In this episode Erin Longmoon — CEO of Zephyr Recruiting — Explains the processes for matching the right employees with the right businesses.
The process for finding the “right fit” employees
When to let employees go
Welcome to the Work The System podcast where we help entrepreneurs make more and work less managing the systems of their business. I'm your host Josh Fonger. Today we have a special guest, we have Erin Longmoon, Erin's mission in life is to eradicate toxic workplaces. She believes that everyone deserves to love their job and feel like they are contributing to a greater purpose. As the owner of Zephyr recruiting, she accomplishes this mission by matching great small businesses with their right fit employees. Alright, Erin, so why don't you give us the backstory and tell us how you got into this line of work?
Well, not going into the long, long story. The short version is a number of years ago, I was a business coach and I worked with small businesses, I became a business coach, because I'm a serial entrepreneur. And I've been through the grind a number of times, and actually helped businesses systematize actually. Josh said that they could scale and they could grow their businesses. And inevitably, we would get to a place where in order to scale and grow, we get the systems in place. But we might need to add two people to the team so that they didn't have to do all of it themselves. Or we'd identify a key role that hadn't yet been identified. And my wonderful clients would already be working crazy hours, needing to focus on other things, and the recruiting would come up and they wouldn't really have the bandwidth to do it themselves. or many of them were actually having PTSD, it is a true thing. Because they've made some really bad hires. And in the small business space, you really bad hires. You can't hide them, right. I mean, they stick out like a sore thumb, they're really painful. So they were scared to do it. I actually have some history in recruiting in my previous career. So as it became an add on service in my coaching business. And in 2017, I decided to pivot and just do recruiting because it really became evident that this is what small businesses needed, and it wasn't available to them. So I changed the business to Zephyr recruiting, and here we are a few years later, still doing it.
Wow. Well, it's a great story. And I think the thing you're gonna want to do is really connect with our audience, which is exactly what used to be, and you know, the pain point. Now, when I was reading your, your bio, and I wanted to get into this earlier, I'm sure that there's a lot of gold in here is this idea of the right fit employee? So what is the right fit employee? And is there like a right fit process? Or what does that look like?
So the right fit employee, after many years, I've actually also always felt this way as an employee or as a business owner in the past. But able to articulate it now that, you know, employers are often told to go try to find top talent or a player or you know, the cream of the crop the best of the best. And the truth is, is I have seen that backfire so many times. And so employers are often putting their focus in the wrong place. So after a number of years of doing this work, we really honed in on this concept of what is a better approach is trying to find your right fit. And it's a lot like matchmaking and relationships, it's who you're the kind of employee that's going to work really well and be highly successful on your team and is a different kind of person than who is going to be highly effective, unlike your competitor down the street or in the town over. And there's reasons for that. But you know, to get down to it really quickly is basically culture fit. So you know, you've got your skills fit. Maybe the schema, like an accountant in one town needs the same skill set as an accountant in another town, but the culture of that company can be different. That one person will be successful in one and be almost toxic or a terrible fit for another. So you have to hone in on who your right fit employee is going to be and that's who you want to attract. And that's who you want to hire. That's the idea.
So as you're recruiting, do you start by trying to find someone who is the right fit technical skills wise? And then do culture? Or is it culture first and then skill? Or is it only culture then you build the skill set in? By way of training? Like how do you approach that?
It really depends. To be honest, and it depends on the people you know what that company needs at the moment. I mean, a lot of small business owners, the real truth is, is that they need someone with the skills because they don't have, you know, supervisors and various chains of command that can then take the time to train deeply. It's a wonderful idea to be honest, I mean, we love the idea of, of maybe bringing someone in who has a lot of the soft skills and the culture fit and then you train them as you need them. But you know, and that can work so that it can work. You have to identify if you have the resources, the internal resources to do that a lot of small business owners do not. So the skill set is quite critical as well. Now, honestly, when we do recruiting and with our right fit method of recruiting, you're kind of assessing both at various points, but basically simultaneously through the recruiting process. So you need to figure out through the process, you will weigh different criteria when you create what we call the right fit employee profile. So I'm kind of jumping ahead, but you will create if you use our method, then you create a right fit profile. And then you kind of rate the different components based on what you can offer, and what kind of resources you have available to you. So there really is no right or wrong, like black and white answer to that question.
