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Hardball, Part I

By Chuck Violand

August 1, 2016

With record low unemployment causing intense competition for talented people at every level in business, from frontline workers to senior managers, it’s more important than ever to view the recruiting process in a different light. This is especially true for small businesses that have to compete within the same pool of candidates as well-funded, multi-national companies.

When you recruit employees who are serious about building careers rather than just working for their next paycheck, their expectations of the companies where they’re applying increases dramatically.

Just as we ask tough questions during interviews in an effort to make the right hiring decisions, talented employment candidates want to be sure they’re also making the right career decision when hiring into your company.
By candidly considering a few hardball questions before recruiting new hires, we might gain valuable insights into just how attractive our company will be to highly talented candidates. Ask yourself how well you’d score if asked the following questions.

If I had the chance to speak privately with three of your current employees, how would they describe you as a business leader and as a person?

If it were me, I’d want to know how long each of these employees have been with the company. This would give me insights into the company’s culture, and into you as a business leader. If they’ve been with the company a long time, I’d want to know why they’ve stayed. If they haven’t been there long, were they hired to fill positions that were vacated, and if so, why did those former employees leave?

On a professional level, how do you manage your people and the business?

Is the company growing, and do you know why (or why not)? How aggressively are you pursuing new business? How aggressively are you marketing your services? Do you know why your customers buy from you and not from your competitors?

How do you conduct yourself, and what do you stand for?

I’m not expecting anyone to be a saint, but tell me, do I need to worry about the future of the company because of reckless behavior on the part of the owner? Behavior that might cause you to make impaired business decisions. Or behavior that might show up in the news or in a YouTube video, embarrassing me and the company, and possibly threatening both of our futures. I want to feel good when I tell my friends and family about the company where I work and those I work for.

In the same way that most parents are blind to the shortcomings of their own children, most business owners are blind to their company’s deficiencies and the way others see them. Without an emotional attachment, most people see both children and companies as they really are. Asking yourself tough questions in an attempt to gain an outsider’s view before someone else asks them can help you build a workplace and a culture where people want to build their careers.

In Part II of this series, we’ll look at a few more examples of the kind of tough questions you should be asking yourself.