Hiring Good Employees
Hiring is something many people need to do and yet few seem to do effectively. A CEO of a Fortune 500 company confessed recently that his biggest downfall in the past couple of years had been “making some bad hiring decisions.” Two executives he had selected had been extremely disruptive to the organization and had to be let go. He seemed to have little insight into why he had selected the wrong people. He feared repeating the mistake.
Many hiring supervisors share this fear. The process they follow for hiring gives them little confidence that the right person will be selected. Too often some comments and questions are exchanged, an application may be filled out but not checked out and the hiring supervisor relies on “gut” instinct.
The importance of hiring right is illustrated by your company's turnover. Average corporate turnover is more than 15 percent. According to a Harvard University study, 80 percent of turnover is due to hiring mistakes.
Instead of rolling the dice, there are proven steps that will help you hire the right person, lower your turnover and improve your productivity. Sound like a dream? It can be a reality for you if you follow a rather simple process.
1. Determine your needs. As the old expression says, “If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.” The first step in the hiring process is to determine your needs. Write out the qualifications (duties/responsibilities, skills/expertise needed, experience and education/training required or desired) for the position you are trying to fill. Put the needs into priority so you will have a clear picture of the person you seek.
2. Write a job description. If you don't already have a job description for that position, develop one that is accurate. Good job descriptions can be completed in one page and serve as an important guide not only for hiring but also for performance appraisals.
3. Advertise. Using the qualifications from your updated job description for the position you wish to fill, consider various ways to advertise your open position. Besides the usual methods of placing ads in newspapers and magazines, talk to your good employees and tell them of your needs. Also consider “word of mouth” advertising with people with whom you come in contact professionally and socially. Think about posting the position on the Internet.
4. Create an application form. Have an application form ready to be filled out by interested applicants. This form should be sensitive to the questions to ask - and not to ask. If in doubt, have your attorney review it.
5. Screen. Screen applicants based on the specific qualifications you listed. This phase of the hiring process becomes easier if you have been honest and specific in listing your needs.
6. Conduct an initial interview. Have an initial interview with those applicants who appear to meet your needs. This does not need to be a face-to-face interview and can often be successfully accomplished over the phone, holding down your hiring expenses. The key here is good questions.
7. Conduct a face-to-face interview. A face-to-face interview with those candidates who looked good on paper and responded well to your questions over the phone is the next step. It is a good idea to have more than one person doing the interviewing so that what one person sees (good or bad) can be discussed if not confirmed by someone else on the hiring team. Again, good questions plus the ability to listen are the keys.
8. Consider innovative approaches. Give candidates an assignment before the interview. For example, ask them to review your product or Web page and give you their comments. If the position for which you are hiring is especially key to your organization, make an effort to see the person in action. For example, ask a shop foreman candidate to walk through your plant and comment on things he/she sees. Always give a 5-minute notice before closing an interview. People often reveal something important about themselves at the last minute.
9. Check references . Thoroughly check references of final candidates before you make any job offers. Often this is done as a way to screen applicants, but this step is best utilized after the interview since it is a good way to verify information discussed in the interview. It is a good idea to talk to others who know the candidate - in addition to the references listed - before making any offers.
If your reference checks are a dead end, that may be a negative red flag. Many companies have adopted a policy of refusing to confirm any information about a previous employee other than dates of employment. However, the burden of supplying reachable and responsive references belongs with the candidate! An interview may only test the candidate's ability to interview well. A reference check may be the single most important step of the selection process.
10. Make an offer. If the reference checks confirm your interest to hire someone, make an offer to that candidate. Any offer should be subject to accurate and honest information filled out on the application form. If you are not sure, a follow-up interview may be needed.
11. Inform other candidates. Once the applicant has accepted the job offer and completed any written forms required, inform the other candidates (via letter or phone) that the position for which they applied at your company has been filled. Sincerely thank the other candidates for their interest in working for your company, and perhaps even consider a close runner-up for another position within your company.
12. Review. Review with your hiring team what went right and wrong so that you can continually improve the hiring process for the next time.
In summary, the more you do at the beginning of the hiring process, the fewer problems you will encounter during the process and after the person is hired. It is much easier and less expensive to hire right the first time than to have to keep doing it over and over for the same position or to have to deal with people who are not the right fit for the job. Nothing you do will be more important than getting the right people into the right jobs.
A Few Pointers
The following pointers may seem obvious. They are overall good business practices that can impact your ability to hire the right people. But, as we look at the poor hiring situations at plants and businesses around us, we realize that not everyone - even those with the best intentions - follows the same advice perfectly. A quick review may help.
- Consider new strategies. As a hiring manager, you know that finding qualified candidates in today's environment is tougher than ever. You can't rely simply on historical practices, because candidates can afford to be choosier, and the best candidates almost always have options. Consider adopting some new strategies that will help you hire better over the long run.
- Treat your employees well. A good work environment will create positive messages about your company in the community. You will be a place where people want to work.
- Promote your company name. If no one has ever heard of your company, it will make it far more difficult for you to attract good candidates.
- Focus on employee retention. Lowering turnover will reduce your need to hire from outside and lower your costs considerably. In addition, give your own employees (internal candidates) the same courtesies and opportunities as you do external applicants! Consider promoting someone who already knows “the system” and has proven to be an excellent employee.
- Be on constant look-out for good people. Don't just rely on newspaper advertising when you have an opening. Encourage your employees to recommend people to you. Talk positively about your company wherever you go and ask your employees to do the same.
- Move quickly . Don't let another employer ace you out because you moved too slowly. The hiring timeline of the past no longer works.
- Convey your enthusiasm! Always speak positively about your company. Sell the candidate during the interview on yourself and your company.
Bob Tvrdik, consultant, Omaha, Nebraska, 402-496-9512