Jamie Van Cuyk of ‘Growing Your Team’ On How To Hire The Right Person

Authority Magazine
Authority Magazine
Published in
16 min readAug 23, 2022


The very first step in any hiring process is to figure out exactly who you’re looking for. That means you need to have a good understanding of which tasks you will be delegating to your new team member as well as the sort of person that will fit in with the team and deliver the results you need.

When a company is looking to grow, the choice of who to hire can sometimes be an almost existential question. The right hire can dramatically grow a company, while the wrong hire can be very harmful to morale and growth. How can you know you are hiring the right person? What are the red flags that should warn you away from hiring someone? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders who can share insights and stories from their experience about “How To Hire The Right Person”. As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jamie Van Cuyk.

Jamie Van Cuyk, the owner and lead consultant of Growing Your Team®, is an expert in hiring and onboarding teams within small businesses. Drawing from over 15 years of leadership experience, Jamie empowers women business owners and leaders to expand their unique businesses by teaching them to master the hiring process. By learning the dynamics of each company and its specific needs, Jamie provides bespoke hiring frameworks and comprehensive guidance that helps women entrepreneurs gain the confidence to hire like a pro.

Thank you for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I always knew that I wanted to run my own business, but I wasn’t sure what type of business I wanted to own. So, I decided to start a corporate career and learn everything I could while working for someone else.

In 2016, I decided that it was time. I left my corporate leadership career to start a business with my husband. Our vision was to run a software development company where he, a software engineer, would run the tech side, and I would run the company overall. Six months into that journey, I realized running a software company was not my passion. I didn’t leave a career I loved to run a company I hated just to call myself a business owner.

I was doing consulting work for the corporation that I left during that time. Through those projects, I learned that I loved consulting and helping newer managers step into their leadership roles.

At the same time, I was attending many local networking events. I kept finding myself talking to small business owners. They would tell me, “I never had to hire until doing so within my own business,” or “While I did have a team when I was in corporate, I didn’t realize how much support I had during that time until I was trying to hire a team on my own.”

Through those conversations, I learned that small business owners needed and wanted help navigating hiring their early teams. From there, Growing Your Team® was born, and I have been helping small business owners find and onboard the team members they need for success ever since.

You’ve had a remarkable career journey. Can you highlight a key decision in your career that helped you get to where you are today?

Throughout my career, I have had to make many decisions. As I reflect, three stand out the most on my career journey.

The first was back during my corporate career. I knew I always wanted to run my own business but seeing I didn’t know what type of business I wanted to start, I decided that I would learn everything I could while working for someone else. There came the point in my career when there were two openings that I wanted to apply for to take the next career step. One was in management, and the other was in sales. I decided that I couldn’t apply for both and needed to decide which path I wanted. To decide, I asked myself which position would put me in a better place for running a business. I decided on management because I needed to learn how to lead a team. I applied for the management role and earned the job. Through that position, I learned so much about managing teams, hiring, and being a leader.

The second was when I decided to stop pursuing the business I started with my husband. It was a scary decision at that time because I saw it as a failure. How could I tell people that I was no longer pursuing the business I left my career to start? However, I decided it was more important to be happy than to fear failing. While it took a long time for me to go from that decision to the business I have today, it was 100% the right decision.

Lastly was a decision I recently made. Reflecting back, I realized that my business had gotten away from my primary mission and passion. I had let the success I was gaining drive my direction instead of allowing my passion and mission to set the business’s direction. I had to decide on things I would say no to, clients I would no longer work with, and how I would build my business moving forward. While I’m still in a place of making that transformation, I decided that it was more important to be true to the company that I wanted than to simply follow the easy money.

What’s the most impactful initiative you’ve led that you’re particularly proud of?

Back when I was working for a corporate company, I had the opportunity to lead a hiring project that helped set me on the path to starting Growing Your Team®. We had the chance to expand our team significantly by adding 18 new account managers. To simplify training, upper management wanted all team members to start on the same day, which was only a little over a month away. I was tasked with sourcing resumes, deciding which candidates to interview, and working with HR to create a plan for interviews and making hiring decisions.

