Small Business Hiring Tips: 3 Ways to Identify the Best Candidates

Given my experience, having hired thousands of people, I’ve developed a set of guidelines to identify the candidates who – because of their integrity, loyalty, and attitude –...

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3. Hire for attitude.

According to a study from Leadership IQ, the primary reason why 46 percent of newly hired employees fail within 18 months is a lack of interpersonal skills. Only 11 percent of failures come from technical skill deficiencies. It’s easy to see how this happens.

Experience is useless in people who can’t share it with others. You can’t train for enthusiasm, work ethic or interpersonal skills. So if in doubt, I always hire for attitude. My motto is “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” As every CEO understands, we can’t intricately involve ourselves in every aspect of the company at every moment, so we need to build a team with similar values and business knowledge.

I remember a college intern who was interested in design and typography but had only rudimentary skills. She was an all-around helper for many different departments while she completed her university degree. After her hours were completed, she would often hang around the desktop publishing department asking questions and volunteering to help.

From day one she was an upbeat, can-do person. No matter what task she was given, she never complained and often took the initiative to go one step further if she saw something to be done. She’d find a way to prioritize when three people wanted her to get something done at the same time and met everyone’s needs cheerfully. Her instincts and interpersonal skills were exceptional. When she graduated, I hired her immediately. She started out as an assistant in the production department, took night courses in typography, and within a few years was running and growing our entire desktop publishing operation. She is the kind of person who wants to make an impact rather than just being told what to do.

In addition to administering standardized tests and formal interviews, I spend time in hiring the right people and make it a priority to find candidates that want to grow along with the company. As my company promotes from within; most of our top leaders start as entry-level employees. I believe the process works, and that’s why I focus so much attention on hiring for integrity, leadership, and attitude.


Liz Elting is co-founder and co-CEO of TransPerfect, the world’s largest privately held provider of language and business services. Elting oversees the day-to-day operations of the company, headquartered in New York City.

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