How To Know You’re Hiring the Right Person

Jul 23, 2015, Written by Sue Miley


I was sitting across from her when her eyes started to sparkle.  Seriously sparkle.  And I knew I had her.  She wanted the job.  Not just a job.  This job.  And she wanted it bad.

This was when I could tell if a candidate made the first hurdle in a job interview.

I wanted to work with people who were as excited about our concept as I was.  I would spend several minutes describing our business, the culture, and what we were trying to become.

It was perfect, too, because I had all of the senses working.  I always interviewed all of our positions in one of our coffee houses.  If we could freeze the moment, the candidate could…

…breathe in the rich aroma of the freshest ground or brewed coffee beans.

…look around at the wood and stone elements of our New Orleans-style coffee house.

…hear the sounds of community, fellowship and belonging.

…feel the energy of the people moving about.

It was a formula to be reckoned with.

And because I have seen the eyes turn so many times, I knew not to hire anyone without the transformation.

How do you know if you should hire the person in front of you?

And when you are a small business, any single hire could be a large percent of your entire team.

The sparkle was just the minimum hurdle of a good hire for us.  There is obviously more.  Much more.

When making a key hire to your team, keep these other key criteria in mind:

  • Will they bring skills, methods and experience to your business that you don’t currently have?  Many times small businesses hire people and they grow up in the company.  Their experience is your experience and the new experiences you are making.  You want to add people to your team that have learned things other places and can inject incremental expertise into your organization.
  • Does the candidate match the culture you want for your business?  Too many small businesses end up with a culture that resulted from the people they hired, rather than hiring to the culture they want to create.  It is your business and you have a choice.  Create a culture that has core values important to you.  Create an environment and work ethic that matches how you want your team to work and to work with your customers.
  • Do the candidate’s career aspirations line up with the needs you have for your business and the vision of your business in the future? If it takes a few years for a person to become trained and really add value to your business, you don’t want to hire someone who is going to graduate school in a year.  If your plan is to double and triple in size every 5 years, you need people who want to learn and develop and grow with you.  If your plan is a daily operation that won’t change a lot, but is all about people, you want someone who is happy to stay in the same role for a long time.
  • Will they be able to function, and even thrive, in your environment?  Sometimes our businesses are in such a state of evolution that employees are thrown into the water, so to speak, and told to sink or swim.  This is not a stage in your company to hire someone without any experience.  This is not the place for someone who requires a lot of structure and direction.

These are a few important criteria off of the top of my head, however, another important variable is how to discern the answers to these questions.

Unfortunately, you can’t just ask the question.  Most candidates are going to say what you want to hear.

Yes I agree with all of your core values.

I want to stay with one company forever.

I can work with training or without.  Whatever will work for you.

To truly discern where the person sitting across from you stands requires a really important phase of the interview process called listening.

And you have to listen with all of your senses.

Ask open-ended questions and ask them to give examples.
Watch their body language.
Listen to their tone and enthusiasm.
Repeat back to them what you hear them saying and let them clarify.
Feel their engagement in the questions and the answers they give.

In the end, you don’t just want someone who needs a job.  You don’t even want someone who wants a job.  You want someone who wants the job you have.

Whose eyes light up when they talk to you about it.  Who may be nervous and might not have the perfect answers, but is leaning forward and ready to start.

Honestly, when it comes down to it…
you want to see the sparkle in their eye!

Reader Interactions


  1. eddiem says

    Great advice.. For me, hiring has always been the most dreaded, and at the same time, the most valuable thing I do. Learning to hire people that fit our culture has been difficult, and we haven’t always done it successfully.

    But when we began emphasizing that in our business, it changed everything for the better.

    Good article as always

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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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