So let's just say that I'm an electrical contractor, I think one of my clients and I want to build up a team. And I don't really have a culture, let's just say per se, in my company. I mean, I know how I am as a person, but I am not really spending much time on culture. I've got some in house people, I've got people in the field, we're doing some sales. I just want them to, to not screw up. Just representing me too. Deep, do they have to go into this culture? And are there certain dynamics that you have to always say like these four dynamics, you have to kind of understand? Or how does that work?
Yeah, so cool. So every company has culture, whether you've intentionally identified it, or built it, or whether it's just been organic. And often it does start with the owner and the core values and the personality and the style, the mindset, you know, of the owner, and what's important to the owner. So that's where the launching pad. But as you add people to your team, they're gonna affect your culture as well. So if you're a kind of a business owner who has never really intentionally looked at your culture, which, honestly, let's be truthful, most of us have not. Then you are going to have to take a moment and reflect on what the culture has become and what it is today, you might reveal that there are some things about it, you want to change, and that is possible. But for the sake of today's conversation, and not going into how to deal with culture. This is the process of hiring effectively, you need to take a moment and reflect on the culture of your company. That's actually the first step in our right fit method, we use the acronym right fit. So the R is reflect. And that's where you want to take a moment and look at and identify what are your core values of the company? What is the personality of the company? What are the goals, just you want to get a nice rounded picture of your culture, the strengths, weaknesses, all sorts of things, and you create sort of a picture of it. And then you go into identifying who then as an employee team member is going to work well in that culture. They don't need to have the exact same core values as you but their core values should align with your team with your company core values, as opposed to you know, being an opposition. That's usually where big problems come in. You're the personality of the person should work well with your team. We love diversity. So they don't have to be cookie cutters, you don't want a cookie cutter team, you want people to be a kind of yin and yang and support each other and create a well rounded team. But you have to understand what you have in order to understand what you need. Right? So then you create this, what we call the right fit employee avatar. And which is this, it's a profile, a written out intentional profile. Because if you don't know what you're looking for, you're often going to end up attracting the wrong people and picking the wrong people. So that's a big, that's the first two steps in our method, actually.
we'll just keep going on. What is the next step?
So the next step after that is you generate so now we start thinking about the actual recruiting process a little bit, and you have to generate you have to think about marketing. This is marketing and a lot of ways and that's one thing that a lot of small business employers don't think about recruiting as a marketing like function, but it is. So then you want to take this right fit employee avatar and just like you would your target market you're trying to think of of them and what's going to attract them to you. So in your job post, where you post, what social media channel channels you use, what job boards you use, the kinds of things that you put front and center on your job posts, but all the things that are going to hook this right fit employee that you want to attract to you. So you got to think about what we do here at Zephyr and our job post is the first three sentences are like a hook, kind of like your elevator pitch or kind of You know, think about it like that. And it should be dynamic, it should reflect the culture, it should reflect the personality. So it should be really exciting, not dry and drab. So those are. So that's kind of the next step is coming up with those marketing pieces in the marketing strategy.
Let me take you off your system for a second here. So what do you if you have this whole process? And you see people who are being interviewed are often desperate for a job, how do you prevent them from lying to you or getting in to position to get the job even though they're not qualified? Or they're just saying, Oh, yeah, I really, you know, I like showing up on time. And I like working hard. And I like doing these things. That sounds great. And they don't. So how do you weed out people that are wrong fits during the process?
So there's a couple of different things that we do here that we recommend highly one of them is the interviewing process, we need to change it, we've often learned the interview process is this a terror gation kind of thing, like someone behind you know, the the candidates committed a crime, and you're just trying to catch them in the lie. So what happens is that they close up, and they feel vulnerable, and they don't feel like it's safe to really be themselves. And to be honest, they're going to be more interested in telling you what you want to hear. So the very first thing is that that first interaction you have with them, starting from the email you send to say, I would like to interview you, all the way through the process has to make them feel safe. And it's very different from what probably a lot of people have heard. But it really, really works. Be genuinely interested in who they are, as a person, treat them with respect, be kind, you know, spend time and be present with them, Be curious about who they are. And I trust me, if you do that approach, and you ask probing curiosity questions, they will start to show who they really are, they will, they will feel safe, to be honest. And that's really where the lies start to happen when they don't feel safe. And then one other key piece is when you get into the interview, use coaching questions, ask, ask deeper. So if somebody tells you a story about a previous employment situation, they have asked them to go more. Tell me more about that. And then what happened? How did you feel about that? Well, what did your supervisor say? like you would if your friend was telling you this great story about their trip to Italy, right? Like you're captivated and you want to hear everything? Well, the more you ask deeper questions, the more you'll get to the heart of, of kind of who they are and what matters to them. And that's what you're looking for.
