Your people are your business. It’s a simple as that. It’s like the line from the movie, “The Patriot” when General Lord Charles Cornwallis says to Colonel William Tavington, “You serve me and the manner in which you serve me reflects upon me.” Every employee is an extension of your company.

This is especially true for solutions providers because their employees are constantly in front of customers servicing business-critical functions. So the most important decision you make as a business owner is who you hire. That said, however, how do you ensure that you hire the best person for the job and for your company going forward?

Below are the top areas you need to focus in on when evaluating a candidate—and that is for any position, whether it be sales, marketing, customer support or even administration. While some of these areas may be more important than others depending on the specific position, remember, you are only as good as your weakest link.

  1. Qualifications: Here is where there should be no wiggle room. The person you hire needs to be able to do the job you are hiring that person for. End of story. Yes, it’s important to have a diverse workforce. It’s critical to create equal opportunities for all regardless of race, religion, sex and age. However, that all means nothing if the person doesn’t have the expertise needed. When you hire someone without the necessary qualifications and instead because of other reasons, it lowers the bar of professionalism for your organization. It also can demoralize your staff and potentially hurt your customers and ultimately your business.
  2. Job History: A person’s job history tells a lot about that candidate, but not everything. When going through the hiring process you want to ask a lot of questions—sometimes tough questions—to really find out what that person’s day-to-day responsibilities were. There are people who inflate their resume and only by asking detailed questions will you really find out what they actually did at those past jobs. There are also those that under-represent themselves on paper and it isn’t until they get in front of you that see their value. There used to be a rule of thumb that you didn’t want anyone who held numerous jobs for only a year or two. However, the Great Recession threw that rule out the window and, in most cases, those candidates are the ones who will work harder, be more embracing of change, will work for less pay and be more grateful.
  3. Compensation: Finding the right employee at the right price can be challenging. Before hiring anyone you need to have a set range on what you are willing to pay for that position. And yes, it needs to be a range, because you may need to make the decision whether to hire someone who will grow into the position or someone at the very high end. That said, however, anyone you do hire you want to be motivated. These are not cars and you are not haggling for options. The lowest price walking out of the showroom is not the goal. Value is the goal. Offering someone a low compensation package just because times are tough and you know they need the job is stupid and short-sighted. You may be saving a few thousand today but you will lose much more than that when that person leaves, because he or she will leave when the economy turns around. And all that time, effort and training will have been a waste. Be fair, always.
  4. Attitude: The saying, “misery loves company,” has no place in the workplace. Attitude is contagious. The right qualifications, skill sets and pay range are all critical, but if the person comes across negative, demoralized, insecure or entitled, then move on. Solution providers are small-business owners and company morale is important. One bad apple can spoil the lot. When considering candidates take into account their demeanor, attitude and professionalism. Are they in a bad mood because their car broke down and ended up being late? Or were they able to check their attitude at the door and stay professional? While you can train someone in a certain skill or give him or her a career path to earn more money, you can’t be that person's therapist.

Again, your employees are a direct extension of you. How you want your company perceived is direct related to how it is represented. Choose wisely and treat people with dignity.