Starting Y
Starting Y

Episode 20 · 5 months ago

How to hire (your first) employees


Sorry guys, this is Joe and I had a fat finger. I deleted this episode from our hosting service by accident. It was originally published in April 2022 and here we publish it again. 

“Over my career I have had more than 5.000 employees”Mitch Gray, Author of 'How to Hire and Keep Great People'

Our Intro is based on Quantum Jazz’s piece “Orbiting a distant planet”, published under Creative Commons

Our Guest:

  • Mitch Gray is an entrepreneur, author, and podcast host. His focus in all activities is on hiring the best people. He published the book 'How to Hire and Keep Great People' and is for more than 7 years now a leadership and development guide, helping companies to hire great people and keep them
  • His book 'How to Hire and Keep Great People' buy it here (AL)
  • Host of The Mitch Gray Show

The Host:

  • Jörn is a podcaster, startup scout, consultant, and entrepreneur, who is based in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. He has a background of more than 12 years of management consulting but spends most of his time helping international investors and corporations to find, cooperate with and invest in startups in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. He hosts an English startup podcast, covering the German startup scene ( You can learn more about Jörn “Joe” here:

You can suggest questions here, use #startingy

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This is a starting why podcast. Here we ask entrepreneurs, actors, investors in the native and hartist on the why why they are doing what they are doing, what motivates and drive them, and why can't they stop? We will start in five, four, three, two, one. Hey, guys, welcome back. This is Joe from starting Y, and today I have a guess here was me hate, Mitch. How you did? Hey, Joe, I am well. Thank you. That is pretty good. And you are joining us from Sonny, New Mexico. I am and it is sunny today. We had snow two days ago, but today's sunny. Tomorrow be even warmer and more sunny, so I'm happy about that. Yeah, it's good day. You one of those guys from New Mexico. He even knows that snow exist. Yes, I am. That's exactly right. Yeah, just one question before we get into serious stuff. You living there on high altitude or was it just that there was just a lot of snow everywhere? So it's high altitude compared to many other people. The town on men were about forty three hundred feet. But there are parts of New Mexico they're good. You know, up about Twelvezero, I was not up there. I'm sure they got a ton of snow at Twelvezero feet. But yeah, I'm going to decently high altitude. Actually, yeah, I see. and to day you are our guest at starting why? Because you can tell us a lot about hiring people. Right before that, tell us a little bit where you coming from, how you make you living and why you and me are talking about how to hide maybe you first, maybe a second, or all all your employees at a startup. Yes, so my background, I have a very vast abackground as far as career wise, but I've spent, Oh gosh, I guess about fifteen years as an entrepreneur. That's everything from nonprofit work to start ups to multim eight dollar businesses to failing businesses. So I've had the experience of everything in between. For the most part, I've had over FIVEZERO employees and my professional career. So I've pretty much been in smaller businesses most of my career. But so for that, you know, having having over Fivezero employees as quite a few I've done well over tenzero interviews and so I've learned a lot through mistakes and I've learned a lot through its successes. And really what I've done the last five years has taken all of that experience and shape a consulting business where I work mostly with small business leaders on recruiting and hiring and development and culture design. And I really do love working with startup leaders because you know people that are just starting their business because they're building from the ground dock. And what I found in businesses that so many people is specially in startups, and they miss some really critical elements...

