Forget skill set - the top quality to look for in job candidates is way more important, says CEO of an eight-figure marketing business

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  • Dev Basu is CEO of Powered by Search, an eight-figure digital marketing agency in Toronto.
  • He says the number one thing he looks at when qualifying candidates to join a company isn't merely the hard or soft skills they bring; it's behavioral and cultural fit.
  • The wrong fit can erode the company culture and the ability to build something meaningful that impacts the business.
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If you thought that starting a business - whether that's an agency or service business that has an area of expertise - and getting the first couple of clients was difficult, the next "hump" of the business can be a doozy. I'm talking about scaling and growing a team.

The typical small team will hit predictable "breaking points," because there will inevitably be a breakdown in communication and grievances with compensation and responsibilities. I've observed that these breaking points tend to be at three team members, 10 team members, 30 team members, and so on.

I know because I've gone through each stage myself with my own agency and have coached many other agencies and small business owners through scaling their businesses past the initial pain points to profitability. And what I've repeatedly found is that most business owners don't need more people.

They need to hire right people (take note, job seekers!). But simple skill alignment isn't good enough; the number one thing I look at when qualifying candidates to join my company isn't merely the hard or soft skills they bring.

It's behavioral and cultural fit.

Skills are important, but they're not everything. Because it doesn't matter that candidates have "the ability to work well under pressure" or that they have "extensive experience in handling multiple client accounts" if they don't have the can-do attitude to take on multiple responsibilities within a small team or haven't demonstrated a growth mindset and a willingness to learn from a previous position.

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The wrong fit can erode the company culture and the ability to build something meaningful that impacts the business. Team members who have the right fit also tend to have the right behavioral characteristics when joining the team, and there's an almost-immediate positive ripple effect through the company. Plus, this allows them to learn skills quickly because they tend to be dedicated, motivated, and passionate about the company mission.

Dev Basu, CEO of Powered by Search.Dev Basu, CEO of Powered by Search.Courtesy of Dev Basu.

This means that one of the most important things to do is to create an effective job description that repels the wrong people and attracts only those who fit the company criteria.

For example, if I were to hire an account manager for my agency business, I wouldn't want someone who believes that the customer is always right. This means that they want the clients to like them; and what usually ends up happening is that a client can ask for more and the person gives in. This can lead to over-servicing, and eventually, the business' profitability per client goes down.

When planning out a job description, think about words that would attract the ideal candidate, based on their perspective of why they're dissatisfied with their current role and why yours is the fit for them. Then look for a solid track record in the core values that align with your business.

Read more: 52% of workers say their managers didn't bother to ask 2 crucial questions before they quit

So remember: Interview candidates based on fit. All their skills and experience should already be on the resume, so there's no need to dedicate time in an interview to further quiz them about what they can do. Instead, assess what they can bring (Are they eager to dive in on day one? Will clients and team members rave about them?).

Then take time to make your decision based on their behavior and potential.

When hiring to grow a small team, every single team member counts. It's all hands on deck, so the candidate will need to be able to roll with that. Otherwise, the wrong hire can be costly in the short-term and long-term.

Dev Basu is CEO of Powered by Search, an eight-figure digital marketing agency in Toronto, whose clients include FedEx, Re/Max, and Allstate. Separately, he uses his own experiences and expertise of other smart business to help other agency owners get more clients and scale to million-dollar businesses. Check out Million Dollar Agency for more details.

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