Candice Elliot

How To Hire Like A Professional With Candice Elliott


TRANSCRIPT AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED Diane: [00:00:00] Hey. Hey, today's guest, Candace. Elliot is a business strategist, HR mentor, founder of Fortress and Flourish, an HR strategy firm and host of The Half Podcast. She helps business owners transition from a pace of struggling to survive, to creating a thriving work ecosystem to support them and their teams. Hey Candace, welcome to the show. Candice: Hey Diane, thank you So much for having me here. Diane: So let's kick things off with a little intro to you and your business journey. Candice: Yeah. Okay. So my business Fortress and Flourish is now about five years old going into kindergarten. I wasn't in corporate, but I was working for a restaurant group and we had five different concepts that we were running. And I started out as the human resources manager for that group, but then became an operations director essentially throughout the course of my time there. And we had a few very difficult decisions that we had to make all within the span of about a month that really, I. I didn't feel in integrity with what I had to do when those decisions were made, and so I burned out. I literally had like a panic attack and I. Was in my car for an hour trying to just breathe through it for a while. And I went to this psychiatrist and he was like, there's nothing wrong with you. You're fine. Just get back to work. This is normal. I was like, this isn't normal. I think you're wrong about that. You're clearly not the person to help me. Diane: Beg to differ. Candice: Yeah, so I had always wanted to go back into small business and working for myself. I had owned a small business when I was younger and it was a travel company and I did bus tours and. At this point, I had gone to school for human resources for a master's [00:02:00] degree and I had years of experience in the field. And so I wanted to be able to help other small businesses with HR best practices so that they could treat people well and so people could thrive at work. And those two things, treating people well and thriving at work have stayed with me through that whole time. But my business has gone through many different iterations and I feel like I. There has been an aspect of my own personal growth that has had to happen in order for me to be able to get to the next part. Like I couldn't see what it could look like without going through what I went through. And so I first started out as a way for small businesses to outsource their human resources. So like if they needed HR support, I would work for people very part-time and help with things like payroll or performance reviews, or writing an employee handbook and things like that. And now it's shifted a bit so that I instead of working for more shorter term time with companies, I work with companies for at least a year. And we really look at all of the systems that they have and how those systems relate to their people and how we can adjust things to make the work environment better for them. I also do mentorship for early career HR professionals because there's so much that happens practically in the world of HR that it's really hard to figure out what to do early on when you know, sort of the rules and compliance. But aren't really sure how to implement that in the real world. And then I also help solo printers who are hiring their first hire cuz I see such opportunity if you start well with that first one. Just how your whole business can grow sustainably, Diane: Okay, so I definitely wanna talk hiring, but I just wanna back up because. Your original small business where you were doing hr, so like fractional [00:04:00] HR for small businesses. Can we please talk about when people need to hire that support? Because I am shocked when I speak to people with barely large and robust businesses with a few people on the team who don't actually have. An HR professional, even just like an agency or something helping them out. Like to me, that's like saying I don't have a lawyer, but I have all these like super contracts. So, so let's just do that little, let's detour into that and then I wanna come back to hiring. Okay. Candice: great. so I've noticed in working with lots of different for-profit and nonprofit organizations, that the need for this kind of support comes up the 10 to 20 and employee point. and it's at that point where you've gotten out of the sort of startup phase of your core team that all. They in that part, everybody tends to know each other really well. There's not very complex lines of communication. It's a pretty flat organization. Or if it is not flat, if it's hierarchical, it's clear who to go to for what. and the roles. Tend to shift a lot, but there's usually enough clarity in what everyone is doing where there isn't confusion, conflict isn't happening and things like that. But then once you start adding more people roles can change and responsibilities can change and they can be unclear about what that means for them. And. I always say that stability is just golden in the workplace. People may love spontaneity in their personal lives, but people love to know exactly what is true for them in the workplace so that they know what to do and how to relate to everyone else. So [00:06:00] also when you kind of move into this larger business kind of zone, you're doing more of the HR things. So you're doing more, hiring more people. I mean, hopefully this isn't happening, but people are leaving, so you're having to exit people from the organization. So, People will start to ask about things like benefits or performance reviews. So if you haven't done them before, it kind of becomes something that will come up more often that people will request around that time of 10 to 20 employees. And if you don't set up really solid systems, that's where you start to see conflict. You start to see turnover, you start to have difficulty in