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December 1, 2014
What You Need to Know About Your New Hire
Although I haven't done a tremendous amount of hiring by volume in the last 16 years, I’ve hired several stellar individuals whose roles have been high-profile and responsibility-heavy. Because I have a small work force doing the job of a large work force, when hiring I feel that work ethic is the main factor under consideration. I like to hire people who work as hard as I do. If I see that drive in an individual, I know we'll click.

But what happens after you get the right hire in the door? As you’ve likely discovered, you don't really know a person’s work ethic until you have worked with him or her for a while. That’s why I like internships, where you can assess a person's abilities and qualities before committing to the hire. Of course, internships usually bring you younger, less-experienced candidates who might not be right for the job. In those cases, you may want to hire on a contract basis. Seek out candidates who are willing to work with you on a project so you can audition their work. If you are looking for a more traditional route to a new hire, extensive interviewing, checking prior work, and speaking to previous managers are key in making sure you've extended the offer to the right individual. 

In any case, once that new employee is in the office, you’ll likely encounter one of three “types”: brilliant but disorganized, brilliant but autonomous, and brilliant but clingy. (We’ve no need to doubt your hire is brilliant, right?) When managing these distinct personalities, I’ve found the following guidelines useful:

Brilliant but Disorganized
In practically any industry, but especially deadline-driven ones, organization is key. You’ve learned not to judge an employee’s organizational skills by her messy desk, but there are other ways to tell whether or not a new hire is truly organized. After the first week, ask your hire to send you an email of her priorities for the following days, weeks, or months. Does her list match up with yours? If not, get on the same page and repeat this exercise until your priorities line up. You might see patterns in your new hire’s work habits that strike you as innovative, and she will see your vision for her role.

But what if your new hire truly is scattered? Start with the basics. I thrive by using lists so that I don't forget tasks. Lists are important, as are calendars, when plotting out timelines and important goals along the path to project completion. Find out what works for the employee by talking with her about how she works, and suggesting effective methods for organization. Meet regularly to confirm that goals have been met on time. Communication is key in this process. 

Brilliant but Autonomous
“Autonomy” is usually a virtue in any new hire, but sometimes “autonomous” is actually code for “control freak.” If you are very familiar with your hire’s work and work habits, autonomy is a
great quality. If you are still in the getting-to-know-you process, you need to insert yourself into the employee’s daily routine.

When a new employee is reluctant to ask for help, making daily or weekly goals and checking that they are complete can be effective. Meet at the same time each week and review what is and what is not finished. Discussing why goals are not met at this meeting is also important to determine if the employee needs assistance in prioritizing or is overwhelmed. It’s important the employee not feel that these meetings or “spot checks” are punitive. They are collaborative. You both want to get to the point where his autonomy is an asset to the company.

To be clear, creating a presence in your new hire’s daily routine is different than micromanaging. Control freak-dom goes both ways. Micromanaging often breeds resentment. If you have chosen a person qualified to do the job, let him or her do it. The best employees take pride in their work and, while they come to you for support, they don't need you to hover over them while they do it. If you feel you need to micromanage, you've hired the wrong person or you haven't fully grasped the essential concept of delegating. 

Brilliant but Clingy
You expect a new hire to spend a great deal of time communicating with you and co-workers, asking questions and checking procedure. But there comes a time when the little bird needs to leave the nest. Once you’ve assessed his best qualities, encourage your new hire to take the reins on new projects. Assure him that you trust his judgment (but only if you truly do). A hands-off style lets the employee feel responsible for and proud of his work. Too hands-off can be detrimental, as illustrated above, but allowing an employee to do what he or she was hired to do is essential in creating a sense of pride in the job. When employees feel that they own a project and want to do their best with it, the whole company benefits.

I think it comes down to making sure the employee has pride in his or her work, no matter how small the task is. Part of creating that pride is affirmation, but a lot of it also has to do with the employee having a strong work ethic and enjoying the reward of a job well done. When you find a person who shares those values, you have found an asset to your team. 

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In 1995, Editor in Chief Shelly Mellott took over Script magazine from her father, who founded the publication. From 1995 to 2006, she created additional services for scriptwriters, including script coverage, pitching events, contests sponsored by major production companies. In 2006, Script and all of its ancillary services were acquired by Final Draft, Inc. Mellott became VP of Events and Publications at Final Draft, Inc.
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