Overloaded. Scattered. Forgetful. Late. Have you ever felt that any of these words describe you as a studio owner? I once did. Other studio owners tell me often that they too, have been consumed by their work and feel like they are constantly in need of help. The one thing that made a difference for me? Hiring the right studio staff for my team. An amazing group of employees is a huge game-changer. I call mine the Dream Team.
The process of hiring can be one of the most daunting tasks for a studio owner. You feel a lot of pressure (from yourself!) to make a good decision; one that at best, could benefit your team for years to come and that at worst, could create a toxic environment. Hiring someone who is a good fit for your business is truly win-win: you get the help you need to run an organized and efficient studio, and your new employee obtains a job at a meaningful place to work.
Before taking the first step in your hiring process, be sure that you know what it is that you’re hiring for. I recommend writing up a job description: include the job title, responsibilities, and the qualities desired in your ideal candidate. This job description will be for your internal use only, so expect that it might change somewhat once you’ve found a great person to hire and want to adapt the position to their strengths. For now, the description is simply your guideline. Having it prepared gives you a starting point for the way you need to advertise the job opening, and for the types of questions you might need to ask during interviews.
Once your hiring needs are clear, it’s time to prepare a job listing or advertisement. This is the information you’ll post online, such as on Indeed or Craigslist, or through other hiring avenues, such as your local university or community newsletter. Be sure to tell your current staff members that you’re looking to hire; I often find that getting referrals from my employees is far more successful than any other method. Birds of a feather do flock together after all!
After your job description and job listing are complete, it’s time to focus on the big task ahead: the hiring process itself. Your diligent attention to the details can make all the difference! Normally I have a whole list of tips and ideas for you for each topic, but hiring is different. There are really only two rules you need to heed for hiring.
- Hire slowly
My first tip is to never be in a hurry to hire! I’ve certainly learned this the hard way. Rushed hiring almost always results in a poor match between you and the new employee because you didn’t have enough time to thoroughly assess their potential with your business.
Create a hiring system that includes several steps instead; this will help you evaluate candidates in different ways over time. For example, your first step might include instructing applicants to introduce themselves by leaving a voicemail (we use Google Voice) or by uploading a video message. This will allow you to “meet” them virtually. Those who are articulate and enthusiastic can be invited to complete the next step, which could be a phone interview or an email questionnaire.
At this point your goal is simply to get to know the candidate better, so your questions might include topics like “What type of books do you read?” or “Tell me about a time when you helped make a positive change in someone else’s life.” From there, you would ask the successful candidates to meet for a personal interview, either with you or someone from your leadership team.
A second, off-site personal interview (for example, over lunch) or a teaching audition would be an appropriate next step for those candidates who are still in the running after the first personal interview. Having your candidates pass through each of the benchmark steps allows you to get to know them under different conditions, and if at any point they no longer seem like a good fit for your studio, you can thank them for their time and move on.
- Hire for character
My second tip comes from 20 years’ experience building an excellent studio culture: hire only those people who have the character qualities you know you need in your business. There’s no better match for your studio than someone who already demonstrates that they hold similar values to yours.
Remember that the culture of your business depends heavily on its people, and so any new hires need to fit well within your culture. The difficulty is that your candidates (who want a job!) can easily profess to hold such values, but as well all know, actions speak louder than words.
A continued benefit of the “hire slowly” advice above is that you have several opportunities to see the candidate’s character qualities in action, and in different conditions. For example, do they send you a thank you note after an interview? That certainly displays their values. Are they kind to the waitstaff when you meet for lunch? Another values-check. When they teach a sample class, are they prepared, organized, pleasant, curious? All part of their personal values.
To be fair, some candidates may be excellent “politicians” and may say and do things to get the job and not show you their true selves. Though I find this is rare, I think it is important that you pay attention to your gut feelings about someone. Let your instincts guide you, whether the feeling is positive or negative. Remember that you can’t necessarily teach great character, but you can train and mold the skillset of the right candidate.
Hiring employees is truly one of the hardest and best parts of being a business owner. The people on your team are the ones who bring your vision, your mission, and your culture to life. It’s no wonder we feel such a heavy responsibility to get it right!
I’m confident that these two tips can boost your hiring process up a level, and that they will help you find the support you need. Share with us in the comments below how you plan to take action with your next new hire. And you can always find me @mistylown on social media if you’d like to discuss more about how to hire your Dream Team. I wish you much success as you revitalize your hiring process!
Misty Lown is the founder, president and energized force behind More Than Just Great Dancing™. Misty shares her methods of creating a professional environment where people learn and grow from the life experiences lived in the dance studio. Sharing information, providing helpful observations, and giving feedback to parents, teachers and students is an essential part of the learning process that Misty delivers with More Than Just Great Dancing™.