So the next question is, what's the next step? So I think I'm a ring around H. Now, the right fit?
Yeah, well, I think we're actually at the interview. So we kind of lumped a number together, which is lumped in with the number of them together because of the time. But once you do that, it's this whole interview, you really have to, go deep with them, and then take the time to do reference checks. And when you do reference checks, pick who you want to talk to, which is also a little different than what we're told, don't get a reference list from the candidate. Those are going to be their cheerleaders, right? Hands down, it could even be their sister in law, brother in law for all you know. So you want to pick based on their resume who you want to talk to get their permission, you do have to get permission from the candidate to allow you to check references, do background checks, all that kind of stuff for compliance. But then call those particular people stay at it, because oftentimes, they will not call you right back, you're not a priority. But if you keep bugging them, they'll often go ahead and take some time. And then ask some deep questions about them to you know, don't just say, were they a good employee? Say, tell me some examples of how they embodied your company's core values. Tell me how they exceeded your expectations, what do you think they're best at even if it wasn't a part of their job? Try to get to know the candidate from someone else's lens. And that's really helpful. So don't negate reference checks if you do them correctly. You know, and then after that, really at the end, it's pick you know, you've now assessed hopefully, their skills, you've assessed their culture fit through some of these questions. There's a lot more in my workbook, which I will tell you all about how to get my workbook and you'll learn much more about these different steps. But you know, and then you get through the reference check and everything you do, you want them to meet your team because you want to see how the team interacts with them. So don't negate that step as well. And ideally, make it a little bit more social so that they'll open up, your team can open up. You can see how a true dynamic plays out rather than just, you know, a team interview that's really structured that often doesn't really reveal culture fit very well. So these are some of the parts of our right fit process that will help you assess not just skills, but also that culture fit. What if
What if you're going through this process? And you say, Hey, you know what, there's some people in my company right now, who are not a culture fit. Then what do you do? You say, Well, my culture does this. But it's really over here due to these three people. What do you do, then?
You know, that is a plan. I think, honestly, as a business owner, you have every right to build the company you really want, right? I mean, that's what we're in this for. So if you wake up one day, and you really are reflecting that this company is not where you want it to be, from a culture perspective, it is okay to make changes. It's fine. People also outgrow jobs, companies outgrow employees, it's all okay. So I gave you permission right now to let people go, who are not the right fit for your culture or for the roles that you need, and go find someone who is. It's like setting them free to go do something that's more in alignment with them anyway. Because chances are, if you're not the right fit for them, they're not the right fit for you. It's a mutual thing, right? So it's okay to evaluate thought and to make some significant changes. There's a whole process, we also help clients build culture and intentionally do that. But that's for another, another podcast for us, Josh, but it is okay to admit that maybe there's some wrong fit count of employees on your team, and to come up with a plan for making that change.
What about the hiring process for contractors? You're going to work with regularly, vers, his employees? Is it? Is it different at all? Or is it the same process?
It kind of depends, if you're going through a virtual assistant company, and you're just hiring one of their people as a contractor that's different. And you're not going to probably do as much with them. If you are hiring like an independent freelancer, who you are going to work with. Then yes, we do that we've we do that with a couple of roles for us, like our marketing person, and a sales consultant and stuff, and we put them through our full process, because it is similar, if we're not going to work well together, you know, then then we shouldn't, then we show that it's right, we just shouldn't. So we put those types through the same process.
What was the most common mistake that small business owners are making in the hiring process that is that they should really stop doing?
There's actually a wish there was just hiring, like friends and family. I mean, I just saw that backfire. So many times, unfortunately, because we love these people, we know them, and we trust them. So it feels like a no brainer to have them be the one we choose. But it often doesn't work. And then it can, you know, really ruin a relationship that was far more meaningful than the role that you're trying to have them fill. So really don't do it. Now referrals are a different thing, getting referrals from your existing team, things like that. But these are the people who are directly connected to the employer. It's just generally not a great idea. There's a few that work, but most don't. So that's probably the biggest one. The other one is hiring too fast. You know, just just not going through a decent due diligence process. And just being like, great, your resume looks awesome. I really like you, you seem really cool. I could see myself having a beer with you tonight. So you're hired. Like, that's the other really big mistake that small business employers make. You need to do your due diligence and vet candidates.
Okay, that makes sense. I'm a little concerned, I know that a lot of people listening to this have somewhat of their family working for them, you know? And so what do you do? If that's the case? And is it just, it's a hopeless call, you should just let them go? Or is it a way to revive that and structure that in a better way?
