Are you unsure about whether a particular job applicant would be right for your small business? While there is no exact science for hiring the perfect employee, it may be easier than you think. In episode #76, Elizabeth Larkin and Gene Marks discuss several of strategies for determining which employee would be the best match for your business.

Executive Summary

2:24 — Today’s Topic: How Do I Know If I’m Hiring the Right Person as a Small Business Owner?

3:26 — Ultimately, after all the interview formalities, you need to use the “Larry David” method and trust your instincts enough to make a judgment call.

4:52 — You can improve your chances of finding the right person by hiring the potential candidate as a temp or contractor for a predetermined length of time.

6:33 — Social media can also be useful in determining who may or may not be a good match for your company.

10:24 — Gene emphasizes the importance of adapting to meet your clientele’s payment needs.


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Elizabeth: Gene, I need a new show recommendation.

Gene: Wow! See that? You do come prepared with some good ones. Some good show recommendations. Well, I have a few that I’ve recently finished, so I’m going to give three show recommendations, okay? Silicon Valley, obviously, is-

Elizabeth: Okay, which we talked about before.

Gene: Yeah.

Elizabeth: I’ve never watched it. It’s an HBO show.

Gene: It is, which means out of the box that it’s quality. It’s really, really good. It’s funny, it’s great, half an hour show. It takes place in Silicon Valley. I think it’s in its third or fourth season now. Great show, so you want to watch that.

Number two, Orphan Black.

Elizabeth: Okay. People were really, really into that a year or two ago.

Gene: Yeah. It’s the last season right now, so I’ve got the last season downloaded. I think there’s only one episode left, so I haven’t even started watching the last season yet. It is such a great show, and that lead actress in it, Tatiana Maslany, her name is, she played like six different characters, because it’s about clones, is what it is. She’s unreal.

Elizabeth: She won an Emmy for it.

Gene: She did. Finally. She should have won an Emmy every year. I mean, she is… You’re going to watch the show and be like, “I can’t believe this woman.” You can’t even tell the difference… all the different characters that she is.

Elizabeth: Where do you get this? Is this Netflix or Amazon or… ?

Gene: Orphan Black is BBC America.

Elizabeth: Oh, okay.

Gene: I get it on Amazon. I actually buy it.

Elizabeth: Is it a British show?

Gene: Yeah. It’s a co-produced, I think, but it actually takes place in Canada and all the main actors are from Canada. Those are two really good ones that I would recommend.

Elizabeth: Alright, good. I’m going to look into those. We’ll be right back with our question. This is about when you’re trying to hire someone and you got a lot of great candidates, who do you hire?

Gene: That’s easy.

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QUESTION: How Do I Know If I’m Hiring the Right Person as a Small Business Owner?

Elizabeth: We’ll be right back. Okay, our first question is from… I always say first question, but we’ve changed the format. We’re only answering one question per episode now.

Gene: Yeah, that’s okay. It is the first question.

Elizabeth: Yeah, we’re technically…

Gene: Technically.

Elizabeth: Yes. It’s our first and last question.

Gene: It’s just the only question. Okay, fine.

Elizabeth: First and last. First and last question. This is from Faye in Clinton, New Jersey. She’s an interior designer, and this is her question:

“I’ve met with candidates, reviewed resumes and portfolios, and called references, but I’m still not sure who I should hire. How do I know who’ll be the best person for the job?”

Well, Gene, you follow a very precise way of deciding those, right?

Gene: Oh yeah, a real procedure or whatever. It’s funny you ask that question, that’s like saying, “How do I know what the weather is going to be in two weeks?” You know what I mean? Or, “How do I know who’s going to win the next election? How do I know whether the Red Sox are going to win the World… “

You know, in the end, I’ve just learned that you can do all the checking that you need to do, you read the resumes, you do the interviews, you look at the social media accounts, you get the references, but in the end, it’s the Larry David approach. Did you ever watch Curb Your Enthusiasm?

Elizabeth: Yeah, of course.

Gene: Hilarious show, and he keeps threatening to bring it back for another season, by the way. It’s been off the air.

Elizabeth: Yeah, it’s coming back in October.

