Recruiting a Winning Team

Build Your Team - By: Chris Crace
Business Coaching Article | Ten Principles of Leadership

It is difficult even for big companies to assemble a strong management team. For us owners and managers of small and medium size firms, it is exponentially harder. Generally we can't match the big guys in salary and perks. We don't have the magnetic draw of a Fortune 1000 name. And our people generally have to work harder and put in longer hours. But compete for available talent we must.

More in small companies than in big ones, individual performance impacts company performance. The big guys have depth and specialization. Our managers are stretched thin, have multiple responsibilities and are running hard to keep up. They need to be good at their jobs. The quality of our team is the key to our business success.

A typical employee in a small business will cost of between $45,000 and $80,000 a year. A bad hire can cost a significant part of our annual profit. To find and hire good people with the right skills, first understand what you need, then look for it in the right places.

Get organized:

  • Review your organization chart to make sure that all areas are properly covered and that, tasks are logically grouped and match your organization's goals. Then create or review the position description. An old description may not accurately describe the job today.
  • Set a realistic timetable for your search and hire. Don't let the pressure of an upcoming meeting or the start of a big project push you to hire someone. (Remember, it is a lot harder to get rid of someone than hire them).
  • Schedule the time you need to hire right the first time. Temporarily parcel out key tasks among other staff with the appropriate rewards and incentives.
  • Use temps or contractors to handle specialized work. It is all worth it. The wrong hire can mean you have to train the person, deal with disgruntled coworkers, or let the person go, and start again.
  • How to compete with the big guys offering bigger salaries? Provide challenge and growth in the day-to-day job. For a surprising number of people, a job is not just about money. A balanced life and a work environment where employees feel appreciated can make them choose your job over more money.

How to find the talent:

  • Depending on the position you are filling, bear in mind that you may get an avalanche of candidates, from qualified to wishful to awful. So start with a narrow, focused, specific search. Word your advertisement carefully to attract the skills you need and discourage those who do not fit.
  • Networking can be a great source of candidates. Through your professional associations and business contacts, you can get leads on qualified applicants.
  • Internet recruitment sites offer good value--but be prepared to be inundated by poor quality applicants playing a numbers game with their electronic resume. Local newspapers are very good for recruiting part-timers looking for the convenience of a local job.


  • For senior-level positions, search firms may represent money well spent.
  • Temporary agencies specializing in communications, accounting or legal work can be a source of job candidates. Many do direct hires and temp-to-perm options are a great way to test an applicant before making a decision.
  • Also, many professional societies have job banks or newsletters that list positions at no cost and reach a well-targeted pool of applicants.

Select the best:

  • Interviewing can chew up a lot of time. Use the telephone to prequalify.
  • Rather than reading long and boring resumes, use a message-bank to record applicant’s explanations on why they should be selected.
  • Keep the number of applicants you interview to a manageable number.
  • Use a checklist to be sure you're consistent with each candidate. And make sure you know what you can and can't ask legally.
  • Know what you need to ask all applicants and decide what to ask individuals based on their resumes and cover letters.
  • Judge applicants on skills and characteristics needed to succeed in the position you have open, not on doing the same job elsewhere.
  • Talented people generally don't move into identical jobs if they can avoid it. Hire people who have been successful one rung down the experience ladder and are ready for the challenge, new skills and experience you offer.
  • Ask broad, open questions. Let candidates tell you what they think is important for you to know about them. That can be very revealing. Then follow up with detailed questions.
  • Take the time to check references. It can help you choose among candidates or spare you a disastrous mistake. Try to go beyond the references supplied by the candidate. They will be primed to say only good things. Ask references for other references that may be more candid.
  • Be careful of making emotional decisions. Have someone assist you throughout the process to help you get a balanced view.
  • Conduct the process professionally. Treat all candidates with respect. Ensure that the disappointed candidates have good things to say about you and your company.

And remember, hiring the right person in the first place makes everything else easier.