...of recruiting and hiring and culture design from the beginning. And so they get the business going and they started and the next thing they know they're needing to grow their team, they're needing to hire people, but they haven't designed a structure or a culture that's ready to hire. And so what I do when I work with with leaders that are that are building a startup is begin designing culture and learning to hire from the beginning rather than waiting until you need it. It's kind of that old addage that you should be building as one person like you're building for a hundred, and that's an element that many people miss. And so that's what I do. I'm a leadership and personal development consultant and I help leaders do exactly what we're about to talk about. So before we get into what we want to talk about, like hiring, hiring strategies, as setting up recruiting, I was wondering why small businesses number one, because I love small business. It's you know, about ninety seven percent of the world economy is small business and so many people, especially in America where I am, small businesses considered thirty million or lesson revenue, teams of five hundred or less. Actually about ninety five percent of those are teams of a hundred or less and about fifteen million in revenue or less. And so when you really start looking at the businesses that exist across the world, the businesses that most people build and work for, the businesses that really drive the world economy, it is small business. And that's really how economics and society and culture in a marketplace is shape. Their shape through the mom and pop shops. They're shaped through the small businesses maybe with two or three locations. They're shaped through those businesses that do fifteen to twenty five million or less. And so not only do I love small business, it's the MA majority of the makeup of the economy of the world and number three. You know, small businesses are much more tangible to work with and other words, when you try and work with corporations, you often don't get to talk to the decision makers. There's a lot of red tape to cut through, whereas as a consultant, when you deal with small businesses, you can often talk to the owner, you can talk to the person that makes the decisions, and that's where real supplemental change can be made, is when you get to deal with the people that make the decisions on a day and a day out basis, and that just happens so much easier in the small business world. I understand. That's also one of the reasons I also love to work with the startups and, yeah, small to medium sized businesses. I do feel the sweet spots full. My client is five hundred employees and below. Yes, all right, one hundred percent agree. Yeah, okay, and you said you have experience as not for nerve. I'll be curious when you now go back in...

...time, like to the point we started as entrepreneur it we would be the biggest hints, he would give yourself in terms of hiring people for those businesses. The first piece of advice I would give is be proactive. So don't just wait on people to find you, but actually be proactive in finding the people that are a fit for your organization, that are the right people for your organization, and by that what I mean is they align with the mission, vision, values and culture of the business that you're beginning. So many times people hire added desperation, especially when you're creating a startup. It's like, oh my gosh, I'm starting this business and now I need to hire people, and so they just kind of take who comes their way. And there are strategies you can use to be much more proactive and more engaging in ensuring that you hire the people that are best fit. You know, you don't just have to settle on anyone. You don't have to hang a sign in the door or post on social media. You can actually recruit and hire people without ever using any of the traditional forms of recruiting, but you have to be proactive and engaging in that process and strategy. So the first thing would be be proactive. The second thing would be actually have a plan, and that's where so many people miss it, and I did early on, as I didn't have a plan for cons instantly and constantly recruiting. I just kind of depended on what everyone else said I should be doing, and when you use the system everyone else is using, you're going to get the same results everyone else is getting. And currently in our economy, right now in the hiring world, people are not getting good results and they're very frustrated. So you have to try things differently. You have to have a different strategy in a different plan, and so it would be be pro active and to have a specific strategy so you know who you're recruiting, who you need to hire, and then what they will do once they are hired and how you're going to develop them to grow. That's something that I believe a lot of small business leaders in this and I missed it again early on, is not having a plan of development for their people, and so it's really those elements of strategy all the way through and being proactive. Those will be the two top pieces of advice I would definitely give myself before we get into the question I want to ask. He's I have one observation here that fits pretty well in what you saying, because I have the feeling that a lot of people, a lot of people in charge of hiring. They just take the model they get from somewhere and applied one on one, because they don't want to think about how is my organization developing? What would I need to do, what audust steps I need to take? They just thinking what one size fits all x and why is working with that white should it for me? And...

...the which I have you the first one. When you talking about being proactive within now think about with some of my full employees, employers, are doing. How some of my employees fund company. It was basically they make the usual posting on the website. And when you talk about being proactive, they basically shaded on twitter and facebook. Right, right. What is being proactive for you here? So that, first of all, thank you for asking that question and I would agree with you. And it's not just with hiring. Most people step into a leadership position and they're just taking with them what what, like you said, what they've been given, whether it's tiring or development or systems or whatever. And so yes, when many people are leaving a business or corporation to start their own business, they're just kind of copycatting what they know. That also happens inside of corporations is that the reality of all of this is, Joe, most people aren't taught how to lead. Most people aren't taught how to recruit or how to develop or how to hire or how to interview. There it's just kind of a gamble and they're just using what they know, and so we can't fault people for that, and so I do agree with you. That's a great observation. Proactive for me means what I like to call lifestyle recruiting, and I love teaching this method to small business owners and start up founders because it's a very simple method that they can use beginning today. And basically what I mean by lifestyle recruiting is everyone goes shopping, everyone socialize has either on social media or in real life. Everyone goes and gets a couple of coffee, everyone goes to events and other words, were always engaging with other people. Now, over the last couple of years that was done more virtually, but we were still engaging with people, and lifestyle recruiting means I am always aware of who I'm engaging with and whenever I meet someone that intrigues me or I think could be a great fit for my company, I sent simply ask them a question. Are you looking for an opportunity or someone you know looking for an opportunity? And so the great thing is when I do that, I actually keep a notebook and I'm not recruiting a team right now, but I do this so I can show others how. But I keep a notebook every day when I go out and I write down names of people I meet, names of people I would recruit for my team, and I find at least five people a day, five to six days a week, that I would either recruit or ask them if they know someone who's looking for an opportunity. And so that's what I mean by proacted and that's an approach that very few people use, but it's an approach that over the years I have found thousands of great employees that way, because when you when you're at the coffee shop and you're talking to the Barista and you get to see their work ethic, you get to see how...