Well, it depends on what's going on. Some work family businesses are all over America all over the world. They can work right like I don't necessarily mean it in terms of not partnerships, that kind of family business. But you don't want to just hire cousin Bob because cousin Bob needs a job. So you know, it's if you do find yourself in a situation where it is family, and again, they're not the right culture fit, they're bringing your team down, maybe they're taking advantage of the power they have being family. There's all sorts of dynamics that go on. I mean, you have to have heart to heart real honest conversation. You know, there's just no way or there's no I don't know magic pill that you can take that will fix it. You have to sit down and have a real conversation about it. Be honest, be truthful. If you can work it out, and they can step up, and you can make it work great. But if you can't, it's better for your long term relationship in your family to just say, guess what, we can't mix business with our family pleasure. Let's just separate and, you know, make our private relationship a priority.
So another quick question for you. So, okay. If you are some folks who are solopreneurs, like they do by themselves, maybe they have a few contractors working for them, and they want to grow, but they're totally busy. And they don't have a ton of money. But they know they need to grow a team, they need to get a team to grow for sure. 100%? When should they make that kind of like, when do they pull the trigger? Is it based on a certain revenue dollars time? You know, they just see a path forward? And should they do it themselves. So like, a lot of larger companies use recruiting firms, but small companies are sometimes concerned about the price. And so they just put it off, put it off, put it off, put it off. So how do you know when they should actually choose a recruiting firm, and when is the right time to make those kinds of commitments and hires?
So sort of a rule of thumb, conventional wisdom suggests that if you can have three months of the person's pay in a savings account, set aside for them. So ideally it's not something you just have aside, and it could be used for something else like for them. Then you can take the risk, of course, knowing that you have a stable business. That you have stable revenue. A number of other things need to be in place before you should take the plunge. But you know, if you've got those things in place, and then three months of their pay in the say, in the bank, then you can go and take the plunge in terms of recruiters getting support. You know, one of the reasons why I created Zephyr also was because we're trying to leverage the playing field for small businesses. And you are right, in terms of recruiters being expensive, they are outrageously expensive. In many places, cities like your own bigger cities, they tend to be about 30 to 35% of the annual salary of the job. So I mean, that can be 15,000 plus dollars just for a $50,000 a year, you know, employee that's astronomical. So there's not unfortunately, I wish I could tell you there's a whole host of options out there with getting support, the truth is, there just isn't a lot of outsourced options for people on that without that kind of budget. So like, we created a flat fee structure, so it doesn't matter the salary. And let me just say this, it's like under $7,000. So you get, you know, for any role. So that's our disrupter is to try to be affordable, so that smaller business owners really can't afford to get this kind of support. There are, you know, some virtual type of digital avenues like zip recruiter, and some others out there, we have found that they're not coming, you know, it's still very chill. You still have to take on all the work of vetting them, vetting the candidates yourself. So if you've got the bandwidth to do it, do it. That's why I also created the DIY workbook that I'll share with your listeners, if you've got the means to do it. And you feel like you understand the strategy behind it and you feel like you can do it. Well, you can be objective, not emotional, Li driven when you make the decision, then by all means, you know, give it a try. But hopefully we're an affordable option for some of your listeners, if they really do feel it's time to outsource this service.
Yeah, I think that's a killer deal in terms of price point. And yeah, I can tell, you know, the inner workings of this inside and out. And we talked about systems, I'm sure you got a system, which is why the price point is where it's at now, right? You mentioned the three month pay. And is that because it typically takes three months to train somebody or three months until they actually kind of get you the ROI you need to to pay for themselves or what is what is the how much money at the sake of somebody till we actually are paying for this.
So really, in an ideal situation, you're not going to cover your current revenue, your monthly revenue is going to cover their cost. So you don't have to dip into that savings. That savings really is there as a safety net just for what you said kind of in case they like if it's a revenue generating role, or if it's a role that serves your clients directly. So it affects your ability to earn revenue, then yeah, maybe it's going to have a little bit of a runway before they take off and you really start realizing those revenue increases from the production, then that can help you in the better set scenario though is whatever you're bringing in per month. You have enough to pay them at least their base amount of money that you need to pay them. And then the three months is sort of, you know, gravy in case you have a slow month, and you can just keep them on. So there's, you know, that's sort of the ideal, but nothing is ever totally ideal. And I'll be honest, we've jumped in hired people without any of that, because we've just needed the help. And sometimes as entrepreneurs, you just have to do what you got to do. And take risks, right, the whole thing of being entrepreneurs is the risk game. And so if you're in a situation where you just really need the help, you're working 80 hours, and you just can't serve everybody, and it's, you know, chaos, then then get help, just get the help, and then it'll work out.