creating, forming, and keeping teams. Diane: Yeah, it's interesting. I was listening to Steven Bartlett who is one of the Dragons on Dragon's den in the uk, which is like Shark Tank in the us. Candice: Okay. Okay. Diane: I always have to give people context. And he has a really well-known podcast Diary of a ceo and he was talking to one of the founders of the Ordinary and. He was talking about that initial stage in a business as almost being a cult, not in like the bad ways of a cult, but in this group that's so cohesive and driving towards a mission almost. They don't have to be asked to do anything because they're so motivated. And then I think you're right. It's when you start to hire that next level of people. Who don't have all that history or all that background who are now coming in, but you've got this one tight-knit group over here and this poor soul who's trying to like break into it and then the next person and the next person. And I think it starts to get really messy in a way that I think a lot of CEOs don't consider because maybe they haven't been in corporate, so they're not looking at something going, oh, that's definitely gonna be a [00:08:00] problem. If I was in a big business, I would be calling hr. Wait, I don't have hr. I need to find hr. Right? Candice: Yeah, and even at that point, a lot of businesses won't have a company handbook yet. Like they won't have practices that they're using that are related to their people. And also it plays into compensation because when you're in your first sort of group of people, People tend to pay what they need to in order to hire. It's kind of just dictated by whoever they're, they're trying to get and lure into their business. But then once you start hiring more and more people, it's better to have a plan of how you're gonna go about paying different levels of people in the organization and different levels of expertise. and so pay can get really weird in that zone. Diane: Thank you for that. I think that's really helpful for people to hear, to actually be like, this is a point where you need some support and it's not a full-time person, but some support. So let's talk about hiring now as the small business owner. So you've hired, I'm assuming, thousands of people in your history in business and for other people. What do you think happens in the small business space? That makes hiring this almost uncomfortable place for people. Like we've got people who are, I don't know, dancing to reels on TikTok. They're on sales calls all day. They're making millions of dollars, and then it comes to hiring and it's almost, they're like frozen in their unknowingness of what to do. Candice: and this happened to me. I've hired thousands of people and I had trouble hiring my first employee or my first independent contractor, and. I think that it is difficult to hire for yourself, like it, at least as a human resources professional, I. It was almost like hiring was [00:10:00] external to me in a certain way, and I, when I hired for my own business, I didn't really go through the best practices that I knew. I was just wanting, like, I wasn't really clear on what I needed. I didn't really know What the person would be doing. I tried to kind of figure that out, but I didn't really do it in the full way that I would have done for someone else's business. And I found myself just really wanting the other person that I was talking to, to like me, instead of really asking them questions about their skills and their qualifications and their work style. And you know what they. Really enjoy doing in work. And so I ended up hiring my first virtual assistant who it was fine, you know, we made it work, but it wasn't the kind of relationship that would last for a very long time. And I think that when you're hiring is. Especially in small business, you wanna find people who are gonna be with you for a long time, who are gonna be equally invested in the work that's happening and who are going to feel appreciated in the work that they're doing. And so what I recommend, instead of doing that, Diane: Yeah, let's have some, let's have some of those best practices Candice: Yeah, Diane: so, we can all take notes. Candice: and I think where I started, which is where people often start is, okay, how do I hire someone? But it actually starts a few steps back, which is, and the first one is, what am I doing? What is my workload? What of that is taking up a lot of my time that I don't actually need to do? That's like one piece, the time suck piece. Then there's what takes up a lot of my energy that I don't really love, that doesn't really fill my cup. And then there is, you know, what creates the most. Impact in the world the way that I wanna [00:12:00] create impact in the world, or the most value for my clients. And I really look in that category of if I'm doing anything that's not creating value for my clients or not creating the impact that I wanna see, it may not make sense for me to do that at all. And so we should just stop. So I don't recommend giving anything like that to someone else to do. I think that's a zone where you decide whether or not you really should be doing it. But in each of those spaces, there are things that it makes sense for you to do and there are things that it doesn't make sense for you to do, and you wanna stay in your lane, in your, your leadership as much as possible, and you wanna hand off those other things to other people. so as you look, I recommend just doing a, a list of all the things that you do and getting pretty granular with it, and then separating out all the things that are not really yours that you don't have to keep. And then creating a description of what you're looking for based on that. So starting with that. What's my workload? What does their work plan kind of look like? And then going into the pay piece and looking at affordability in your own organization. So, you know, hiring on the lower end of the spectrum of what you know, would