When I first started my spa business I had no hiring experience. I was a 22 year old massage therapist with a dream and plenty of drive, but not a lot else. I remember the early days of hiring: “Oh, Zoey is so sweet and cool, we will have so much fun together! She’s hired!” I also remember the early days of firing: “After a year of trying to make this work with you, Zoey, it’s just not happening. I’m sorry.” And the crazy thing is that none of it was Zoey’s fault, or anyone else’s fault for that matter – it was me! I was bad at hiring! It took me years to get the skills to hire the right people for the job, and I want to help you avoid the misery.
Many of you are solopreneurs, and when you are ready to hire your first employee or independent contractor, it is a big deal. A virtual assistant (VA) who can support you and your business is worth their weight in gold (mine is!). An organized and prepared online business manager will be your business’s best friend. Even an amazing house cleaner can make your life easier and more serene. So, while hiring, follow these simple guidelines and you will end up with a rockstar team.
Hire slowly. Even if you feel you need to get someone in like yesterday, it is important not to rush the hiring process. Hurrying to fill a position is a recipe for disaster because you will be coming from a needy place and won’t be able to see clearly what they are bringing – or not bringing – to the table.
It’s like a romantic relationship. If you’re feeling desperate, you’re reluctant to hold out for what you really want, and you’re likely to settle for less.
Know your core values. If you don’t already have five core values for your business, sit down and decide what they are. As an example, my core values are: integrity, respect, compassion, commitment to self growth, and selfless service. It’s vital to know what yours are before you start hiring, because you will be able to then create your ads, or your emails to friends, or your online search, with these core values in mind.
Understand what you are looking for. Have a job description with a list of tasks and a list of key skills. You ought to be confident in what you are offering and clear on what you need. Some things can be taught, other things are more difficult to teach. Decide what skills they need to already have, and which you are willing to train them on.
My rule is, if it is something they should have learned from their parents – kindness, work ethic, manners – then it’s not something I’m willing to teach them on the job.
Create tests to assess skills. If you are hiring a VA, for instance, you may ask them to send you their resume and cover letter as a pdf. This allows you to see two things: whether they are capable of using computer programs that you require and if they are detail oriented. You will be surprised at how many people will tell you how detail oriented they are in their cover letter, which they sent as a Microsoft Word document!
Be creative with this and get comfortable doing it. When I owned a café, we had people come in for 3 hour work interviews where they would make espresso drinks and serve customers. You can learn a lot about your potential hire this way – before you’ve hired them and it’s too late!
Do your homework. Call their references, ask them if you can call their past employers, Google them. If they currently work with other solopreneurs (as many VA’s), call their current clients. When you do talk to their references and such, ask questions that will help you gain clarity on whether they possess the core values and key skills that you are looking for.
Interview. It should go without saying that you need to interview someone before you hire them, but an interview is only as useful as the questions and energy of the interviewer – that’s you! Come prepared with questions that will, again, help you assess if they have the core values and key skills you are looking for. This is the time to be very clear about your expectations.
Leave lots of time for them to ask questions. You often learn more about them from their questions, or lack thereof, than their answers.
Shape the future. During the interview to get them on board with your company’s mission and direction. When I interview I am very straightforward about this: This is our mission, this is why I am here, this is why we do what we do. If this is not something that you want to do with your life, then this is not the right job for you. The people that want to be part of your purpose will be inspired, and the people that are looking to just pay the bills will run for the hills (which is exactly what you want!).
Take a test drive. When you decide to hire that perfect person, do so on a trial basis. Set up a time frame (like three months) to work together and then plan to meet at the end of that time to discuss what is working and what is not working, for both of you. If you refer to this as a probationary period, with their full hire being conditional upon satisfactory performance, you also limit your liability (somewhat) if you choose to terminate them at the end of this time.
As I have developed and refined these hiring practices over the years, my business has improved dramatically. I am now surrounded by people that support the mission and share in the work.