...they engage with other employees, you get to see how they engage with customers, and so you're not depending on a resume or an application for that. You're actually seeing it firsthand and you can do that virtually as well as you're having meetings or engaging with people on social media, you can begin to see how you engage with them, their personality, type, their work ethic, what they could bring to the table. And so when I say proactive, what I mean is every single day when I'm out and about, I'm building my business, and building my business means building my team, and so I'm always looking for an opportunity to recruit someone. I'm always looking for an opportunity to invite someone to do business with me. And so we can't separate this whole. You know, my work day ends at a certain time. I'm not going to think about it. You can't build sustainable business that way. You kind of have to always be engaged. It's a lifestyle. It's not you're not over working yourself, but it's just a lifestyle where you're always looking for that opportunity. And so, you know, you also have the tools of social media. You know, third party websites and applications that you can use to recruit. You can still use those, but as a small business and the smaller number of employees you have, the more hand selected those should be. So if I have a team of twenty people, nineteen of those I should recruit personally or my team should, because I want to control who I hire, who comes into my team, and so I'm not so dependent on the other tools when on a small business leader or a start up, especially if I'm a startup on hand. So I think everyone. I'm not depending on someone else to make those hires for me, because it is so critical that you get those hires right. Lead. That is when you've been talking about that. That reminded me of, you could say, the corporate way to do hiring, basically kind of an excel sheet mentality. Basically you have an excel sheet and you check all the boxes that everybody should do, and then you said, oh, but results. Well, that this pretty unfortunate, but I did everything everybody told me to. So they don't think for themself and they don't see it from the perspective of your potential employees. There's free example, something I actually funny thing I discussed with my dentist, because she want to have more professional clients because she has to be with her family in the morning and then she starts working in the afternoon but until late in the evening. So basically that are, so to say, the opening hours. So she wants to have people who appreciate that and who come in late, not the people ask it for the first appointment at seven or eight am. And so I started thought experiment together with her. Where are those people? They are likely in consulting, they're likely in auditing and banking and so on. This fourth and we actually came up with an idea to have poster in the elevators of the respective buildings here in Frankfort, so actually the...