Gene: I think so, it’s coming back. It’s just such a funny show. The whole premise of the show is Larry David being thinking that he’s surrounded by lunatics, you know what I mean, and just his daily life and whatever. Throughout the show there’s numerous times where people will say something to him and he doesn’t know if they’re being right with him or not, you know? They’ll show him just sort of looking at that person in the eyes, and the little hang with the camera, but a good 10 seconds while he’s just…

Elizabeth: Yeah, it’s almost uncomfortable.

Gene: Yeah. He’s looking at them, and you can’t see us, because we’re on a podcast now, but he’s just staring into their eyes and kind of questioning whatever, because he’s just… What he’s doing, he’s using the Larry David method. He’s used all other information and now he’s basically saying, “Is this guy messing with me or not? Can I trust this guy or not?” Then in the end, he’s making a judgment call, and that’s what we all do when we hire people. We go through the procedures, and there is no black and white answer as to how do I now know this person is the right person. You gotta look at the person and say, “Alright, based on this conversation with them, whatever this is, is this somebody that I can trust? Is this somebody that I can rely on? Is this person messing with me or not?” And you’re going to make a hunch. You’re going to take a guess.

Now, there is a way you can hedge your bet, which has become more and more popular among a lot of my clients. A lot of times people bring people on on either a temporary or a contract basis.

Elizabeth: You’re still going to have to fire them if they don’t work out.

Gene: Eventually, but you know, it’s, you say-

Elizabeth: But it’s a lot easier.

Gene: It is, it’s like you say, “Okay, I’ll tell you what. For the next 60 days we’re going to take you on as a contract person, which means we’re going to pay you 1099. In other words, not on our payroll, but we’re going to pay you whatever extra you agree on what they’re going to be paid. You come on as a contract worker. We’re going to do that for 60 days, 30 days, 90 days,” whatever you feel comfortable with. Then you both mutually agree if it’s not working out after that period of time, for either of us, then we can part ways and whatever, but of it is, even earlier, then we’ll make you a full-time employee. It is a little bit way to sort of hedge your bets a little bit of the employee is willing to do that.

Elizabeth: What if you have so many good candidates, though?

Gene: It’s brutal. It’s really, it’s just very, very… In the end you have to sort of just make that judgment call. I wish I could give you a better answer than that, but there is no black and white answer to that.

Elizabeth: So you could just flip a coin.

Gene: Yeah, in the end it’s, I always use, I always put job qualifications aside, because I always believe that people can learn to do pretty much anything. In the end it’s like, who’s the person that I like and trust the most? Who would fit in here, I think, the best? Even that’s tough to tell, you know what I mean, but that’s how I usually use it.

Elizabeth: How much stock do you put into references?

Gene: I do put some stock into references. I think it’s important to hear from other people. A lot of times people blow off looking at references or calling up references, and I think it’s… I also put stock into background checks. I do put stock into social media. I never understood the whole social media… I want to see your… I enjoy seeing who you’re connected to on LinkedIn, I like to see what you’re up to. I just had, true story, true story, we’ve been looking for a marketing person to work with us and we had three really good candidates. One of them, this just happened a couple of weeks ago, she’s a young girl, she’s like in her 20s, but she got-

Elizabeth: Young woman.

Gene: Young woman, sorry. Thank you. She was very… She seemed really talented, really good, she had a lot of stuff on social media, and she actually, her side, she played in a rock band. She was a little goth, but it was cool, you know, it was fine, it’s whatever. My friend Cory… Cory, as I’ve talked about before, we were both-

Elizabeth: Cory. Everyone knows Cory, come on.

Gene: Of course, Cory. Cory, I said, “What do you think of this girl?” Girl. This woman, sorry. Cory emails me a couple hours later, he’s like, “You might want to look at her Twitter photos. She has some topless photos on her Twitter accounts.”

Elizabeth: Oh my god.

Gene: Sufficeth to say…

Elizabeth: That made the decision easier.

Gene: Yeah. We hired her immediately. No, just kidding. Just kidding, just kidding, just kidding. No, I mean, it was like, “You gotta be kidding me. You can’t… ” So we look at social media, and that really does kind of factor in to a decision when you kind of qualify people down.

Elizabeth: What if someone has their account locked down?

Gene: That’s also another, like, people can ask to be in it. I actually am not, and I’m an employer, if somebody’s got their Facebook page locked in, like nobody can see their activity or whatever’s going on in Facebook, I don’t think it’s right for me to ask to unlock it. I’m not your friend.