give someone a living wage is normally in the $15 an hour zone US dollars. And then it can change in other parts of the world, kind of depending on what the economic situations are there. So, that's something that's important to take into account as you're making decisions around pay. then if, if it looks like hiring someone at a fair living wage rate is not affordable for you, rather than, you know, hiring someone for $2 an hour, I would look at how you are. Pricing your offers and incorporating their work, their [00:14:00] pay into what you're charging because it's really become a part of the value for your client now. And so that is a p a piece of it too. And then as you're preparing to hire, Creating the space in your schedule for it, cuz it does take some time to look through resumes, to kind of have some introductory conversations with people and then to get into some real details about what, what you really wanna do with them and if it's a good fit. Diane: Yeah, I think it's such an interesting space to come, you know, from corporates. I. Interviewed plenty. So to me, I'm familiar with what that process looks like and what questions I would ask. And you know, if you've run your business and you've maybe never had a job interview or done a job interview, I think the whole process can just seem like super overwhelming. And so I think what people tend to do is go, I need a va. Here's all the stuff I don't like to do. They can figure out how to do it. And then we get the VA comes in and they go, what is this? And they're like, yeah, I'm out. And so we just hire another one and then we hire another one and we hire another one. When actual fact, if you looked through your task list, maybe it's not a VA that you need, maybe you need a video editor or a podcast editor, or a social media manager or something like that. And so I think that upfront work, So it's, it's almost more important than your interview technique. We get really caught up in, what shall I ask? But if you've got the right people coming in, the interview is so much easier. Candice: Yeah, definitely. And when I, so the first BA who worked with me we were, we amicably ended that relationship. And then I had my first. My first baby and I realized that I literally couldn't do all of the things that I used to be able to do, and I had to hire people in order to help. And actually the [00:16:00] first person that I hired to help was a bookkeeper because I realized that when I went into my bookkeeping system, like I can't just go in there and send one invoice. I'll go into the reports and look at what's happened for the last three years and like, you know, what's happening with all of the different clients and where are they at? That's. Just where my brain goes. And so it saved me so much time to be able to just have someone do that work for me. Yeah. And so I think VA is often what people think is the answer, the immediate answer. But it could be, you know, like you were saying, podcast editor, a videographer, a bookkeeper. It could even be support in your personal life, like a cleaner or, you know, you know, childcare or things like that. Diane: Yeah. Private chef meal delivery. Yeah. Candice: Yeah. Mm-hmm. Someone to run errands. Diane: Yeah, a hundred percent. So where do you stand on, you know, entrepreneurs, we love a catchphrase and high, slow fire. Fast is this happy place that entrepreneurs live in and I don't know that they always are really good at the higher slow, but they're usually pretty good at the fire fast, even to the point where you're like, oh, really? do you agree? Do you disagree? What could we do better or watch for in that particular little catchphrase? Candice: I think that when we think about hiring. Once the person has accepted the job, we feel like that's the end of hiring. But really it's a spectrum that kind of into the beginning part of their time of working with the company. especially when you're hiring a person into that company that's getting a little bit bigger. You know, maybe your past five employees, your past 10 employees, it's important to have a way to onboard them so that they're. Meeting people. So they're building relationships so that they're learning the systems that they need to [00:18:00] learn and, you know, have the technical support they need in order to thrive in the workspace. And that they have, you know, someone, a manager, or in the beginning it's usually the business owner that they're going to where if they're having a problem or if they have a question, then there's that real person to go to to talk about it because there's. All these statistics about managers and how people will stay if they have someone who is a good manager, who is, you know, believes in them, who supports them, who will go out on a limb for them when they need it. And so I think that that is an important part that often gets missed. on the other end of it, You know, if you've done that, if you've hired someone who's well qualified for the job, you've provided them the support that you know a reasonable person would need in a workplace in order to be able to do their job well, but it's still not working for some reason, then it is important to identify that quickly and then to decide to end the relationship. I think, Before getting to the place of firing someone it's good to have conversations around expectations and boundaries. So the person may not know that you are expecting something of them that they are not giving you, and so explaining that is really important. the other end, they may not know that they're crossing some sort of a line that. That you think everyone should know is a line. And so being explicit about that is important. So you give them the opportunity to change their behavior. But if it doesn't change, then yeah. I mean the longer a person stays in your company, the, there are issues like that happening, the more likely it is that there will become some kind of bigger issue. Like I've