...people could find her like doing the right stuff. Of course, they are always limits on what they could do, on what they could inform on in the germ law, but that was basically how this thought process works. For example, I've also seen on a lot of meat ups here in Germany and Frankfort, in Berlin and Munich, where I am, if they're very technical, there's a lot of people walking around with hoodies. On the front they have the logo of their start up and in the on the back we are hiring. That's also an approach to be proactive, because when you've been talking about the Barista, I was thinking, where would I find a good Coda, and then I thought, Huh, I've seen that with the tech meet up. So that's basically the thing I would be thinking about to be proactive, especially, go where you potential employees would be going. And if you have no idea where you potential employees would be going, you have no idea whom you would need to hire. That's exactly right and I love the question you ask because that's an exact question that I teach. So yours to begin asking is okay. Where do I find them? And so your example is the perfect example and I love that idea of the dentists going to where the people are going. But to back up, you do need to know boot fits your team. Why did they fit your team team, and where do you find those people? And so what I encourage people to do is, just like they would for marketing for a product, they would develop their perfect customer per sauna. They would develop their imaginary customers so they know how to build the product. You use the same tactic when you're talking about building a team. You know what is my perfect team member look like? What's their work ethic? What's their personality? You know what hobbies do they have, where do they hang out? What books do they read? What movies do they watch? And for your team, you're going to obviously have different personas, but to really help someone get going, if you can develop what you want that person, how you want them to come into work every day, how you want them to live and exist while they're working, what type of customer service do you want them to give, etcetera, etc. When you can build that per sauna and identify even like you just did, you need someone to do code. So that gives you a clue of where to go find that person and it's just a much better tactic than just throwing it out on social media or a third party APP and hoping for the best, because what we're seeing is that just doesn't work. You know, Joe, it cost a small business about four thousand dollars to hire a new person. When you put in effort, time, you know, energy, resources, etc. And so we also know that most people get it right maybe thirty percent of the time. I mean turnover for most small business us as a seventy... eighty percent. And so when we use the tactics that you and I are discussing, you can actually raise that success right to eighty two, ninety percent. You can get it right eight out of ten times easily. But you know who you're looking for, you know what you need and then you just you have to figure out where do I find most people, and that's where that networking can come into play. It's worth getting out and meeting New People, going to events like you talked about. That's where those things can be really, really important. And the other thing I want to add, Joe a another great strategy on top of that is don't be afraid to ask people around you. Hey, do you know someone who's really good at this job, or do you know someone who has a great personality? Do you know someone who's looking for an opportunity? You know, it's amazing how many people around US actually have a referral ready to give us, but we never ask. And so just through those few strategies alone, someone running a team of thirty or forty people can easily go recruit the majority of their team. Actually, I have been smiling a business person through and through, because I was thinking, Huh, if I would have now a pluprint for refer a friend, a program you can set up that fits into your compliance, I would make it debatable for purchase here, that will be an amazing business opportunity. But it really is that it's kind of the programs you're going for right. It's refer a friend. Ask You employees to refer people they know, they trust. Yes, ask your best employees, I could add that. So, yes, your best employees that you build. Ask Them, because I had a saying, and for some it may not translate while, but birds of a feather flock together. So another words, if you have a really, really good employee, they're going to know other people who are going to be really good employees. And so for a start up, you know, some startups add a really great budget, some startups don't. Sometimes they're on a smaller scale budgetwise. No matter where your scale is budgetwise, your referral program could be simply, Hey, I'm going to buy you a cup of coffee or, you know, give you a small gift card to a restaurant. It doesn't have to be, you know, exuberant and some grandiose idea. It could be really small, because people really appreciate those small gifts and Tokens. R and I'll tell you, Joe, one of the best ways you can appreciate people's to write them a thank you card. Just do something small that no one else is doing that might be a bit traditional, you know, years ago, but just do those small things that make you stand out. So it could be a small gift card to a restaurant or a coffee shop or a book shop or you know, whatever that looks like. It doesn't have to be something massive. I have very nice start you at foot that I do have a certificate of appreciation here on one of my walls where you can see it from the Webcam where people to see me through on my other podcast. But I was brought this. Have know when I... that, and was just for some work I did while I was undergraduate student, for working on campus. Big Mental High Five to Midwtestant State University here and those people. They really make me happy just with a piece of paper and I still have it here on my wall. Yeah, how many years ago was that, Joe? I graduated more than fifteen years ago. Yeah, and that's the point, right, like I still have a folder of cards that people have given me over the years. I have a couple of certificates of appreciation for me even twenty years ago, and so we're really proving the point that if someone refers and employee to you, it doesn't have to be something larger even cost that much money. Just it's the act of appreciating what they've done for you that really matters. And so yes, someone can implement that today. I would add here if you competition is paying two thousand. He has dollars for everyone who that refers a new employee to them and you are not doing it, that is usually a bad idea. So also look what he competition is doing. A plus. It's always, always, always a good idea to keep everything positive about you, like you said, all the certificates of appreciation that thank you cars. I, for example, keep all my birthday cards because just having them here, having like a big stack of birthday carts from people who really like you, is always the thing when you're downe just looking at it. So that's a good hidden okay, now we have this person. Now we get to the point where we decide if we want to interview this person. All, we don't what should be the strategy before we even take every employee, all potential employee, into an interview. So I have a bit of a different rule on interviewing and it's definitely very different from the corporate scene. My role is, if you're going to recruit someone and tell them that you may have an opportunity. So let's say I meet you and I see you working, I really like your personality. Hey, Joe, are you looking for an opportunity? And you tell me yes, then my response would be well, Hey, I'm always looking to add to my team. I'd love to sit down and visit with you about that opportunity. No promises, but I would love to have that conversation. Are you open to that? And let's say you say yes again, I now actually believe I've entered the interview process. In other words, I've already been interviewing you by watching you and experiencing you. And so in that scenario, if I recruit someone, I'm always going to give them a further interview every time because I'm building relationships. And so I've already told you that this may not work out, I may have an opportunity. We're going to do an interview and see how it goes, and at the end of that interview we may come to the conclusion that it's not going to be a fit. And so then my responsibility is to continue growing that relationship because if...

