Hiring new people can be a daunting process for small companies. Just one new hire can affect a startup’s culture and success, yet many don’t realize this process should begin long before you even post a job opening.
I’ve spent a long time developing the best way to identify whether a candidate is a good fit for our company and ultimately realized one thing: To identify the right fit for your company, you have to know who you are and be able to clearly express this to an applicant.
To do this, our team created a “painted picture” — a roadmap for our clients, vendors, employees, and potential hires describing our goals, values, and future. We then developed five questions based on our painted picture document that we ask every applicant.
Building Our Painted Picture
We created a painted picture by envisioning what our company will look like in three years. This three-page document dictates our day-to-day activities, long-term planning, and decision-making process. Our staff then works backward from the painted picture, using it as a guide for achieving our three-year goals.
A painted picture isn’t a mission statement or a five-year plan; it’s a vision put forth by the founder explaining what a company could become in the near future. The concept, developed by our mentor, Cameron Herold, uses visualization to realize goals and achieve success. Unless everyone in your company has a clear idea of where the company is headed, there’s no way you’ll ever get there. Three years is the golden number for our painted picture — it’s just enough time to accomplish big changes without looking too far into the future.
To get started on a painted picture, ask yourself these questions:
- What do you see in your company’s future?
- What do you want to see there?
- What’s the epitome of success for your business?
Focus on the “what” of success — instead of the “how” — by visualizing every aspect of your company’s future, from what your job will be like to who your future customers will be. A full explanation of this idea can be found here.
Why Our Painted Picture Guides Our Hiring
I show my company’s painted picture document to every person we interview so she knows from the get-go what we’re about. It helps the interviewee see whether she’s a good fit for our company and vice versa. After that, I ask the interviewee these five questions:
1. What was your key takeaway from the painted picture?
Our picture is chock-full of details that emulate the heart of who we are and what we do, so an interviewee’s response to this question can be very telling. An insightful, like-minded response to our plan means we have a candidate worth pursuing.
2. Why do you want to work for us?
A viable candidate will refer to values in the painted picture as reasons to work for us. We’re looking for people who fit with our core values and are excited about our vision.
3. What are your core values?
The better you know your candidate’s personal values, the easier it will be to see if she aligns with your company. We seek a true alignment of ideals that make our company and the candidate a good match.
4. What are your long- and short-term goals?
Is this job a stepping stone on an ambitious career track, or is this candidate committed to making our company the best in the field? We’re looking for candidates who see working with us as their best choice.
5. Tell us something interesting about yourself.
This part of the conversation not only gives me the chance to get to know a candidate better, but it also shows how willing the person is to be open. A genuine response will garner more respect than a brush-off answer meant to steer the conversation back to the job. Through this question, I get the chance to engage in some real conversation with a candidate, which can give me hints about her true personality.
Using the painted picture has guided us toward our vision and, as our company grows, has helped us find new employees who share that vision. If you want to improve your hiring process, simply take a step back, look at your company’s goals, and set aside time to create your own painted picture. Using that document as a hiring guide means you’re transforming your company from the inside out, ensuring your company is filled with people whose dreams and personality align with it.
Ben Kirshner is the CEO of Elite SEM, an award-winning, fast-growing online marketing agency with a passion for building a team of elite industry experts. Elite SEM was recently named Crain’s New York Business #1 Best Place To Work 2013. Ben is an entrepreneurial thought leader, a SEM expert, and can be found on Twitter or Google+.
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