It's amazing what an extra pair of hands will do, especially for a small business owner.
it's incredible. And you know, the solopreneurs that I worked with, and helped them hire the very first person, all of them said, why did I wait so long for this? Like, I'm actually sleeping, I can actually focus on the work I want to do. What's my zone of genius? They always say that I've never had anybody come back and say it was a bad choice, or, you know, mistake.
I totally agree. Totally agree. Well, let's do some kind of wrap up of questions to run low on time here, what tell us about a system that you have put in place into your own business, and you've kind of shared a number of them. But any other systems you want to tell us about?
Well, one that we're actually actively integrating right now is we're using Zoho one. So I don't know how many people there, I'm assuming your systems, people, you guys know Zoho one. But we're looking at automating the cross functioning automation throughout everything. So from signing contracts, to sending out invoices to getting them paid to, pre sale with the CRM, and then they have an applicant tracking system, which a company like us really needs so that we can, keep track of all the candidates that we're interviewing. and all of our clients that we're surveying and that kind of thing, create a big database of candidates. We've got to Davis candidates, like almost 10,000, you know, so we needed a system to pull that together. We were using different systems, and finding that they integrate, you know, the fact that they didn't integrate was holding us up and creating little bottlenecks. So we're in the process of building out Zoho, to hopefully solve all of those into just automating a lot of the processes that don't have to be done by humans. You know, recruiting has to be done by humans. But you know, getting a contract signed doesn't.
That's great advice. And I know that software, what's a question that I didn't ask you, but I should have asked you?
Oh, gosh, you're putting me on the spot? Yeah. Why should you use a recruiter instead of doing it yourself?
Oh, there you go.
So the reason why she's recruited subduing yourself, we are not taught how to do recruiting. When we're small businesses, right, you can get marketing help, sales help, you can learn how to read your p&l, you can get all sorts of training, but there's very little to nothing out there about how to really hire and hire effectively. And there is strategy behind it, a lot of strategy behind it. It incorporates marketing, it incorporates people skills. So if you can get a recruit who knows how to do it right. Who's doing it for you who's dedicated to finding that right fit for your company, then it's going to save you what we've come up with. We've learned it's about 50 to 70 hours per hire, it'll save you that amount of time. So that's one, two, it'll mitigate obviously, bad hires. So you will save what is said out in the world of data and stir and statistics about 30%. A bad hire cost you about 30% of their salary. So we'll save you that kind of money because we're not going to let you make a bad hire. And you get to just do some you get to then work in your zone of genius. This is our zone of genius. And you know, why would you spend all that time working in a space that is not your main skill set? Right? Like just because you can doesn't mean you should. Right? So there you go. That's why you should hire a recruiter.
I think it's a great way to end it. So Erin, where people find you if they want more information to get your free guide and also they want a recruiter, where should they go? Okay,
so our website is Zephyr recruiting calm and Zephyr it means a gentle breeze. And so Zephyrrecruiting.com. And actually if you just go to our homepage, a little pop up will come up with our workbook or you can go to that website. Zephyrrecruiting.com/rightfitworkbook, and that will take you right to the workbook. And that is a DIY workbook that shows our full methodology. on how to do this the right way. And so that's that's my little gift for you for you. And then that's how you can find us. You can also email me which is Aaron er, I N at Zephyr recruiting comm if you just want to talk to me directly and I am happy to talk to you about anything recruiting.
Okay, awesome. All right, well, that's pretty clear. Zephyrrecruiting.com or just email Erin, we'll put that in the notes for the show. Erin's been very useful. I have a lot of notes, our team as you know, we're in the middle of hiring right now. So this has been very timely, and I enjoyed this live stream on Facebook, or unless you're watching this on iTunes or any other podcast player, YouTube, we're all over the place. So hopefully you enjoyed it. You can join us live though about every Friday. We do some shows like this on Facebook so you can join us at work the system, Facebook page, if you want a copy of that book right there behind me, Work The System, you can get it at Workthesystem.com as a free download. But if you want the physical version you can buy it or you can leave us a review. And wherever you leave us a review, take a screenshot of that review and email it to [email protected] once a week we pull a name out of a hat, and then we send out a free book. So if you want to do that, we'd appreciate it. Otherwise, we will catch you all next week. Thanks Erin.