I'm not going to recruit use as an employee, then I definitely want to recruit use a potential customer, and so I'm always recruiting employees or I'm always recruiting customers, sometimes both. And so when you look at it from that perspective, I believe if I put in the time to recruit you, I owe you the respect of an interview. Now, let's say someone refers someone to us. So we've not recruited them, there are referral. I also believe that I'm going to give that referral and interview because I owe it to the person that made the referral. Now, when I say interviewing, what I'm talking is a five to ten minute conversation at best. It doesn't take long and within those few minutes I can gage if I'm going to take this further. I actually think the interview process is blown way out of proportion. I think people ask far too many questions. I think they ask questions that don't relate in any way possible to the job or to what's at hand. But we're interviewing the person for their humanity, not for the job. Now, sometimes in the technical world it can be a little bit different because we need them to know certain things, but for the most part, we still have to make sure we're getting the right person. You can interview the most talented code or in the world, but if they're not a fit for your team, you're not going to hire them because it's just never going to work. And so you're always interviewing for their humanity first, then the job second, and so I actually believe that anyone your recruiter ors referred to, give them at least a five minute interview, make it a conversation just to learn more about them and then decide if you're going to go further from there. Then you can maybe dig more into how this could be a fit, and that's really my approach. And for small businesses, you know, teams of a hundred or less especially, they can do that pretty easily and it doesn't take a lot of time. I talked to a lot of leaders and that like wow, Mitche I don't have time for that. But my rebuttal is but you don't have time to not do it, because this is the way you build a really strong team. And what leaders really need to understand is if they put time into building their team and hiring the right people, many of their other issues will be taking care of and so it actually creates more time for them by hiring the right people. So that's my approach on the interview process. Someone can take that and adapted a little bit. I just believe where I learned that Joe's. I used to work for a company that we had an unwritten rule and the unwritten rule it was a retail company. The unwritten rule was we interviewed every single person that put in an application. That was the unwritten rule, and so I would do up to ten interviews a day. A day, they were thirty seconds to a minute and within that thirty seconds to a minute I could get it right nine out of ten times every single time. But the best thing was I wasn't just interviewing the person who applied, I was interviewing them to hopefully convert them into a customer,...

...and so I actually grew my business by doing all of those interviews and I think people miss out on those opportunities. I was actually going a little bit more for when I was asking you, I was actually going a little bit more on with the idea. What strategy should you put in place as a sort of founder, as the owners of Sime, before you even do the interviews. Doing the thinking work up front built the framework of how recruiting is done in the complete and, by the way, I would also strongly recommend to treat all the people you have in a job interview as potential customers, because, especially when it was in consulting and I was interviewing people, that was a point where knew either you hired this person or he will be hired by competitor or, worst case, he will be hired by one of your clients. And you've been really mean to this person in the interview and a few years back he is your Boston project. You never, never wanted that to happen. Right, right, yes, that's a factor. Right, and thank you for refraining our question. Yeah, so let's back up a little bit and talk about just the you know, let's say they've recruited that person and we've talked about strategies for recruiting. Let's clarify maybe some questions that they could ask an interview. What that helped, Joe, or would you like to go different or yeah, so so let's start there. I like to keep this simple. I'll tell you an experience I had. I was applying for a government job years ago and I went into the room and to interview for this position and I think, if I remember properly, there was a team of about six or eight people doing the interview and so they all had their preconceived planned questions and they just went around the table and a lot of people I know of experience this. It's a very kind of corporate approach to interviewing. But they just went around the table and asked their question and in about ten minutes within the interview, I noticed that no one had looked up because they were also focused on their question and on writing down my responses that they weren't actually engaging in conversation. And so I actually said in this interview I said, could everyone please put your pencils down and pay attention. Now, I'm a bold person, Joe, so I don't mind saying things like that, and I said in the interview say, could everyone please put their pencils down to pay attention, you're not listening to what I'm actually saying. And they kind of looked at me like who is this guy? You know govern and ask us to do that and I said I would appreciate the respect that you actually engage in the conversation. If you can't recall without writing down what I say, then I'm not impressive enough to hire. So the interview went on from that another forty five minutes and I got the job.