To complete the task, we needed to have multiple interview teams that would be making decisions on their assigned candidates. This meant that a plan was needed to ensure all candidates would be evaluated against the same criteria no matter who was in the interview. Together with HR, we created an interview guide that covered all essential skill sets and ensured each interview team understood how to evaluate the candidates.

All 18 positions were filled with highly qualified candidates who started on time.

How about a mistake you’ve made and the lesson you took away?

With my first hiring decision, I made a big mistake. This team member took a lot of my time but taught me a lot.

When I interviewed the candidate, they seemed perfect. The job they were currently in seemed almost identical to the position I was trying to fill. I quickly said yes, and a few weeks later, they joined my team. That’s when it all started to go downhill.

The high-level tasks were the same, but the details of what it took to perform those tasks within my company were very different. This team member had a hard time with those differences. I thought it was a training issue for the longest time, and we kept trying to get them to do better. In reality, this team member was not the right fit. They felt it too and soon left the company for a job that was better for them and their skill.

That’s when I learned a vital hiring lesson. The tasks might seem the same from company to company, but each job is different. Those differences are what make someone successful in the role or not. You can’t just focus on the high-level tasks when interviewing a candidate; you need to focus on what will make someone successful within YOUR role and company.

My motto now is, “Just because someone is good at what they do, does not mean they are right for you.” You must be clear on your ideal hire and then find that person.

How has mentorship played a role in your career, whether receiving mentorship or offering it to others?

For the past few years, I have had the opportunity to mentor MBA and Leadership Certificate students at the University of Tampa. Working with these students has been an honor, and I believe that mentorship is essential for success.

As individuals, we are limited by our personal experiences, knowledge, and point-of-view. Through mentorship, we open ourselves up to learning from other people’s personal experiences, knowledge, and point-of-view.

While I have not had any formal mentors myself, I put myself in situations where I can frequently communicate with and learn from others. Informal mentors have taught me a lot about myself, showed me the leader I want to become, and helped me see gaps and blind spots that I didn’t know I had.

Developing your leadership style takes time and practice. Who do you model your leadership style after? What are some key character traits you try to emulate?

Throughout my career and business journey, I’ve been fortunate to be in the room with many impactful leaders — each of who has taught me something new and helped me grow.

During my corporate career at Catalina, I had the opportunity to report up through a very powerful, successful team of women leaders. This group showed me a lot of what it meant to be a team-focused leader and what it meant to be a good, dedicated mother in the workplace. I saw powerful, successful women smash goals and be fully respected while taking days off because their children were sick and prioritizing school events and family vacations. I knew that that was the leader and mother I wanted to be — someone who could be there for my family but still a powerful woman in the workplace. This group of leaders helped me see that it was possible.

Thank you for sharing that with us. Let’s change paths a little bit. The pandemic forced many companies to adapt. Implementing remote onboarding and professional development — in addition to maintaining culture — challenged organizations. Can you share with us the challenges you have faced, with remote onboarding and hiring? How have your internal processes evolved as a result?

Growing Your Team® has always been 100% remote with hiring and onboarding, so we were lucky that the pandemic did not change much for us. However, we had to guide many of our clients through the transition.

Many of our clients lacked trust in their employees, whether they wanted to admit it. They feared distractions and were unsure if their employees were truly working at home. We helped our clients realize that distractions exist even in the office. Distractions are only a problem if work is not being completed when and how needed. Instead of allowing our clients to focus on “is my team member working,” we switched the question to “is the work being completed on schedule and at the right quality?” To measure the second question, performance metrics were needed.

We found that many of our clients did not have clear performance metrics. So, we helped them develop proper metrics based on the purpose of each position. When hiring new team members, we used these performance metrics to help guide the process of finding the right new team member and create an effective onboarding plan.

Once all these steps were implemented, our clients no longer had to worry about micromanaging their team’s time to ensure they were working. Instead, it was clear to see if the performance metrics were being achieved. If they were, all was well. If they weren’t, that’s when conversations with the employee were needed.