seen where someone really needs to let go of an employee, but then the employee. Gets injured at work [00:20:00] or they they have a, a pregnancy or something. That means that it's really gonna be much harder for the person to let go of that person, and it would've been better to just earlier on and the relationship. Diane: And I think some of it comes back to that initial like cultish stage where you have so many unwritten rules. And so many understood behaviors that you don't even realize. It's the stuff you don't even remember anymore to try and onboard somebody into. But I was find on the firing end when you've been in that cultish stage with someone and they maybe now not performing or they haven't stepped up as you would hope them to step up and you need to let them go. That's where I see fire slow happening as well. Until it reaches kind of, I guess a boiling point and it's, you have to make a call. Candice: I was working with a, tech company where we had to let go of someone like that who'd been with the company for a really long time. And was not performing. They were just living high on the hog, you know, with this, this situation that they had. And then they, they, went out and sabotaged the tech stack of this organization and it was challenging. And they repaired it all. It took, you know, like 24 hours a day for three days to fix what happened. But there are those kind of real life, you know, product implications that can happen, especially when people are so entrenched in what you're creating. Diane: And I think in the small business world, we have this really like rosy outlook on people, right? Where I. Like my team would never do that to me. Candice: Right. Diane: And, when people say that to me, I'm like you never know, right? You never know what somebody will do when they're pushed or [00:22:00] when they feel rightly or wrongly that they've been unfairly treated. It's like when people say, oh, my team or my family, I'm like, you're not, they will choose their family over you if they have to We have this really strange view of teams in the small business world, Candice: I think it's both because in a way a team is like a family and you have those family dynamics that happen among small teams also. In hr, we call this a disgruntled employee. And when a person becomes a disgruntled employee, there's all kinds of, you know, not just legal things that they can do, but also just different kinds of retaliatory kinds of things that come up. Just like. You know, if you're ending a long time romantic relationship, you could have been, you know, happy for a long time and things are going well, but now you're getting divorced and things get ugly. Right? So, Diane: It's being prepared for those, so the other. Debate slash catchphrase that we see is hiring for value fit, skill fit or culture fit. And I'm curious where you stand on all of them, because I think each has its merits and each has its problems. And I know we're looking to add to a diverse culture, but also a team has to be able to work together. So how do we. Make sure that people are value fit, skills fit, culture fit, and adding something to the organization. If you could just solve all the HR problems in the world, that'd be great. Candice: totally. I'm, I'm on it. you know, first I'm gonna pull on value values because I think that by defining the values of an organization, you, have a filter through which to make a lot of different kinds of decisions. And some of those decisions are in the [00:24:00] world of hiring. And. within defining values, I think a lot of organizations will use words like integrity is a value of ours and I, I see, you know, or hard work is a value of ours. And those can be problematic in certain ways because people's. Ability to work hard all the time. For example, it, fluctuates. Like sometimes people have the capacity to keep going and going and be present all the time, and sometimes people don't. There's this statistic that 80% of Americans are gonna experience some kind of mental health crisis within their work life. And so we have to normalize. That people have more and less capacity to work throughout the course of their lives. And as people are starting work, you know, in their teens and working now until their seventies and eighties, there's just more variation that happens with people's abilities. And so when we're defining values, I think that finding values that can apply. Across, you know, wide sets of people and understanding the diversity and that that people's abilities change over time is important. And so the values of my company include equity and sustainability and wellness. And so that's a lens through which I'm looking at, you know, how am I. Setting up my own schedule, right? How do I expect my team to be available? What are the kinds of projects that I'm working on and the clients that I'm working with, and who am I saying yes and no to? So clarity and values is important, and through that, I think that's kind of how [00:26:00] you learn if someone's going to be a culture fit. If you're talking about values, learning about their alignment or misalignment those values, then you can start to see how they'll fit into the culture. And then on the skills piece of it clarity around what you're looking for in the first place, and then, Knowing that you may not find, you may find someone who has exactly what you're looking for. You may find someone who's a little bit earlier in their career who still needs to learn. And if you have the ability in your organization to help the next generation get into the workplace with the skills they need in order to. Thrive, then I think that is really a responsibility of ours. But that's not always the the capacity that we have as entrepreneurs, right? So sometimes we need to hire someone who's really well qualified to do the thing we need them to do, or we need to bring in an expert to look and help us problem solve on our businesses, and just