Elizabeth: Yeah, no, and I actually respect those people that lock it down.

Gene: I do, too.

Elizabeth: Especially if you have kids and stuff.

Gene: I agree. I agree. I don’t really… Like, who am I? Like, okay, you’re a perspective employee, but Facebook is your personal page, so I don’t know. I mean, I tried, in the sense of, in the past I’ve tried friending people in the past, I’ve tried connecting to people on LinkedIn. Some people will accept the connection or not. I actually put a lot more priority on LinkedIn over Facebook, believe it or not. I like to see who people are connected to and who’s in their community, because sometimes… I’m from Philly, so a lot of times you bump into mutual connections and I can use that from a reference base.

Elizabeth: You have a lot of LinkedIn connections, too.

Gene: I do. There’s somewhat of a decent chance that somebody could be connected to somebody I know, and then therefore I can reach out to, you know, this person, it’s whatever. You know, “Did this person show you any topless photos?” It’s unbelievable. Anyway, that was a true story.

Elizabeth: Wow.

Gene: Anyway, bottom line is, you don’t know. All you can do is disqualify, get it down to the remaining people, and then just, you’ve got to make a judgment call over who you like the best and who you’re going to trust the most. It’s the Larry David method, is what you’re going to have to use.

Elizabeth: The Larry David method. You heard it here. The Larry David method.

Gene: Larry David method.

Elizabeth: Alright, we’ll be right back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance.

WORD OF BRILLIANCE: Church of England

Elizabeth: Okay, we’re back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance.

Gene: Three words.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: Church of England.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: Church of England, which is of course the United Kingdom’s main church.

Elizabeth: Yeah, it’s called Episcopalianism in America.

Gene: Right. It’s Church of England… I thought it was Protestantism in England, is it not? Okay, maybe I’m just… Episcopalianism, is that what it is?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: Okay. So it’s like sort of, not as like the state sanctioned religion, but it kind of is. I mean, the Queen is a member of the Church of England. Anyway-

Elizabeth: She’s the head of the church.

Gene: Yeah, she’s the head of the church, so there you go. It’s a big organization, as you can imagine.

Elizabeth: Don’t mess with the Queen, Gene. She’s in charge of everything.

Gene: I’m not dissing the Queen. I’m a huge fan of the Queen, as a matter of fact. I think she’s done a lot for the country.

Elizabeth: She’s a hard worker.

Gene: That’s another show. You asked for the beginning about shows to recommend. The Crown. Great show to watch on AMC.

Elizabeth: I watched it, although I feel like they focus too much on-

Gene: Her and Churchill?

Elizabeth: No. They focus too much on her husband, which I don’t really care about him that much.

Gene: Well, I don’t know. I really enjoyed it. Anyway, Church of England is my words of the day. They’re now accepting credit cards.

Elizabeth: What?

Gene: Yeah, so if you want to go and you’re giving money to the church or you’re-

Elizabeth: Like at when they take-

Gene: On Sundays when you go in there for… They pass around the plates, right? They still do that. They still do that.

Elizabeth: Let’s just clarify here for our listeners that Gene is Jewish.

Gene: I’m Jewish. Whatever they do in these churches, they pass around this plate.

Elizabeth: It’s called the offering.

Gene: The offering, okay, and you put the money in and the… Whereas in the Jewish religion you pay a membership fee to belong to a synagogue. It’s a whole different thing, and then there’s a lot of-

Elizabeth: I thought that was called tithes?

Gene: It could be.

Elizabeth: Tithing?

Gene: Yeah. Tithing, tithing.

Elizabeth: Tithing? I don’t know.

Gene: I don’t know. This tells you how much we know about religion. Bottom line is, listen, you belong to the Church of England, you go-

Elizabeth: I’m actually Episcopalian.

Gene: Are you? Do you go to church often?

Elizabeth: I go with my mother.

Gene: It doesn’t seem like you do. Do you? Okay. When you do, do you put money in the plate?

Elizabeth: What my parents do is they say at the beginning of the year, “We’re going to contribute however much money,” and then they bring a check or cash.

Gene: Oh, I see.

