand.) You want to be sure that the person you hire is able to take direction and incorporate feedback.

 

2. Independence: This may seem contradictory to coachability, but it’s not. Aside from finding someone whom you can easily train, you also want someone who can take the initiative and doesn’t need constant supervision. After all, one reason you are hiring employees is to lighten your load and unless they have the ability to think on their feet and do what they see needs to get done, your load won’t be very light.

 

3. Being a team player: The final piece of the hiring puzzle is finding someone who plays well with others. After all, no matter how coachable they are or how much initiative they may take, if they don’t work well as part of your overall team, they will be of little use to you. In the end, they will be a disruptive force and cause more harm than good.

 

So there you have it. You will know you have a winner candidate if you can locate that trainable, independent, team player, especially if they don’t boast about how honest they are.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

©2015 Bank of America Corporation


Steve Strauss

You’re Fired!

Posted by Steve Strauss Jul 15, 2015

I was once fired from a job because, my manager said, I did not “write well enough.” Given that this was two months before my first book was about to be published (though my manager didn’t know that fact), you can imagine my surprise, but that made it no less difficult. I had a wife and new child at home. What was I going to do? For me, getting fired was one of those “blessing in disguise” moments; it forced me to start my first real business. (And, yes, I must admit that I sent that manager an autographed copy of my book when it came out.)

 

But let’s be frank: Almost always, firing an employee is a tough situation for everyone involved. Of course it’s a life altering moment for the employee on many fronts – financially, ego-wise, with regard to future employment, just to name a few. But firing is difficult for everyone else involved too – for the manager tasked with sharing the bad news, for the morale of the office (usually), and for other employees who worry about their own jobs. Firing an employee can also be seen as a sign of failure on the part of the company; if the person had been vetted properly during the hiring process, firing may have been unnecessary. Firing isn’t easy on anybody.

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The final thing to note up front about firing someone is that it should be the last action in a fairly formal and very transparent process, the process being:

 

  • Identify the problem
  • Explain what performance / actions / benchmarks are expected instead
  • Provide training, coaching, and resources
  • Have follow-up performance reviews

 

All of these actions must be documented for two reasons:

 

First, documentation puts everyone on the same page: what is wrong and what needs to be righted can be seen in black and white.

 

Second, documentation is critical to the legal aspect of a potential firing – both proving that you were even-handed and fair throughout the process as well as creating a paper trail to prove your case, should you ever need it.

 

If, after documenting the transgressions and the requested course correction, you still do not see the desired results, then it is time to terminate the employee.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

You need to call a meeting and explain to the employee that he or she is being let go, and why. But, that said, if you have done your job right (above) the firing should come as no surprise.

 

One thing to note is that in most states, employees are considered “at will.” This means that they work at the will of their employer and can be fired for (almost) any reason, or no reason. I say “almost” any because you cannot fire someone for a discriminatory reason, that is, because of their race, gender, religion, and so on. You also cannot fire someone out of retaliation, for example, if they legally were required to attend jury duty and missed work.

 

The fired employee will need some practical logistical information that you need to have answers to:

 

  • When is their official end date?
  • When will they receive their last paycheck?
  • What will happen with their benefits?
  • Is there a severance package?

 

It is good practice to have a witness with you when firing the employee. The witness can testify that you followed proper procedure during the termination process, that you shared necessary information, and that you did not fire out of retaliation or discrimination. (And if you think a lot of this advice is to protect you legally should the employee later sue for wrongful termination, you are right.)

 

Final tip: Do not argue. Sure, you can and should explain your decision, but to the extent possible, make it short and simple, and reinforce what your documentation process identified. Afterwards, gather your team, talk about the firing, and what it means for them. Be aware that their emotions may also be running high and reassure them to the extent possible.

 

If you have followed this process and the ex-employee understands why you took the actions you did, it is highly unlikely that you will receive any backlash or legal challenge to the firing (and only in very rare cases will you receive a book from your ex-employee.)

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

Steve Strauss

Hiring the Right Way

Posted by Steve Strauss Jul 1, 2015

I once had an assistant whom I fired after only two weeks. Whose fault was that, hers or mine? Both probably.

 

There is a concept in business today that says you should hire slow and fire fast. This means two things:

 

  1. First, it means that the smart small business person will take their time throughout the hiring process, from creating a job description all the way through several rounds of interviews. You need to make sure that the potential new employee has the right qualifications, his references check out, and that he will fit your culture. You need to do your due diligence. Don’t rush it.
  2. That said, it also means that once you realize that someone is not fitting – for whatever reason – that you let him or her go sooner rather than later.

 

In the case of my old assistant, I didn’t really follow the first rule. In need of immediate help for a big contract I had just gotten, and not wanting to get bogged down in what could have been a long hiring process, I hired the first person that seemed right. Only she wasn’t. We didn’t click (which was my fault), and let’s just say that she had puffed up her resume (which was definitely her fault.)

 

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Lesson hopefully learned! I’ve certainly never made that mistake again (others yes, but not that one.)

 

Hiring the right person is a three-step process:

 

  • First, you need to think through carefully what it is you need from this employee
  • Second, you need to cast a wide net, and
  • Third, yes, you need to be sure to take your time throughout the process

 

Let’s drill down a bit into each.

 

The only way to find the right person for the job is by first knowing exactly what it is you need and what the job will entail. Understanding clearly what it is you want from this new employee and what their duties will be, not only helps you in the short run as you advertise for the position, but is equally critical for the new person to be able to perform his or her job properly.

 

Make a list of qualifications and duties, especially since new hires may be filling positions you have not filled before. Consider the culture of your small business. Think about what the new employee needs to know, understand, and be able to communicate. Then use that analysis to create a detailed job description. This will be useful both internally and externally. Externally, your accurate job description will serve as the basis of your help-wanted ad. Internally, it will help you analyze the applicants and narrow down the field. 

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

Casting a wide net is equally important because it will help ensure that you find the right person for the job. Nothing in the hiring process is worse than taking the time and spending the money necessary to hire a new employee, only to realize after the fact that you either made a mistake or that there’s someone better out there. You can avoid that by listing your job wherever appropriate: On Craigslist and the many job boards (Monster.com, etc.), putting up a sign in your store if appropriate, and most importantly, by putting the word out to your network. Nothing beats a personal referral.

 

Finally, be sure to take your time throughout the hiring process. Your perfect employee may see your ad or hear about your opening the first week, but maybe not. Their cover letter and resume may come in on day one, but probably not. Taking your time means sifting through the many applicants you will hear from and finding a half dozen or so that seem to be the best fit. It then means interviewing them once, probably twice and it means following up with references.

 

Yes, all of this is a lot of work, but it should be worth it. As the carpenter says: “Measure twice, cut once.”

 

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

©2015 Bank of America Corporation


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