knowing that. You know, rightfully, those people should cost a little bit more than the person who has really no clue what they're doing and needs to learn everything. Diane: that one thing that we forget, yes, we all want an expert, but you've gotta pay them expert wages. So, I think that's a lot for small business owners to think about and that's just one piece of the puzzle. What do you have for them to help them on their leadership journey? So I think it's one thing to hire the people. Now you've got the people, and I always say like, you think hiring's hard way till you have to lead them. Candice: Yeah, totally. So I made a resource that's called the Guide to Doing Work Differently. And so it takes you through five different leadership practices that help you to build and sustain a team and to create a workplace or workplaces where people can really thrive and work together. So it's a, it's a free [00:28:00] resource and it's available on my website. Diane: Amazing. So to finish up, I always ask my guests the same two questions. First up, what is your number one lifestyle boundary for your business? Candice: My lifestyle boundary for my business is that I. Want to wake up in the morning feeling good. And so if I wake up in the morning and I have this feeling of dread, then I change what's happening in my business and in my personal life. And that's been a sort of a guiding test for me over the many years that I've been working. Diane: I love that. It's so simple and yet I've never really thought about it. Candice: Yeah, I was having this prob like around the time I had this nervous breakdown. I was waking up every day with this like impending feeling of dread and would stay in bed a lot longer than I really wanted to because I didn't want, I really didn't wanna face. The day. and so every, it doesn't happen very often now, but every once in a while it, it will creep in there, not to that same extent, but then I'll have a real good look at what I'm doing and whether It's, in alignment or not. Diane: It's amazing how we can just push through feeling bad. Like when I was burning out in corporate, there was just so much dread, like we're talking like the Sunday scaries on like an exponential level and still thinking I. Oh, well, it'll be fine. Let me just go sit down at my desk and do my day's work without actually contemplating that. Could something be wrong here? And I worry about like how long it took me to actually cotton on that. Oh, this is not how you're supposed to feel every day, Candice: So they talk about like leading indicators and lagging indicators. Diane: hundred percent. Candice: indicators is the wake up in the morning feeling. Diane: Right, right. Oh, dear. Oh, I'm gonna add one, add that to my, my repertoire in the morning comes immediately after. Okay. Where's the coffee? Where's the [00:30:00] coffee? Okay. Now how do I feel It's important to have the caffeine first And then assess uh, okay. Finally, what is the worst piece of cookie cutter advice you've been given as an entrepreneur? Candice: oh, work harder, faster, stronger. Keep going. Diane: Hustle. Candice: whole hustle mentality is the worst because it's not sustainable for people. It's, it wasn't sustainable for me. I tried doing it and doing it really well and You know, I, I'm a female and having been raised as a female, there's also this, you know, you should be pleasing everyone who's around you and telling people what they wanna hear, and that if you're standing up for yourself, then that's not actually good for you and it's not good in the workplace for you to be doing that. So I think those are, they're a little bit linked. But those are the two worst. Diane: Yeah, I think I don't know what we did before TikTok, but I saw a TikTok today that said, why are working moms called working moms, but working dads are just called dads, Candice: Yeah. Diane: and it's so true, like we're so conditioned into. Having as many roles as humanly possible. And I think also people don't allow themselves to change as their life changes. So you might be 25 and hustling and in that kind of initial startup phase where your mission is the most exciting thing in the world, and then 10 years later you look up and you're like, eh. Maybe not. Oh look, now I have some kids that I'd like to see on a regular basis, maybe before they turn 18, you know? And I think people don't allow themselves to have hustled and then stop. Candice: yeah. I'm At the time of recording this, I am almost eight months pregnant. And so I'm going into a time where gonna be pausing a lot of things in my business and there's a part of me that feels really uncomfortable about that. And then there's another part of me that is like, But this is what I wanna be [00:32:00] doing. This is how I, I wanna spend months with my newborn baby right after he's born and with my family and helping us all integrate together. And so yeah, things shift throughout life. When I was in my twenties, I just wanted to like, work all the time and make art, and write and travel and it was, it was a different time. Diane: Yeah. Now it's like, ooh, it's 9:00 PM bedtime. Candice: Yeah. Diane: Right. I saw. Candice: I could take a nap this afternoon. Diane: Yes. It's like, Ooh, let me get my adult coloring book out and have some downtime before bed. It's very exciting. Candice: exactly. Diane: my simply fresh box today. Candice: Yeah. Diane: Oh dear. This has been fabulous. I think so many little nuggets that people can take away and really apply in their businesses immediately because, Sooner is always better than later with teams. Where can people find you on the socials to carry on the conversation or check out your stuff while you're taking some time off. Candice: Yeah, so on Instagram I'm at Fortress and Flourish, and then I'm also on LinkedIn quite a bit. And then my website, fortress and is a wealth of resources Diane: amazing. Thank you so much for this. Candice: Thank you for having me.