Elizabeth: And they put it in a little envelope with our family name on it and say-

Gene: Okay, so they do it an annual basis, that way they’re not putting-

Elizabeth: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Gene: Anyway, now in churches across England they can do that, you know, in advance-

Elizabeth: What do they do? Does the priest comes around with a mobile, like with an iPhone?

Gene: Apparently they have a mobile point of sale device with a Square reader and you literally swipe your credit card. They’re even considering taking Apple Pay and Samsung Pay and all of that. When people hear that, at first you’re like, “Is that… You gotta be kidding me. Like, that’s whatever.”

Elizabeth: That’s smart.

Gene: Come on, it is smart. I mean, first of all, who carries around the cash anymore, right? Secondly, this is a-

Elizabeth: And no one has checks.

Gene: No one does checks anymore. Church of England is an organization like any other organization. They need funding to be able to pay their bills, and now they see a big source of their funding is going away because people don’t carry around cash, so they’re adopting to it. At first, people were just shocked when they heard that news, like, “Oh my god,” but now…

I guess the reason why I like to bring that up from a small business perspective is, here’s the Church of England, they’ve been around for hundreds of years. They’re adapting to 2017. They see their customer base and they have less cash and more credit cards and mobile devices. This is the Church of England, this isn’t exactly Google here, but they’re adapting and I say the same for any of my clients and people that run businesses. You’ve got to make sure that you’re able to accept payment in any way or form that your customers want to make it if you want to continue to grow and stay in business.

Elizabeth: That’s why I love those, and I know I always get the terminology wrong, but those mobile payment apps where you can just pay someone via their mobile phones.

Gene: Sure. Yeah, like Venmo, first of all, first of all, is the greatest. Now, Venmo is a limited payment that you can make, but, I have so many small business owners that use Venmo if you’re collecting 50 or 100 or 200 dollars as a time. In addition to that, of course, there’s Square, which is the credit card reader.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Yeah, Square.

Gene: And we had the guy on from PayPal recently.

Elizabeth: Yeah, you can use PayPal to do it.

Gene: Use PayPal to do all that stuff, to pay. Your customers… You got to adapt. You got to adapt.

Elizabeth: I work with a small business. I love them, they’re great, but their payment system drives me crazy.

Gene: We have a similar…

Elizabeth: It’s actually… You always make fun of me when I mention my dog, but it’s a dog-walking service.

Gene: Of course, what a surprise, it’s a dog-walking…

Elizabeth: You make your reservation, you pay a 50% deposit.

Gene: How? Credit card?

Elizabeth: Credit card, over the phone, and then when they come there’s no way to pay them the other half, so you have to call the office again and pay the second half.

Gene: Oh my gosh, that’s so annoying.

Elizabeth: It’s so annoying, and they think they’re being… I think they think they’re being really helpful because you can pay over the phone, but it’s like, “No, just let me pay-“

Gene: Now, our dog walker, who is awesome, and she comes a couple times a week if we’re not around or whatever. We were always leaving her out a check, and this woman’s 35, 40 years old. Finally we’re like, “Kristin, why don’t you use… ” She has a bunch of clients. “Why aren’t you using Venmo?” She was like, “Venmo? What’s that?” It’s free, and I forget what the limit is.

Elizabeth: It’s free?

Gene: Venmo is free, that’s why all the college kids use it. There’s a limit of cash collections, like you can’t accept $5,000 payments on it. I think there’s a daily limit to it, so correct me if I’m wrong. In her case, she’s collecting $10 here, $15 there, $10 here.

Elizabeth: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Gene: She is up on Venmo, we were recently talking to her, she’s like, “It’s changed my life. I tell my clients, ‘Go on Venmo, you can connect to it very easily,” and then people just send me my $10 on Venmo.” She has the cash immediately, she’s not chasing down people for checks, and her customers really appreciate it, and she has a lot of millennials customers, as well, who she comes in to walk dogs for.

Elizabeth: Who are like, “Of course I have Venmo. Duh.”

Gene: Yeah, everybody’s got it. I don’t know, getting back to Church of England. The point is, old school, you can’t get more older school than that, and here they are taking mobile payments because they get it. They are adjusting to 2017. You should be, too.

Elizabeth: They’re with it.

Gene: It’s cool.

Elizabeth: Church of England. Alright, we’ll talk to you in a couple days. Thanks for listening.

Gene: Thank you.