Tips and Resources to Hire the Best

small business

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Your employees are your company’s greatest asset.

That’s a truism so obvious it’s equivalent to saying The Sun brings light and warmth. Still, we all can use reminders of the obvious in our lives from time to time. And with managing employees, it’s important to keep that reminder lively in your memory.

That truism, employees are your greatest assets, rings truer and louder and clearer, in small companies than their bigger competitors. Each new employee at a small company is guaranteed to have an immediate impact from the moment they arrive.

The risk/reward ratio is higher with new hires at small companies. The cost of a mis-hire is considered to be, on average, 3-4 times their annual salary. The cost of mis-hire at a small company can exceed that and quickly reach … the entire company.

On the other hand, the reward from a great new hire at a small company can be…the entire company, again. A doubling of revenues or customers or cutting costs in half is the impact a good hire can bring quickly to a small company.

What resources are available to insure you, small business leaders, hire the best? (I’ll talk recruiting candidates and keeping your best employees on another post.)

Let’s assume you and your employees have gathered 3-4 top candidates to interview. I’m going to share with you the steps and resources I used with 100% success as CEO: 3 great hires and 1 bad hire avoided.

Here they are:

1) Read Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching, and Keeping the Best People. Just read it. There’s no need to read ALL of it. But read the first 2-3 chapters BEFORE you begin the interview.

2) Read The Smart Interviewer: Tools and Techniques for Hiring the Best.

3) Customize the “CIDS Interview“. It’s outlined in great detail in The Smart Interviewer. You’ll want to customize it slightly for the position at your company.

Why use the CIDS Interview? CIDS stands for Chronological In-Depth Survey. The CIDS Interview is a proven methodology for identifying behavior patterns in your candidate over the course of their education and career, to that point.

The book outlines in great detail the questions you’ll use to conduct a chronological in-depth survey of your candidate’s background. Your goal is to identify your candidate’s behavior patterns as they faced opportunities and challenges, successes and failures, from school to their most recent position.

There’s no trick question of the month involved here.

There’s no standard interview questions everyone now knows how to answer.

It’s a consistently applied survey of their responses to stress and change, opportunity and setbacks, success and ‘learning opportunity’ as they faced it throughout their adulthood.

4) Involve your company in the interview. Assign a different department/team/group to conduct the CIDS Interview with the candidate for a different period of their career or education:

* Sales interviews them about their college years;

* Operations takes their first job post-college;

* Customer Service interviews them about their 2nd job, etc.

It’s vital to involve everyone in a small company in the interview and hiring process. It’s obvious why. But…obvious truths need reminding.

A. You have blind spots. We all have blind spots. This helps you protect you from yourself, in effect. Many hands make light work. Many eyes make all seen.

B. Their involvement increases their engagement and endorsement of the decision. They understand why. They’ve participated. And rightfully so. No one likes a hire, especially a bad hire, dropped on their day.

C. It makes for a welcoming reception for the new hire. They’ve met everyone already. They’re greeted with smiles. Their desk is prepared. Everyone’s prepared to make this person a success.

5) Commit to the time required. CIDS Interviews can take 4-6 hours per candidate. I found 8 hours were required.

Compare that to the time needed to manage a bad hire and their aftermath. Is an hour of your time, or even 2-3 hours with a candidate interview, worth losing your company for?

Ok, then.

6) Offer them $1000 to leave after 30 days. OK, I’ve never done that. But I’m considering doing it in the future.

Zappos does this. I found this out a few weeks ago. They offer each new hire, at the end of their first 30 days, $1000 to leave.

Pack up, see you later, thanks for the memories, no harm.

And Zappos has grown from $70 million in revenues 5 years ago to … a projected $1 billion in revenues for this year.

Links for the story about Zappos’ $1000 see you later bonus:

* BrandAutopsy by John Moore,

* Game Changer by Bill Taylor.

And if YOU do this, offer your new hire(s) $1000 to leave right then, let us know the results.

My thinking is you’ll never need to do this with your investment in the CIDS Interview.

On the other hand, it’s a very primal way to make sure your new hire is a keeper.

And it’s a cheap way to fix it if they’re not.

Good luck.

* * * * *

About the Author: Zane Safrit’s passion is small business and the operations’ excellence required to deliver a product that creates word-of-mouth, customer referrals and instills pride in those whose passion created it. He previously served as CEO of Conference Calls Unlimited. Zane’s blog can be found at Zane Safrit.

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Zane Safrit Zane Safrit's My passion is small business and the operations' excellence required to deliver a product that creates word-of-mouth, customer referrals and instills pride in those whose passion created it. Zane's blog is Zane Safrit.

11 Reactions
  1. Martin Lindeskog

    Do you know how many companies that use the Chronological In-Depth Survey interview?

  2. “You have blind spots. We all have blind spots. This helps you protect you from yourself, in effect. Many hands make light work. Many eyes make all seen.” – Best piece of advice I’ve read in a while.

    And that Zappos $1000… I SO wish I could give that a try, but being a one-man operation…

  3. Zane,

    Great article. Yes, a single hire in a small company has much greater impact than in a larger company — good or bad.

    Take a bad hire — not only won’t they deliver the work you need, but if the person has a negative, defeatist, passive-aggressive attitude, they can poison the entire workforce very quickly. And creative an awful environment that drives others away, too.

