Top Five Top Ten Lists

The Top Five Top 10 “How to Hire” Tip Lists

When it comes to first-time hiring tips, everyone’s pointing to the same few lists with the same incomplete guidance.  Nobody’s wrong, for the most part (although a few sites don’t understand the difference between federal and state law), but most of the lists are incomplete.  That is, you can follow all their directions (wading through the AdSense ads all the while) and still not have done everything you need to do to get good employees.
Here, then, are my favorites, reviewed:’s Checklist for Hiring

First, a google search on “how to hire” takes you to a cover page.  The actual checklist itself is a link from this page.  Not the “Next” button, which you might think, but the link in the middle of the post.

Here are my thoughts about a few of the points:

Think creatively about how to accomplish the work without adding staff

OK.  You’re a solopreneur, or a micro-business.  You’ve been “thinking creatively” for the past year, and you need help.  You need to hire employees. It’s never a bad idea to be SURE you need to hire, but probably, you’ve passed this point already.

Hold a recruiting planning meeting with the recruiter, the HR leader, the hiring manager, and, potentially, a coworker or internal customer.

Well, heck, if you could HOLD that meeting, you wouldn’t need to be hiring employees in the first place!  You’d already have staff!  Do you suspect maybe this checklist isn’t going to work for a business the size of yours?

The list goes on with a number of steps that involve offering the position to internal candidates, a few steps about building a pool of qualified candidates, and one or two about screening resumes.  If you don’t find someone good enough to hire, start all over again.  Good luck with that.

Wall Street Journal How to Hire Your First Employee

This is an essay aimed at businesses planning to be big.  It makes no mention of the laws surrounding employment, or the nuts-and-bolts of paperwork.  There’s nothing wrong with the article, particularly if you’re hiring in Silicon Valley or the Research Triangle Park or some other start-up hotbed.  It’s not applicable to growing a franchise, or hiring employees who are outside your network (hourly workers), or figure-it-out-as-you-go businesses.

Inc. Magazine’s How to Hire Wisely

The most useful sentence in this article for first time hiring managers (that would be you, dear reader) is this one:

Third, to hire well, you need to hire more.

The more (employees, or times) you hire, the better you’ll get at hiring (allowing a repeatable hiring process that can be improved, rather than a random swag starting fresh each time).  Unfortunately for you, Inc. Magazine’s idea of a “small business” gets pretty darn big:

which hires about 7,000 workers seasonally

Yeah, if I hired 7,000 workers every year, I’d get good at hiring employees pretty quickly, too.  But back to our real world:  you may not get the hiring process perfect the first time.  You will get better, as long as you recognize that you CAN get better.

Entrepreneur Magazine, Hiring Your First Employee

Entrepreneur “goes legal” quickly, telling you about background checks, drug testing, and various psychological testing that can help prevent hiring disasters.  However, they throw it back on you:

To avoid any legal problems, before administering such tests, be prepared to demonstrate job-relatedness, non-discrimination and statistical validity.

Guess what: you won’t be able to “demonstrate job-relatededness.”  Not for any hiring test you develop on your own. Certainly not for handwriting analysis. Really. The big testing companies spend a lot of money validating their pre-employment tests, and it’s way more than you can afford, and it still doesn’t always prove their case. (That said, I’m a small fan of handwriting analysis, and DO believe “in it.”  But I wouldn’t try to run that belief past an EEOC investigator.  There are plenty of ways to get the information you need through an interview that’s totally defensible.)

In any case, if the first three things you have to do with a job candidate are to run a background check, a drug test, and a lie detector test, you are fishing in the wrong pond.  (If you do want to fish in that pond and you live near a minimum security prison, investigate the work release program offered by your state’s Department of Corrections.  Your state will run the pre-employment drug tests.  Your tax dollars at work!)

Every hiring tip on the second page of the article is correct, but, in my opinion, in the wrong order. You should probably know the salary you can afford long before you write a help-wanted ad. You should also be clear about the hourly-exempt distinction before you advertise, too.

End of How-To Hire Lists of Hiring Tips

That’s the end of the top-ranked “how to hire an employee” pages (that purport to be comprehensive). Maybe this article will gain altitude in the search results page by the time you read it! I’ll close with an counterpoint:

Guy Kawasaki on How Not To Hire

I’ll quote the last part:

<quote on>

This job posting is fundamentally flawed. It casts far too big a net, so it will intimidate or exasperate the little fish (ie, people starting their careers), and the big fish (ie, people who truly qualified) either aren’t reading Craigslist or will smell a rat: “Compensation: Commensurate with experience.”

This is my advice:

  • Use the right tool. Craigslist might not be the best place for senior positions and for senior candidates at established companies. Better places are, Creativecircle, and I.D. However, it is great for contract work and entry- and mid-level positions.
  • Write honest job descriptions for honest job titles. Don’t try to entice candidates with promises of greater responsibilities or opportunities than is true. And don’t delude yourself: If the cat drags in over-qualified candidate, are you really going to expand the job?
  • Match the job and the background requirements. If you have an entry-level job, then write entry-level specs. If you have a mid- or upper-level job, then write more demanding specs such as five or more years of experience. Unfortunately, most help-wanted ads contain unrealistic demands for the position.
  • Sell. Almost every help-wanted ad focuses on buying, not selling—that is, the qualifications that candidates have to meet and the fences that they have to jump over. However, in the war for talent, this is ass backwards. This ad, for example, should mention things like “award-winning shop,” “work alongside famous designers,” “interesting projects for Disney, Apple, and Audi.”
  • Give young people a break. In the past of great employees are managers who gave them a break. Maybe they didn’t have the ideal educational or work experience—for example, an ex-jewelry schlepper. What’s more important than what’s on screen is what’s in the mind, soul, and attitude of candidates

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If your work is at all technical, I recommend Guy’s recent books, The Art of the Start and Reality Check.  People with more traditional service and retail businesses probably won’t get as much benefit from the books.