With the Great Resignation/Reconsideration in full swing, many job seekers are reevaluating their priorities in selecting a role and an employer. How do you think this will influence companies’ approaches to hiring, talent management, and continuous learning?

While I agree that the Great Resignation/Reconsideration is impacting many companies, I think it’s a great thing and will positively impact many businesses and employees. When people are looking for new opportunities, they are now taking the time to really evaluate that opportunity to determine if it’s something they will want long-term and if that position matches their passion, skill, and career path.

Candidates are interviewing companies as much as companies are interviewing candidates. Because of this, better decisions are being made. When better decisions are made during the initial hiring process, candidates are more likely to stay in those positions long-term, which benefits the company.

With candidates being particular about which positions they apply for and which positions they end up accepting, businesses must also be meticulous during their hiring process. Companies and hiring managers need to be clear on what the job is and who is ideal for that role, and doing so allows them to target the right people with their candidate search. We are entering a time where we can make better matches instead of just focusing on putting people into positions that might or might not be a long-term fit once all the details are revealed.

In my opinion, this is also going to impact continuous learning. Team members know that they can go elsewhere if they’re not getting what they want from their current company. This means companies need to focus on retention efforts if they want to keep their team members. These efforts should include creating opportunities for advancement, ensuring team members are learning the skills necessary for success through internal and external training opportunities, and keeping the pathways of communication open. This lets both sides know what the other is looking for and needs for a long-term match.

Super, thank you for sharing all of that. Next, let’s turn to the main focus of our discussion about hiring the right person. As you know, hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill? Please share an example for each idea.

Helping businesses hire the right team members is our primary focus here at Growing Your Team®. Here are our top five tips for finding your perfect-fit team member:

Step 1: Define the position

The very first step in any hiring process is to figure out exactly who you’re looking for. That means you need to have a good understanding of which tasks you will be delegating to your new team member as well as the sort of person that will fit in with the team and deliver the results you need.

For example, if you’re looking for an assistant, do you want someone who is a confident self-starter who can help you turn chaos into a well-run business inside and out? Or would it be more helpful to have an assistant who can follow a set process and has experience working with customers?

Step 2: Understand how that role will fit within your company

The most important part of this step is considering your business. That’s because the position inside your company is different from the same position inside a different company.

Your company culture, values, and mission play a big part in this because whoever you hire not only needs to be able to complete the tasks you delegate to them, but they also need to fit into the business as a whole.

For example, think about hiring sales team members. For some companies, revenue is most important, and they want salespeople who put closing the sale at the highest price possible above all else. Other companies are customer-focused, and while there are still revenue goals, they want to put the customer first, even if it means selling a lesser-priced item in a particular sale. A candidate who thrives in one of these sales environments could be miserable and seen as failing in the other.

To help understand how the role will fit within your company, think about these questions when you’re developing the position:

  • How will you interact with the team member? How will they interact with you?
  • What are your company culture, values, and mission?
  • How will your business be impacted by having this person on the team?
  • What makes this role within your company different than doing the same role in another company?

Step 3: Attract candidates

Once you’ve defined the position you’re hiring for and the person you want to hire, it’s time to get that information out to potential candidates. This is done through a job posting.

A job posting has two main goals. To have the ideal candidate say, “Yes! this is the job for me,” and to have the unqualified or not right candidate say, “Nope, this is not the job for me. I’m going to pass.” This is done by thoroughly but concisely giving an overview of your company, an overview of the position, and a quick rundown of the tasks and responsibilities. When creating this job posting, it’s important to keep your company’s mission and values in mind and use words that describe your ideal candidate and the role.

For example, a job responsibility that reads “Assists with clients throughout the process.” is different than a job responsibility that reads “Owns the relationships and leads clients throughout the process.” The former could mean that they are assisting another internal team member with the client-impacting steps, while the latter could mean they are in charge and responsible for the whole client process and relationship.

Step 4: Narrow down the candidates

Once your job posting is live, you should quickly receive applications from qualified candidates. This is where the hard work begins!

