Small Business Guide 2009
small business
12 tips for small-business hiring

9. Use your expertise. When it comes to interviewing potential candidates, you have an advantage: As a small-business owner, you've probably done the job for which you're hiring. Use that experience when you interview.

Think of some difficult situations you had to navigate. Under the guise of "What would you do if …" ask how the candidate would handle that "hypothetical" situation, says Yate. Since it isn't the typical interview question, you’ll see how the candidate really thinks.

10. Learn about the person behind the skills. At a very small business, this employee is going to make up a sizable portion of the staff. That makes it especially important for small-business owners to find someone who will complement (and not clash) with the company culture. And while you may be able to shore up skills, you can't teach attitude, says Jim Schell, coauthor of "Small Business for Dummies."

"Anytime you add a person to a small business, it impacts the dynamic of the group," says Caitlin Friedman, partner in the boutique New York public relations firm YC Media and co-author of "The Girls Guide to Starting Your Own Business." "One negative attitude or person who doesn't fit can really throw off the group."

Schell agrees. At a small company, "having the right person on the bus is probably more important to us," he says. Because there are fewer employees, "the impact on us when we make a bad decision is more expensive," Schell says.

11. Don't oversell. The one mistake many small-business owners make is that they love their companies and they want everyone else to love them, too, says Jeffrey Fox, author of "How to Make Big Money in Your Own Small Business,"and founder of Fox & Co. But if you want to get someone who lasts beyond the hiring honeymoon, resist the urge to make the position sound like more than it is. "Tell the applicant exactly what the job is about, and what to expect," he says.

When Fox hired his first few assistants, he noticed they would stay only a short time. He finally realized that he was overstating the day-to-day duties. When the next candidate walked through the door, he dropped the hyperbole. "Then I found someone who has been with me 20 years," he says.

12. Save money by taking your time. The mantra of corporate success is "hire slowly, fire quickly," says Schell. But at small businesses, "we tend to do the opposite," he says.

That's a big mistake, he says, especially if you’re watching the bottom line. Adds Schell, "If someone figured out the cost of a bad hire you kept for six months -- it's mind-blowing."

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