Over the past few years I have been fortunate enough to be able to hire, collaborate with, or bring on board dozens of people across different fields. From short-term contractors, to long-term collaborators or employees. From leather craftsmen for a GNTLMN project, to videographers, camera people, administrative assistants, projects managers, A&R folks for Family Records, community managers, producers, and the list keeps going. The process of hiring has been one of delight and horror, in nearly equal measure. The latter mostly due to mistakes I have made in the process of either selecting or on-boarding the new hire.
I think of the costs associated with bad hires (time, energy, money) as a tuition fee for the lessons I’ve learned. And boy, lets just say I now have a PhD in hiring. Some of my lessons learned:
- Hiring Based On Friend Potential - When you first start hiring, and your team is tiny, it’s easy to fall into the trap of hiring someone because you get along so well during the interview process. It’s very alluring to hire someone based on the fact that they’re so cool and you can imagine being buddies, burning the midnight oil together at the office, working equally hard to make this happen and then go for a drink after. This is not a healthy expectation. The other person has a life of their own, and having a job at a company doesn’t usually bring the same exact emotional motivation as being a founder. Assuming this hire will blossom into an equal friendship comes with a certain level of invisible pressure for the new hire. You’re still their boss and they’re dependent on your relationship being positive to keep their job. This can lead to resentment, and a bad performance. This is not to say you can’t get along with your team, have retreats and work drinks, and a great team vibe, but remember the underlying relationship, and don’t hire someone just because they fill in that “partner in crime/buddy” spot. Hire them because they’re a quality person that adds tremendous value to the team, even if they go straight home when they are done with work for the day.
- Hiring Based On A Gut Feeling - Somewhat related to the above. Do not hire someone based on one conversation because you have a good feeling about them and they seem to know what they’re talking about. Have several conversations with the candidate, let others in your organization talk to them too, have them work on a test project with you, present a case or two from the work floor and ask for their take on things, talk to their references and former employers, ask about their personal goals and how this job could help them accomplish these, etc. Hire slow.
- Hiring Without A Clear Work Agreement – If you do not spell out what is expected from a new hire, then it’s unfair to get upset with them if they don’t live up to these secret expectations. Provide not only a description of tasks, but also determine clear and measurable mile stones and goals for their job. This is something that needs to be thoroughly discussed during the hiring process, so everyone is on the same page. Doing it later on creates a strange dynamic and they might have to adjust their original expectations, because you didn’t make it clear at the right time.
- Hiring Too Early – Sometimes you may be in a financial position to hire a person onto the team before it’s necessary. You may come across an amazing person who just recently lost or left their job, and feel like while you don’t have a position for them right now, you need to scoop them up because they’re an A+ player. Don’t do that, especially if you’re a tiny company. If an A level players joins a team that doesn’t have a clear need for their skill set, they will not perform well, and you will spend more time coming up with things for them to do then you will benefit from their presence. Wait until you feel the pain and need to add that new person. Then hire the right person for that job. Don’t hire a great person and then find them a job.
- Hiring Too Late – Don’t wait until you are so fraught with stress and overworked to hire a new person. You run the risk of rushing the process and grabbing the first warm body that seems to be able to sort of get the job done. Start the process earlier, and wait til you find the right person.
- Hiring Based On Talent Over Work Ethic And Personality - Sometimes you meet a super talent and ignore their personal defects just for the opportunity to bring them on board. We convince ourselves it will be worth the extra management time and the effort to keep their motivation up, because they’re just so great at the technical task at hand. This never works out. Talent without a great work ethic, and the right personality, is just about the most dangerous thing for your organization. They can ruin the atmosphere for everyone else involved, are often entitled and have their own agenda that is unlikely to be aligned with the company’s. You’re better off hiring someone that is half as talented as the superstar, but adds twice as much motivational power for you and your team, and works relentlessly until they complete their task in a way that adds tons of value. Do not ignore red flags of any kind, especially not personality based ones.