You need to have a process to help you narrow down all the candidates you receive to one person you will hire. This process will include resume reviews and interviews. Use the decisions you made in steps 1 and 2 to determine which candidates deserve further consideration and which ones should exit the process.

When reviewing the resumes, remember that you’re not hiring someone based on their resume. Instead, you’re inviting them to the next round of the process. Stop looking for perfect resumes because they don’t exist! When interviewing candidates, always be prepared with preplanned questions you will ask every candidate interviewing for the position. By asking the same questions, you ensure you uncover the right information and can best compare candidates.

The list of questions should consist mostly of behavioral interview questions. These questions ask about specific work examples and experiences from their past.

For example, asking the question “What would you do if you encountered an upset customer” allows the candidate to provide a well-rehearsed fictional answer. Asking “Tell me about a time when you encountered an upset customer and how you worked through the situation,” requires the candidate to walk you through an example so you can see how they performed when in a similar situation. Yes, a candidate can still give you a highly rehearsed answer, but that’s where the follow-up questions come in. Based on how the candidate answers, you can ask questions to dig more into the situation to uncover the facts about their behavior and skill.

Step 5: Make your hire and welcome them to your team

The final part of the process is where many business owners get stuck: making the final decision about which of the candidates is the right one. If you’re finding it hard to make this call, remember that if you don’t make the decision, you won’t get the help your business needs. A decision needs to be made.

To make your decision, compare each candidate to what you determined was important in steps 1 and 2. Hire the person that matches your need best. Remember, just because someone is good at what they do, does not mean they are right for you. Select the person that is right for the position, not someone you connected with but unsuitable for the job.

Once you’ve taken that big step of deciding who your new hire will be, don’t forget to welcome them to the team and help them to get off to a strong start in their new role! I’ve seen a few companies lose out on good hires because there is zero communication between when the offer is made and when the new hire is supposed to start. Keep the doors of communication open and ensure they feel truly welcomed to the team.

In contrast, what are a few red flags that should warn you away from hiring someone?

A red flag that I think should turn you off from hiring a candidate is when a candidate is unable to provide examples to support their interview answers. As mentioned, the best interview questions are behavioral interview questions that specifically ask for examples. You’ll find some candidates are unable to give examples, or they’ll give you hypothetical examples by saying, “here is what I would do.”

If a candidate is unable to pull examples from their work history to support any of their answers, you have to question whether they really have the ability to do the job. Good examples help you uncover how they have truly acted in the past, which helps to tell you how they will perform when they are working for you.

Another red flag is a lack of dedication to the process. Candidates who want the job will put effort into the interviewing and hiring process. And we’re not talking about having the candidate jump through crazy hoops, but rather basic engagement.

If a candidate does not show up to their interview, don’t put a whole lot of effort into trying to reschedule. The process we follow is we will send out one e-mail to ensure everything is OK and if there’s no response, we move on. There have been times when there have been technical difficulties that are preventing candidates from entering the interview, and then there are other times when candidates just don’t show up for their interview. When those later occurrences occur, we move on from the candidate. We don’t try to convince candidates that this is the job for them because if they’re not dedicated throughout the interviewing and hiring process, they will most likely not be dedicated to the position if they are offered the job.

Because of your role, you are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your ideas can trigger.

I would focus on ensuring companies are willing to give as much as they want to get from their employees. Overall, I feel that there is a true imbalance. Companies large and small expect a lot of dedication, time, and effort from their employees. However, most companies aren’t willing to give back the same to their team members. It is typically a one-sided equation when you look at everything from compensation to benefits to vacation time to even how people are treated in the office.

Many businesses look for how cheap they can get someone into a position instead of what the job is worth. Even when it comes to vacation time, most companies, especially small businesses, want to withhold the benefit until the employee proves themselves loyal. But why should a team member have to prove their loyalty when a company is not proving loyalty to them? Companies need to start realizing what they get and want from each employee and giving at the same level.

We need to start genuinely valuing our employees, so they value their time with our companies and want to work for us long-term instead of just viewing it as a way to collect a paycheck.

This was truly meaningful! Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise!



Authority Magazine
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