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.)



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. 


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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.

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