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Start: Mark Evans

How to avoid making the wrong hire Add to ...

When you're a small business owner, hiring a new employee is a big deal.

It's not something that happens on a regular basis, and it involves a major financial investment, relatively speaking.

As a result, you don't want to make the mistake of hiring the wrong person.

Ben Baldwin, co-founder of ClearFit.com, which offers an online hiring service for small business owners, said key considerations when looking for a new employee are knowledge, experience, personality and motivation.

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One mistake many companies make, he said, is to put too much emphasis on knowledge and experience, figuring that, the more a candidate has, the better he or she will perform.

But it's often not an accurate indicator, Mr. Baldwin said: Someone can have lots of experience but that doesn't necessarily mean he or she has been successful at previous jobs.

"We have worked with big drug companies who like to hire people with lots of industry experience, but it wasn't a good predictor," he said.

"You can work at a company and not have it go well, and then you can work at another company and not have it go well but you get a lot of experience along the way."

Personality and motivation, on the other hand, should not be underestimated because they play a key role in "fit," he said.

It's important to get a good sense of someone's personality because that's not something that can be changed or significantly affected by training.

Among key personality traits to look for, which also speak to motivation, he said, are drive, independence, innovativeness, the ability to influence others, stress tolerance, leadership, team orientation, and being able to take an interest in other people

"Personality and motivation are the most important part of a job fit because, [if]they are done wrong, [it's the]No. 1 contributor to hiring mistakes, and hiring the right or wrong person can make or break a small or mid-sized business," Mr. Baldwin said. "

Another common mistake in the hiring process, he said, is to look for people who are a lot like you.

"The human brain is wired," he said. "If you are a tall, bald guy, you will hire tall, bald guys. People buy what they understand, so you tend to hire people like you, but it doesn't mean they will be good at doing the job."

To avoid hiring mistakes, it's important to have a plan before starting the process, he said. That means identifying the kind of knowledge and experience required, as well as the personality and motivation characteristics needed for the position.

"It is really important to figure them out before you go. Otherwise, you get biased by the people you think you need," he said.

"Know what you can live without; if you don't think you need an MBA for sales, don't look for MBA. You need a plan but most people don't do it."

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

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