7 Qualities to Hire For When Building Your A-Team
Few things are more influential on the success of a growing business than the first few hires you bring onboard. These special people-- their work ethic, values, priorities, and communication styles, will shape your company culture. Over the next several years, they will either vastly contribute to your success or drag you down miserably.
When you’re building your team, you want to hire individuals who are in it for the long haul and who will thrive in an ever-evolving business environment. You need reliable employees that will wear ALL. THE. HATS. And while you might not be able to afford the most technically skilled or highly-qualified candidates right off the bat, you can fast-track your company’s road to success by hiring for these 7 qualities:
In a new business, there is no room to pass tasks off to someone else. You need doers who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. You want employees who aren’t too good for anything, are comfortable wearing different hats, doing a wide variety of tasks, and eager to take on more at all times. Do-ers are the employees who take your vision and run with it. In interviews, look for candidates with past startup experience or who have spearheaded new projects or initiatives. You can ask candidates to give examples of a time they carried out a company objective or when they went above and beyond the call of duty.
Promoting employees from within has magical effects on company culture. It inspires employees to work harder and it boosts buy-in and morale. In order to do this successfully, you want to make sure your initial crop of employees is oozing with leadership potential. Leaders are typically expert communicators, emotionally intelligent, likable, confident, transparent, inspiring, patient, and passionate people. In interviews, look for past leadership experience (team captains, student leaders, volunteer work, or past management experience), and ask candidates to describe their leadership philosophy.
As an owner of a small business, you won’t have all the answers and you definitely won’t have the time to hold the hands of your employees as they figure it out. You need your first employees to be independent and resourceful people who are master Googlers. You want creative problem solvers, who can bring new insight and solutions you wouldn’t have thought of yourself. You want resourceful employees who will think outside the box, not robots. In interviews, ask candidates to describe a time where they were tasked with something they didn’t know how to do, and how they figured it out. Review past job experience to gauge levels of autonomy and independence, and pass on candidates who have only done jobs with repetitive duties or tasks.
#4 Takes Criticism Well
Maintaining open and honest communication is absolutely necessary for the early stages of any business. Employees will be figuring things out as they go, and consequently, you will be recommending little tweaks along the way. As an effective leader, you will be providing feedback, praise, and criticism regularly. If an employee gets defensive and can’t handle criticism well, it will derail their performance and destroy the morale of a small team. Look for candidates who communicate well, and can talk about their personal and professional failures with ease. If a candidate possesses the self-awareness and vulnerability to share how they failed at something and grew personally as a result, that’s a good sign that they can internalize criticism and constructive feedback and make necessary changes in the future.
#5 Futuristic Thinker
Follow the vision! Your first employees are helping you build something out of nothing, so look for forward-thinking individuals that can imagine a promising future ahead and work diligently toward it. No doubt, there will be challenging times during the initial roller-coaster years of a new business, and an employee with the inability to think beyond the day-to-day will not survive. They will get bogged down with the daily stresses and quit, or worse, stay and let their negative energy seep into the rest of the team. In interviews, look for visionaries. Look for candidates who are motivated by future success, and who can articulate times where they worked diligently to accomplish a far out goal.
No Negative Nancys allowed. This may seem obvious, but hire candidates who are happy people, ecstatic, and optimistic about your vision. No matter how qualified a candidate looks on their resume, if they are a downer, you don’t want them on your team. As an effective leader, your job is to inspire and motivate your team every day, and nothing derails this effort more than an In-House Hater. In your interviews, ask candidates to describe a time where they went through something difficult and listen for red flags like self-pity, pessimism, or self-victimization. You want candidates who are self-aware, reflective, positive, and a joy to be around.
Your core team should be comprised of employees with differing strengths, skill sets, talents, perspectives, and backgrounds. Having a diverse team will allow you to accomplish the most with limited resources. Diversity isn’t just a foo-foo buzz word either. According to a recent study of 11 CEOs conducted by Harvard Business Review, having a diverse team broadens your understanding of your customer base and allows you to service them better, which contributes directly to your bottom line.
It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll find individuals who possess all seven of these traits (if you do- hold on to them forever). Look for individuals who check off at least three to five of the character traits and strive to build a well-rounded team that cumulatively possesses all of the traits. It also goes without saying that we strongly recommend avoiding hiring individuals who display the opposites of these character traits (i.e. a pessimist or someone who needs a lot of hand-holding).