Over 4,400 employees work for Spotify. Google currently employs over 114,000 workers. There are a staggering 1,000,000 people that work for Amazon. When we think of success, we look to these giant corporations who have taken the world by storm and we think: how do we get here?
It’s good to have role models that inspire you to work harder. It’s advantageous to pay attention to industry leaders and learn from their mistakes while also emulating what they’ve done right. Yet, this often causes leaders to get too far ahead of themselves.
Success isn’t contingent on how many employees you have working under you. Size doesn’t always matter and, as the old saying goes, quality is more important than quantity. Small but mighty companies today are flourishing and standing right alongside their more sizable competitors.
But while smaller teams can be more powerful, they can also be less forgiving. When you lead a smaller team of employees, who you hire really matters. Here’s what I’ve learned to pay attention to when identifying the best and brightest for my team:
1. Think beyond the face-to-face interview
If someone performs well in a face-to-face interview, it doesn’t always mean they’re the most competent candidate. They could just be good at interviews. I’ve learned this the hard way.
Traditional interviews give you insight into a person’s professional background, but they aren’t always the best way to evaluate someone’s true personality or skill set. I’ve hired people in the past that have given great interviews, but they aren’t adept when it comes to performing the duties they were hired for.
You shouldn’t eliminate face-to-face interviews altogether, but you should re-examine your interview process. Looking at a resume and holding a few rounds of interviews can help you vet candidates, but it’s not enough.
Some professionals sprinkle in other tools that give them a more comprehensive look into their interviewees, like having candidates fill out a skills-based questionnaire or a personality test. You can even give candidates ‘homework’ to complete. I assign ‘bite-sized’ tasks similar to what the person would experience on the job to see not only if they can complete the assignment, but how they complete it.
2. Let your team help vet candidates
Hiring shouldn’t just be a one or two-person decision, it should be a team effort. After all, your employees will be working more closely with a new hire than you will. Once you’ve narrowed down your search to one or two candidates, invite them back for a second interview where they can meet the team. You can walk the candidate around the office and allow them to have a quick one-on-one with various departments, or you can arrange a team lunch to give everyone an opportunity to chat in a more candid environment.
Meet-and-greets can also be conducted virtually with ease. We just did this with a few new employees we’ve hired, and it really helped. My employees were able to get a sense of who would be the best cultural fit, and involving my employees in the process has been crucial in spotting red flags that we may have missed during the first interview.
3. Diversify your team
Diversity is important for many reasons, but one of the most prominent is that it challenges perspectives and encourages innovation and more creative problem-solving. Diversity shouldn’t matter because it makes you look good, it should matter because it’s the right thing to do and because it helps you deliver better client service and will set you apart in your industry.
Everyone who works at ApparelMagic comes from different backgrounds and has different values. One of the most rewarding parts of my job has been building a diverse team and finding ways to use those differences in conjunction with one another. Collectively, we’ve risen above obstacles that would’ve been impossible to accomplish individually.
It’s tempting to want to hire people that look like us, think like us, and have the same skill sets that we do, but this is problematic. If your employees aren’t constantly pushing one another — and you — it’s a barrier to growth. Diversity is complimentary, homogeneity is not.
4. Trust your instincts
Trust your gut. You’ve led your company so far and you know what works and what doesn’t. You know how to read people, you understand the dynamics of your company culture, and you know the kinds of skill sets that are necessary to propel your services forward.
Never feel pressured to fill a role as quickly as possible. If you find someone that fits the bill immediately, go for it. But sometimes it takes time to ascertain whether someone is the right fit for your company or not.
Nobody has a perfect track record of hiring. Even so, from my experience working in a small team — and now, leading one — I’ve found that it’s far easier to hire quality candidates when you have a system that purposefully prioritizes the qualities that matter most.