What I learned from hiring people when I was 16

TL;DR lots of lessons

When I was 16, running a bunch of different farmers’ markets throughout the valley (not the silicon one) — I went through the hiring process with about 15 or so different people. This was an extremely valuable experience — not because I was good at it (I actually screwed up a lot) but rather because I learned so much about working with different kinds of people.

Friends

The first thing that I learned was hiring your friends could go really well or end miserably. I hired like 4 or 5 of my high school friends to work at different booths. There were a few successes (people that sold a bunch of product) but also a few failures — on my part.

I wish I had been more transparent up front and set the guidelines from day one. That would have saved me a ton of trouble later on when discussing wages and such (I actually over-paid).

The good part about working with your friends is quite obvious — it’s more fun! You both get to make a ton of money and have fun while doing so — nothing wrong with that!

But make sure you always remember that this is business (not to ruin the party) and that the company has to be the priority. A bit of a paradox here: never make decisions based off of friendships. But never ruin a relationship to make a quick buck.

Craigslist/Random

A big chunk of the people that I hired were found using a craigslist listing. There is probably some science to posting the best listing (you can google that) but here are some things I learned:

Interview everyone — never turn them down. You literally never know who you will find and what job they would be willing to do. A lot of times people came and ended up doing something other than the listing posted. Meet with them. Another thing that went along with that is to meet them at a job site. I met them at a nursery — where they would be picking up trucks to deliver tomatoes. It is good to see them in the right environment.

Now for things I wish I did: the first and most important — prepare for the worst and you will get the best. Something I learned eventually is that a lot of the people that you hire (specifically for like this $15/hr job) bring a lot of skills but also do not know some pretty basic things. So give them everything (literally) they would need to be successful, and they will prove you right. But leave out one thing — and the everything will collapse. You must provide them with all of the little things that an all star would think about doing (even a pen). It is annoying — and may be a sign of bad hiring — but trust me it will go along way!

Now another thing is you do not want to be micromanaging. That is why I said give them the resources and you will get results. While some of your employees may have deficiencies in some areas — they also have incredible skills that should be best used to help the company!

For example, I hired someone who turned out to be an incredible artist! I gave her enough space to utilize her creativity and help the entire company! That was a huge plus.

Customers

The last group of people — maybe the best — that I hired were our very own customers.

They were a natural fit — they loved the product, they lived close to work, and liked to hang out at the farmers market!

I think a lot of people overlook this demographic, but they will save you a lot of time and energy.


I wish you best of luck in your hiring ! Remember, take chances on young people :)


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twitter — @jrdngonen

email — jordangonen@wustl.edu