The early days of a new business are all about learning from your mistakes. You’re excited about the potential, anxious about your first sale, and terrified you might fall on your face. With such a mix of emotions in a fast-moving environment, it’s hard not to make big mistakes.
One mistake you can’t afford to make in the early days though is who you hire. Your first hires will be some of the most important you ever make. They’ll set the tone for your business and dictate your hiring strategy for years, for better or worse.
This is why a thorough skill assessment process is essential, to make sure you’re bringing in the right people to suit your business. Let’s explore some more reasons why in detail.
You’re running at a high risk
Whatever industry you’re in, starting a new business always comes with significant risk. Money is tight and the room for mistakes is even tighter, so all your hires need to be up to the task of operating in a high-stakes environment.
There’s a lot of pressure in the early days (and years) of a new business launching, and your team needs to be able to handle those pressures.
20% of small businesses won’t survive their first two years of operation. Every decision made during this time will leave a lasting impression on your business and people’s interpretation of it, so running a skills assessment to see if applicants have the right mindset to handle the situation is essential.
This test should help you find people who will solve the initial problems all businesses face, as well as having the skills to solve the ones unique to your business.
In the early days, your business is in such a precarious position that you can’t afford to make the wrong decision with your hires. These tests help make sure you’re not inflicting damage to your business.
You need experience
Part of making sure those mistakes you’re bound to make aren’t hugely detrimental is to have someone who has been there before and seen it all right by your side.
Hiring this kind of person helps make sure you’re not making the same mistakes that hundreds of small businesses made before you. This kind of applicant isn’t easy to find, and sometimes their experience doesn’t always show on their resume. You may need to pry that specialist knowledge of how to run an effective business out of them, and a skills assessment test can help do that.
By giving them some real-world scenarios to deal with you can help separate people who have the best answer in theory from the ones who can put their experience and critical thinking to the test to help get you out of difficult situations.
Experience is a huge part of the skillset you’ll be looking for in the early days of your business, striking a balance between that and unique, creative skills. Look to create an application process that extracts that underlying knowledge out of them.
You need a diverse skillset
No business survives on doing just one thing well anymore. It’s not enough to just be experienced, you need to have a bit of everything. A skills assessment process crafted to find how unique a collection of skills applicants actually have can help you build a more well-rounded team suited to solving specialist problems.
A diverse collection of skills and expertise helps set your business apart from the crowd. For a new company, it can be one of your best assets, giving you room to try new things and reach out to new clients and opportunities. This kind of diversity gives your business scope to grow in new directions and offer something unique to a wide range of people. When there’s an applicant that interests you, you should test how far their skills reach and what new markets their talents could allow you to move into.
Real-world experience is one of the best skills a new hire can offer. As a small business owner, it’s comforting to have people around you who understand the unique difficulties of running a start-up or SME. Hiring applicants who have a side-business or experience within one (sometimes it helps to hire specifically from them), even if it’s a low investment, can give your enterprise an instant lift.
Dragging these skills and stories out of them often requires a skills assessment process though. They may not understand the relevance of their experience managing a home craft store or babysitting service has, choosing to leave key details out of their application that could transform your perception of them. This kind of applicant brings a lot to a demanding role and gives you the confidence to invest in the tools they have used before.
A varied skills assessment allows you to separate the actually talented applicants from the ones who lied on their resumes. Consider building a skill tree for your business covering all the talents you’ll require.
Skills might be your product
In this new digital world, sometimes the only products we have to sell are our skills and the time we spend using them. To make sure those skills are up to par with the image of your business you want to cultivate, you need to test your team prior to hiring.
Many of the businesses are built on selling services or expertise as a skill or require a unique skill set to do the work they do. It’s vital you ensure these skills reach the quality you are promising clients and customers. If you deliver a less than stellar set of results, they will begin to question why they are investing their time and money into you and move onto a competitor.
This can tarnish your business as one that overpromises what it can deliver. Skill assessment processes help see if the applicant’s skills are at the required level or give you an indication that there might be something there you can mold in the future. There is a difference between selling your team and selling a product, one’s quality is a lot easier to assure someone without substantial evidence.
Small businesses need to have a much more comprehensive hiring strategy than larger competitors. Don’t get blindsided by a new hire’s lack of ability when you brought them in for a specific project.
Understanding your audience is vital
A small business needs to have a good grip on what its existing audience wants and the kind of audience it wants to reach in the future. This helps guide their marketing strategy and lets them know when they’re on a progressive track to success. As an audience grows, so does the business.
Bringing in people who know how to do this is vital. It will help you save time spent on research, guide your strategy, and give you some indication as to when you should hold off or press harder when trying to reach out to an audience.
This is part of bringing in people for specialist roles, which can be hard for a business to attract in the early days but something that should be considered from the start.
Test what understanding of the kind of audiences you’re operating with your applicants have. This will help you establish consistency in your strategy, targets, and tone of content in the early days of the business.
Training time is costly
Bringing in the right person can be costly. $83 billion alone was spent by US businesses on training in 2019. If you’re wasting a significant portion of your budget bringing people in, training them up, and then finding out they’re not suited to the role, you’re doing more harm than good to your business.
Recruiting isn’t just about having an extra pair of hands around the office. Each new member of staff should help the business grow. They have to be the right person for the culture, environment, and, most importantly, the role. You can train them up, but that will only do so much to mitigate the damage with a candidate who isn’t suited to the requirements of their tasks.
You need to run skill assessments to see if you’re bringing in the right person and that they have the initiative and independent work ethic to have an immediate impact, growing within the role. In the early days of a business, you don’t have the time, budget, or resources to dedicate to thorough training every couple of months.
This sort of skill check makes sure they’re ready for the role, not just intelligent and competent applicants who can get through the interview process.
Image and presentation is everything
When you’re trying to build a brand, image is everything. Giving a bad impression can have a long-lasting impact, and the people who work for you will go a long way to determining that impression.
Whether it’s customer service, output, or client calls, you need to make sure you have the kind of team that knows how to communicate with people outside your business properly and work to the expected standard. Client and customer control in the form of knowing how to appear knowledgeable and retain control of a situation is vital when your team finds itself challenged. A pre-employment test can help see how they would handle these situations and innovate new ways out of them.
If you bring someone in who seems impressive, only for them to embarrass your business with poor work or worse, it will be more harmful than dedicating some more time to find the right candidate.
What types of assessments to run
So, you’re looking to run a skill assessment test. What kind of tests should you run?
Example work: Great for testing specialist or creative skills. Asking for an example piece of work or giving them a problem to solve gives you an impression of how they work and the output you can expect day-to-day.
Trial day: Bringing applicants in for a day or half-day in the office can help you test their abilities in a real-world situation, giving you the best impression possible of what to expect if you were to hire them.
Of course, each business will have unique facets that dictate their hiring strategy and what the perfect candidate looks like to them. Regardless, a thorough skills assessment process can have an instant impact on the quality of candidates your business brings in and the influence they have on a business in a fertile state. Consider at least trailing it within your recruitment strategy.