Whether you’re hiring your first team member or your tenth, getting it wrong is an expensive mistake to make so no wonder we all get a little overwhelmed and nervous.

Candice Elliot walks you through hiring for your small business like an HR professional to increase your chances of a great fit and decrease your chances of a costly mistake.

Key Takeaway

Hiring is a series of decisions that need to be made beginning way before the job description gets written.

We talk about

  • When to get HR support for your business
  • Best practices for hiring
  • The first person you should hire – hint: it’s probably not a VA
  • Why hiring is a spectrum or journey
  • How to manage values, culture and skills fit
  • Candice’s lifestyle boundary for her business
  • The worst cookie-cutter advice Candice’s been given on her lifestyle business

About Candice

Candice Elliott is a Business Strategist, HR Mentor and the Founder of Fortress and Flourish an HR Strategy Firm based in Santa Cruz, CA. She’s also the Host of The Hearth podcast. She helps business owners transition from a space of struggling to survive to create a thriving work ecosystem that supports them and their teams with regenerative practices. She offers fractional CHRO services, customized handbooks, 1:1 HR consulting sessions, and a DIY course for solopreneurs who are thinking about making their first hire. Her background is in HR with a Masters in Human Resources and Labor Relations from Penn State, and the Senior Professional in Human Resources Certification from HCRI. She’s also a mom who gave birth at home attended by a midwife, a doula and her husband.


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The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this podcast episode and article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article or episode. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Diane Mayor disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.