Hiring the right employee comes down to three things: screening, screening, and screening. These 10 tips will help you select the right applicant for the job.
1. Write a realistic job description. Before you begin writing your ad, make a comprehensive list of duties. Prioritize this list in order of importance. Include at least the top three job duties in your ad. If you want the candidate to sit in a dark room, never speak to anyone, and count widgets all day, say it! Inaccurate descriptions of job duties only waste your valuable time and limited money.
2. Solicit referrals. Ask your network of contacts for a referral. They may know someone great who may have needed more flexible hours, less responsibility, or some other non-performance based reason for being available in the job market. For example, a very good assistant office manager may have wanted a promotion to office manager where such a position was not available. He or she is in the job market for a non-performance based reason and may find the perfect opportunity with your company.
3. Read résumés with a critical eye. Do not just read the résumé to ensure that the candidate has the experience that you require. Read between the lines: Do the dates of employment make sense, or are there gaps? Call the employers listed or search for them on the Internet to ensure that they really exist.
Do you and the candidate share any hobbies or other interests? Interpersonal skills go a long way in making a successful hire. Critical examination of often-overlooked résumé information can tell you a lot about the candidate.
4. Check references. Desperate candidates may be willing to do desperate things to get hired. Do the schools listed on the résumé really offer the degree the candidate claims to have? Do the schools really exist?
Confirm the candidate’s work history. Most employers will probably only disclose dates of employment, last rate of pay, and other objective factors, but this information is still valuable. At the very least, you will be able to confirm that the person did in fact work for the employer. Read Nine Tips on Checking References for more advice.
5. Perform background checks. Background checks are routine in many industries. If your new hire will handle your sensitive business functions, such as accounting and customer service, a professional background check may be in order.
If you decide that pre-employment screening or background checks would be useful in your organization, make sure you get the proper consents and select a reputable provider.
6. Conduct personality testing. Personality testing has evolved into more than interpreting ink blots on a card. There are numerous sophisticated tests that can determine the personality traits that best fit your company culture. Many business coaches, psychologists and social workers offer inexpensive personality testing.
7. Screen over the phone. Yes, reading résumés and speaking with promising candidates prior to interviewing takes a lot of time, but hiring employees is not a race. Speaking with someone on the phone for a few minutes can be very revealing. Be sure to give the candidate an opportunity to make a good impression by scheduling a mutually convenient time to speak for 10 to 15 minutes.
During the telephone screening, ask for a brief description of their background, work experience, and hobbies. This should give you some idea whether or not the candidate can handle the basics of small talk, telephone etiquette, and basic communication. Use this opportunity to tell the candidate about your expectations for the position and to gauge the candidate’s level of interest. If you and the candidate both agree that the opportunity is worth pursuing, then a more formal interview may be scheduled. Save the tough questions for the formal interview.
8. Be a tough interviewer. The interview itself should be akin to a courtroom cross-examination scene. Ask open-ended questions, don’t lead the witness, and let them talk. Marginal candidates, if permitted to talk long enough, will hang themselves. Use this opportunity to ask hypothetical questions about how the candidate would handle themselves in a particular situation. Quality candidates will expect and be prepared for the tough questions.
9. Be flexible. If you are hiring for a full-time position but find a fantastic candidate who is only available part-time, consider a job-sharing arrangement or scaling back the hours for the position. Arrangements that take quality of life into account can dramatically expand your qualified candidate pool.
10. Consider “temp to perm.” Using a temporary agency saves you a lot of the legwork of finding the right candidate. But make sure you read the contract carefully and know exactly what you are getting into.
If a candidate does not work out, what recourse do you have? Will they refund some or all of your money? Do they only offer replacement candidates? If you do not want replacement candidates from them, are you still entitled to a refund? What are the criteria for unsuccessful placements? Make sure you get the answers to all of your questions in case the placement does not work out.
Following these steps and taking your time to find the right candidate will go a long way toward ensuring a successful hire. Also, read 60-Second Guide to Hiring the Right People for more information.
Pamela M. Belyn is a corporate attorney in Chicago specializing in all aspects of the representation of startups, franchisees, entrepreneurs, and small businesses.