Hiring Employees: The Double-Edged Sword

Feb 22, 2012, Written by Sue Miley

In the world of owning your own business I think the biggest double edge sword is hiring employees.

I think many small business owners would say it is like flipping a coin as to whether the employee will be a benefit or a liability.  And although there seems to be only two extremes of wonderful, great, fabulous decision or horrible, gut-wrenching, expensive decision, there are many components that tip the see-saw.

1.  Experience: Is It The Right Experience

First we usually check to make sure the candidate has the experience we need.  Unfortunately, many small business owners still look for what the employee did in their past jobs rather than how well they did it.  We really need to know if they made improvements, increased sales, reduced costs, beat timelines, etc.

2.  Ability:  How Well Did They Do The Job

This is getting further into the question of how well they did it.  Just because someone has been in sales for 15 years doesn’t mean they sold a lot.  Also, once they are in your company, you begin to understand whether or not they are set in their ways or only know one way to do something.

It doesn’t help you much if they were able to use the cash register at their last job, but can’t figure your’s out.

3.  Attitude:  One Bad Apple

This one is really difficult because most people try to have a good attitude on the interview.  You don’t know that in their 10 years of customer service that they hated 99% of the customers.

Or that the real reason they were laid off of their last job was because the owner was praying for a downturn in the economy so they could have an excuse to do a lay-off.  (If this is you, you might want to read Why Small Business Owners need to be Good at Firing People.)

A bad attitude is worse for your company than poor ability.  Sometimes you can train someone to be better at their job, whereas, you rarely change someone’s attitude.

4.  Culture:  The Intangible Secret Weapon

Culture is more difficult to assess than the other three.  A person can have a great attitude but still not match the company’s culture.  I had a very experienced district manager I hired once.  He had more experience and a successful track record than all of my DM’s combined.  But, he just didn’t fit in.  There was nothing I could do to make the rest of the organization support him.

He would ask me what he needed to do differently, but I was at a loss.  Culture is subliminal at times and changing to fit a culture is almost impossible.

What’s a Small Business Owner to Do?

Since many small business owners don’t hire a large quantity of employees they don’t usually spend the time studying and preparing to do this well.  However, the negative impact of the mistakes are extremely painful and sometimes long-lasting.  One hire can sometimes be 20-30% of your team!

As Christians we often feel that if we made a mistake hiring someone, it is our mistake alone, and we have to live with it.  However, living with it has the potential to cripple our business and torture the other employees.  It may also torture the employee in question.

I think this is such an important area of competency for small business owners that you need to either improve your recruiting skills or get outside help to recruit the best person for your business.

Hire Power:  Hiring People You Trust and Trusting the People You HIre

Right now our coaching business is recruiting eight positions for a handful of clients.  We aren’t a recruiting firm.  We just want to make sure our clients hire the best people for their business.

In my prior business career, recruiting was one of my favorite responsibilities.  Even when I moved up to higher positions, I always made it a priority to be integrally involved in the hiring process.

Since helping so many people as a coach, I began to write about how Christian business owners can hire people that will be right for their company and their culture.  If you are interested in this three part guide on hiring the right people for you, you can find it here.

Poor Hiring Skills Doesn’t Fix Itself

If hiring is difficult for you, face it now.  It doesn’t get better on its own.  You may think after enough bad hires you will improve automatically, but the opposite is true.  You generally psych yourself out and then you second guess yourself even more.  Employee holes go unfilled for too long and then you hire out of desperation.

Get good at it  or find someone to help who is a good recruiter and who understands your company and your culture!

Reader Interactions


  1. Loren Pinilis says

    I’ve heard of organizations, like Dave Ramsey’s, that make a ridiculously huge deal about hiring. They spend weeks and weeks interviewing and picking the right candidates. At first, it seemed silly to me. But now I see that there’s wisdom in it. Hiring the right people from the start is the best way to go. I think you hit the nail on the head with the importance of culture. A lot of times, it’s not about right and wrong – but about what’s a good fit.

    • S_Miley says

      Hi Loren , I just read Dave Ramsey’s philosophy on hiring. I think his organization is big enough to have people chip in and help if there is a hole for too long. Many of us don’t have enough hands in our company. I guess that is why I feel we need to be constantly recruiting in order to have someone in mind if a hole arises! And yes, having a good fit is a deal breaker too me!

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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