    On the other hand, one good hire can make you feel like you added Superman or Superwoman to the team. They will seem to leap buildings in a single bound and deliver so much value your head will spin. And they will lift others to achieve higher heights by their positive example.


  4. Employees do have the greatest impact on a business. Making a wrong choice can cause you months of grief. This is a very helpful article with lots of useful resources. The $1000 to leave is a really good idea.

  5. I like your suggestion of getting the company, as a whole involved in the hiring process. This is so very important and often overlooked. Management may get along smashingly with someone during an interview and think they’ll bind well with other employees, but why not let the person who will be working with them directly for 8 hours a day see if he/she meshes well with them also? And maybe the person they’ll be reporting to as well?

    The last two companies I worked for were privately owned, family run small businesses. Everytime they had a potential employee in mind, they requested a second interview with them and that interview was the employee interview. Each and every employee in the office would visit and chat with them briefly. This wasn’t a traditional interview, it was a casual discussion type interview that was more about the potential employee as a person than anything else. Were they married? How many kids? Where did they live? Those type of questions that encouraged discussion between existing employees and the potential new one.

    Just about every single time, someone would find a common bond through those disucssions. “Oh, our children go to school together!”or “My parents live 2 blocks away from you.” That type of thing. By the time the new employee had the first day on the job, they had met and already gotten to know each employee within the office and it really helped reduce stress and the awkwardness of the first day. The team was already bonding by that point.

    I always thought this was such a great thing to do and it really did help to find some wonderful employees – and great friends, too.

  6. Hi Zane,

    Excellent article and a topic that is so critical to the success of any small and medium-sized business. I mean, hiring is certainly important to the success of all companies, but as you’ve pointed out, SMEs are particularly sensitive to good and bad selection decisions.

    The only point that may not be entirely clear in the post is that, ideally, interviews should be one of the last steps in your hiring process, considering the time and expense required to conduct them properly. If you are planning future articles, I think readers would find real value in understanding the most effective and efficient ways to screen and assess applicants, so that they are only interviewing those with highest potential. In other words, how they can identify top contenders, instead of interviewing most of the people who apply.

    For example, hiring managers should really be conducting job analyses before beginning any hiring project, so that they understand the qualities important to success in the role. This insight can then guide each subsequent step in the process, including the type of interview questions best asked.

    There is then the matter of screening applicants to weed out those who lack basic qualifications (i.e., those who are certainly not going to meet your needs). By the way, research has shown that resume reviews are one of the worst ways to do this, and that there are much better and quicker alternatives. There’s not quite enough space to go into them here, but certainly drop me a note if interested in these methods.

    Finally, excusing my bias, you may want to discuss assessment methods that could be used to help better understand candidate potential, in terms of their abilities, personality, motivation and development needs. Doing so can once again help identify top candidates and guide your final interviews.

    Just for the interest of readers, here is a list of steps that you wants to take when conducting any hiring process:

    1. Understanding the job (Job Analysis)
    2. Attracting the right people (Sourcing)
    3. Weeding out unqualified individuals (Screening)
    4. Identifying top performers (Assessment)
    5. Orientation and training (Onboarding)
    6. Measuring the performance of your hiring process (Metrics)
    7. Retaining employees (Motivation, Retention and Engagement)
    8. Developing and building your organizational bench strength (Succession Planning)

    It may seem like a complicated process, but there are ways to make sure that it is completed as quickly as possible and results in very good hiring decisions.

    I hope that helps!

    Zane, if you plan on writing more on this topic, please get in touch with me and I would be more than happy to provide relevant comments, resources, and research data that would be of interest to readers. Perhaps we could collaborate on some points, considering that I also write articles on SME hiring issues for various publications.

    Anita, keep up the good work with this blog. I’ve been a long-time subscriber and have always found the posts interesting and informative.

    All the best,


    PS. I hope readers don’t mind me mentioning it, but my firm is currently conducting research on SME hiring issues, and would greatly appreciate any input from SME hiring managers and business owners on the topic. If you would like to contribute, and perhaps be profiled in published articles, you can fill out an online interview at . Thanks in advance!

  7. I absolutely love Zappos philosophy. In the Bill Taylor article there is a great link to this blog:

    If that doesn’t show you how amazing their employees, you are one tough cookie to convince.

  8. It is so important to take time in the hiring process. Small companies have so much to do with limited hands that the temptation is to hire quickly. Even if the candidate is capable of performing the essential functions of the job, it’s important to know if they can build working relationships with the other team members. That’s why it’s so important to have cross department interviews.

    Where this becomes an issue is organizing everyone’s schedule. Top talent don’t want to keep coming back, so it’s important to show your best and organize the interviewing process. For the candidate the interviewing process is their impression of the company.

  9. Chad, good point. As I was writing the last draft version for this post it dawned on me that I could have made it a series of posts in chronological order….I realized I’d need to go back and do a post on ‘recruiting’ and then one on ‘keeping’. I’m taking the approach George Lucas used with Star Wars….or Coppola with Godfather…start in the middle, then go back and then come forward. Humor aside, I’ll have those posts. I’ll give you a shout, also, as they’re getting ready.

  10. Pat. Very good point. A lot of companies don’t realize that they’re being interviewed as well. And a lot of candidates don’t understand they should be actively interviewing the company to see if it fits their ‘brand’.

  11. Last comment from me today. Martin, I have no idea how many companies use the topgrading or the CIDS interview approach. I’m sure you could find out. Just visit their website: Ask. I’ve found them to be very approachable.