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6 Guidelines I Live By When Building a Team

Written by Amy Voloshin, Creative director and co-founder, Printfresh
. This article was originally published on Huffington Post Small Business

Hiring can be one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs. I’ve seen fellow business owners constantly struggling with bringing in team members that just don’t work out. Over the years, I’ve found that there are 6 guidelines we always follow when hiring, allowing us to ensure we get a great fit for the specific job as well the culture we have built.

  1. Hire and fire based on core values - We live by our core values, and we just won’t hire someone who doesn’t fit our culture. The culture within our company is one of our biggest draws for talent, and a candidate who is perfectly aligned makes for an employee who really thrives in the long term. We have a core values checklist we review after interviewing each candidate – if a candidate doesn’t exhibit every attribute, then they just won’t get the job.
  2. Rely on your team to be your best recruiters - When beginning the search for a new employee, our first step is always to ask for company referrals. For a little extra incentive, we offer a $1,000 referral bonus for every employee-referred candidate we end up hiring. We have gotten many of our best employees through internal word of mouth, and we’ve found it really helps to strengthen the culture within our organization. Employees tend to recommend only the people they would be proud to bring into our company and would be happy to work alongside. We trust our employees, and in turn employee referrals always go to the top of our list.
  3. Phone interviews - A phone screening is the fastest and easiest way to see where a candidate’s interests truly lie – and a way to gain perspective on the tasks or responsibilities he or she is not interested in doing. We look for the perfect candidate who will not only excel at a job, but be happy doing it. A lot of people in a candidate pool might be great, but if their desires aren’t matched up with the responsibilities of the specific job then it’s just not the right fit right now. Phone interviews really help narrow a pool of great candidates down to the best candidates.
  4. Take your time with the interview process - We spend up to a full day meeting with candidates for high level team members, and at least a few hours with every entry level candidate. We’ve found that what really works for us is dividing the interview process into two different meetings – an initial interview that focuses on previous work experience, and a second interview that really allows us to hone in on the competencies essential for the prospective position. In the initial interview, we work through the candidate’s resume in reverse-chronological order, specifically looking for people who have learned from mistakes and triumphed over setbacks. If a candidate makes it to the 2nd round of interviews, we work to identify specific examples in the candidate’s history that illustrate each of the required key competency areas. The second interview allows us to really focus on whether a candidate has what it takes to do a very specific job. We try to include team members who work in the relevant departments in this second interview, as they can offer additional insight into whether or a not a candidate will be a great fit.
  5. Always, always check references - The reference check is the deal maker for us. We only hire candidates who have past managers or direct reports that rate them highly. We take detailed notes about each of a candidate’s previous supervisors throughout the interview process, so we know exactly who we’d like to speak with when the reference check rolls around. We don’t want to talk to just any person off of a candidate’s reference list. We are only looking for A players, and it’s crucial that our hires have built strong relationships with their past managers.
  6. Provide intensive training, and then let them shine - Sink or swim just doesn’t work, and a new employee’s success relies on the right coaching. We spend the first three months on employment providing one-on-one training, making sure each new team member is up to speed on all the technical details of their new position, as well as versed in our organization’s cultural expectations. But once trained, it’s time to step back and allow them the space to be their best.

This article is part of ICIC’s Icons of Industry Growth series in Huffington Post Small Business, highlighting the fastest-growing businesses located in America’s inner cities. Small business owners are invited to join these successful entrepreneurs in Boston on October 15-16th at the Inner City 100 Symposium and Awards, a premier management education and networking event featuring leading CEOs and Harvard Business School faculty. Learn more here.

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