When small and medium-sized businesses grow large enough that they need to add more staff, the process of figuring out who’s a good fit can become one of their biggest challenges.

At a base level, you want someone likeable enough and hard-working enough that they’ll mesh well with whatever kind of corporate culture is already evolving in your organization. Beyond that, though, SMB owners need to be very selective and strategic to ensure they have a team made up of people who recognize the evolution of marketing, selling and servicing customers. This means being comfortable with taking on new technologies, but also adapting to changes in process and behaviour for which the tools may be a catalyst.

The problem is, many of the standard job interview questions -- “What’s your greatest strength/weakness” and the like -- won’t necessarily get at those details. Neither will asking whether they have used specific applications, because “No” doesn’t mean they couldn’t be trained, or that they might still have the critical thinking skills to make most of the tools you offer.

As you look at your talent needs in 2018, consider lining up some of the following questions as part of your job interview routine. It may get you closer to identifying outstanding potential team members than you ever thought possible.

“What would be a good example of how you’ve used data to make a decision?”

Job interviews should always touch on the judgement calls a potential hire has made in previous roles. With older candidates, it might be assumed that whatever decision-making skills they have come largely from gut instinct, based on their years of experience. For younger hires, it might be based on what they learned in school. In a modern-day SMB, however, you want to work with people who have challenged their own assumptions (and even those of their previous employer) and who have gone digging for hard numbers or other forms of evidence before they’ve taken action.

If a candidate can show good data-driven decision-making, they’ll likely be able to maximize the power of tools like Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud and reach business objectives faster. Think about letting them know about this question before they come in for the interview -- it’s an important one and only fair they have a chance to prepare something specific.

“What would you imagine a day in our customers’ life might look like?”

At first, this might be greeted with a blank stare, especially if the candidate is coming from a completely different kind of organization or industry. If they’ve done any homework at all, though, they should have gotten a basic sense of the company’s target audience.

If they need a nudge, ask some follow-ups about how they think customers are most likely to hear about the company and its products and services. Then, ask something like, “and then what happens?” If the candidate says they found out about the company on social media, for instance, discover what they believe would be the next step, whether it’s visiting the web site, calling the company or making an in-person visit. SMBs need people who are really good at thinking through the customer journey, no matter what role they eventually take. This question will prove whether or not they have that kind of mind.

“What are your favourite apps on your phone?”

For some candidates, panic might set in here: should they really admit they’re on Twitter at all hours of the day? In fact, you should want a team member with at least a basic understanding of social media, given how many business conversations are now taking place on those channels.

The apps they use could also show whether they are capable of working well on a smartphone versus just waiting until they’re in front of their desk at the office. Given that an SMB owner can now manage their entire business from their mobile device, their team should be ready to do the same.

“What’s been your best experience working with your counterparts in ____?”

If you’re hiring for a sales job, fill in the blank with “marketing.” If you’re hiring addition to your marketing team, fill in the blank with “sales.” Or in either case, try “service” and see what happens.

Even more than larger organizations, SMBs can’t afford to work in silos. They need to be as collaborative with other departments as possible. Actively seeking out and acting upon information from CRM, for instance, will show you’ve got a potential marketing hire that is as focused on revenue generation as brand-building. A sales candidate who talks about learning from the customer service team is someone who will likely go above and beyond to win loyal, repeat business. No matter how they respond, ask more about how knowledge was transferred across the organization in their previous job -- and to what extent that was a learned behaviour or something innately part of their character.

“If I told you our business was going to double in the next year, what do you think our biggest priority should be?”

Does this sound unfair to ask someone who’s never been part of the company? The reality is that as artificial intelligence (AI) tools like Einstein become even more popular, a big part of everyone’s job will be taking the predictive intelligence they’re given and making a plan for how to deal with it in a way that moves the business forward. The answer to this question will say a lot about whether you’re hiring someone who will accept AI as a kind of “co-worker” or not.

Some of these questions may rule out a number of job interview candidates, but SMBs that want to grow and thrive may need to be very selective about who they bring on board. With the right mix of skills, though, entrepreneurs will be putting together the kind of team that can quickly move as technology evolves, and help the business realize its full potential.

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