Hiring Lessons From An Expert Who Knows Nothing

Hiring is the hardest part of running a company.

Don’t get me wrong. Running a company is not easy. I don’t recommend it to most people. While the autonomy to run in any direction and pursue dreams is fun, deciding the path in the first place could push most people over the edge.

If you like predictability and routine, entrepreneurship is a landmine of triggers. There’s always something to worry about at 3 am (see my Twitter feed timestamps). Every time you look at your inbox, there’s the threat of something unexpected that will throw you off your game.

For how long? Well, that’s up to you too. While you pursue dreams, there’s a dose of reality waiting for you as you log in to your bank account and remember that you don’t get a direct deposit on Friday anymore.

Three Ears Media has survived this long because, with so many of those late night thoughts and fears, I could do the work. I stay up later. I’ll set that reminder. Get up early. Cancel the meeting. The work will get done.

Hiring does not work like that.

While vendors try to force hiring into a checkbox, the rest of us know better. We know that while there might be a checklist for onboarding, hiring rejects the idea of following any formula.

Realizing you need to hire at all has no formula. You don’t wake up one morning and know the who, the how, or the why. It’s not a sudden realization or a black-and-white reality check. For most of us, it’s an “oh dear God I need help before I break.”

Let me tell you, teetering on the edge is not the place to be when you’re hiring. I’ve been the person who was hired in that scenario too many times, and it never turns out well.

Did I mention I’m hiring some freelance writing help?

That’s what started this whole thing. I need to hire. I’ve done an intern program. I have a smart consultant on staff to help with marketing, and now I need writers who can write great website copy.

So, I carelessly posted on LinkedIn, “I’m looking for freelance writers. Bonus if you have recruiting expertise.”

My inbox still isn’t the same.

Hiring lessons from the expert who clearly knows nothing.

Clearly, I’m an idiot. I’ve spent 10 years writing about this industry, and that’s how I go at this? That’s how I’m hiring? Fail. Without beating myself up too much, let’s get to those lessons learned.

  1. Is it me you’re looking for? We have to know what we’re looking for – in the job, in work, and the person. If you don’t have at least those 3 outlined, it’s not going to work out. I’ve hired part-time for people I needed on a one-time contract. I’ve hired interns when I needed directors. It has been a hot hiring mess.
  2. Don’t forget first impressions. This is a lesson for everyone, not just writers. Send a great first email. First impressions matter and every email is a writing sample when you’re a writer. So, if you email me about a copywriting job, consider this. You might want to think harder than sending a 2 sentence email or DM that says, “I’m interested. Can you talk tomorrow?” C’mon people. I literally teach a class in email writing. Try. 
  3. Recruiting and hiring are two different things. Candidate experience and hiring? Also two very different things. It’s the actual hire that’s the hardest part. It makes everything else look so easy. My point? Remember that getting people to apply to a job isn’t always the hardest part.
  4. You better have a badass job posting. This is the one I’m by far most embarrassed to share. I’m blushing typing this. I didn’t write one. I was like, “oh only like 5 people will even email me, and then I’ll have new friends and helpers!” Nope. I got a ton of people who didn’t have the kind of experience I was looking for who I feel guilty about not replying to. I’m not alone on this one. My friend Celinda tweeted the same thing: “Been there and no one had the skills I needed. Learned to not post after that.”
  5. Start with friends, not Facebook. I should’ve known that more is not more in this scenario. Going out to 2600 people and asking for a writer was asking for too much. I needed maybe 4 people to talk to next week, not 40. That’s not how hiring math works.
  6. This is how hiring math works. Go out and ask for referrals first. Get 5-6 people. Talk to them. Narrow from there or, in my case, I could’ve used them all. Instead, the pile was much bigger, and I’m looking at weeks instead of days to get down to what I need now.

What have you learned while hiring?


Online Strategy and Job Boards recruiting

Katrina Kibben View All →

Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.

Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.

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