And later on I ask the the leader of that organization. I said what was one thing in the interview that stuck out, and he said in all my years of doing this, I've never had someone stop in interview like that ever. And what that showed me is is that, number one, you wanted engagement. Number two, you were a leader and I did it, of course in a respectful way. By point to that story is I'm not big on having a group of people do the interview. I think it's intimidating for the person. I think it's really uncomfortable. If you're going to have a group of people, maybe your leadership team, do the interview, make sure that everyone is engaging, make sure that you make it as relaxing as possible, make it fun, make it enjoyable and, like you just said, if you don't hire this person, you're definitely recruiting a customer. And so, from a framework standpoint, make a decision of first of all, how you're going to do the interview. Is it just going to be you? Is it going to be you and a couple of leaders and then really coach your leaders on the atmosphere you want to create. I would actually advise you have the two stage of the interview, that you do the first part of the interview maybe at a more comfortable location off site, maybe at a coffee shop or something if possible, and then do the second part of the interview actually on side if you decide you're going to move forward with this person. That just makes it a little more engaging and a little more comfortable. I'm really simple when it comes to asking questions. Everyone is going to tell you a story. One of my favorite statements to make to open an interview is hey, Joe, tell me a little bit more about yourself and then just sit back and let them tell the story. A few things I've learned over the years is some people will jump right in and they'll tell you their whole life story and their their work history and they'll really kind of bring back their resume and application verbally and and that's a good thing. Some people will say, well, what do you mean, and that gives you a little bit of a sign. Is this person, an independent thinker? Do they take initiative? Herm I got to tell them every time they need something, that I need something done. And then if someone's telling you the story, just listen. You know someone's telling you their work history, about an experience, and then that makes you think of a question, then ask that question. And so start with, tell me a little bit more about yourself. Go to from that standpoint. So what made you want to you know, intrigue you about you this position? If you recruited them, obviously you're intrigued with them. But what really intrigued to them about working for your company? What intrigued them about yourself? What made them curious about this opportunity? What are some of their work experiences they've had? And even questions like what's a moment in life, not work but in life, that you face the challenge and you were able to overcome that? What's a moment as someone helped you? So really you're trying to ask questions that are going to bring out again that human side of that potential employee. The work stuff will take care of itself, but yes, have a plan somewhat of going in a of...

...a what's happe of environment you're going to create and then be how you're going to carry the conversation. I love a conversational approach to an interview process. I think having preconceived questions and just working down the list and that very corporate feel, I think that's actually very inhumane and it doesn't engage the conversation, and so be very cognizant of that approach as your kind of looking at the interview process. And if you have somebody who's actually telling you very interesting, very entertaining story, if you just ask them tell me a little bit about yourself. You know you have a people you can sent to do podcast on behalf if you come. Yeah, well, that's exactly right. They're telling you a story, right, and so listening to that story matters and it's you know, that's what I've learned over the years, Joe, and all the interviews I've done. That one statement alone, hey, tell me a little bit about yourself, and they go on for ten minutes. That that's actually a really good thing. They're conversational, they're engaging, unless it's dramatic. Some people can be dramatic, but there are there are some things and signs that you can watch throughout that conversation. Let us take a short break here and get back to our conversation in the next episode and talk about the thought process you have to put in in order to do really sustainable recruiting. Talk about the strategy behind it, how you decide with positions to regroup in our next episode. So far, Mitch, thank you very much, with pleasure having you as guest. Thanks, Joe.

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