Hiring Staff

How to get the right candidates

Hiring staff is complicated and challenging and can be one of the most important management functions you perform. Assign it the priority it deserves and you can boost the productivity and the performance of your entire team. Do it wrong and you risk losing the high performance employees that will take you and your team to the next levels - or even worse, the following could occur:

  • Dissatisfied or lost customers
  • High turnover and associated expenses
  • Incomplete work
  • Increased operating costs
  • Lawsuits
  • Lost business opportunities
  • Lower morale and higher frustration
  • Poor productivity, poor quality
  • Sabotage
  • Good people going to a competitor
  • Added stress for the existing workforce and management
  • Substandard organisational and personal performance
  • Wasted training time

When hiring staff, most mistakes fall into two categories:
1. Hiring someone who should not have been hired, and
2. Not hiring someone who should have been.

People make these mistakes, often unintentionally, because they have a poor recruiting and hiring strategy - or none at all. That leaves selection standards unclear. What are the common mistakes?

  • Looks good…is good. People tend to react to first impressions and sometimes let one positive attribute or characteristic imply that all other aspects of a person's behaviour will be positive. Most impressions are made during the first three minutes of contact. An employee may turn out to be not as skilled or personable as was initially believed, and the performance of the organisation deteriorates.

  • Looks bad…is bad. Unlike the previous example, this problem happens when someone is judged to be unqualified because of a negative attribute that may or may not be job-related. A more open-minded approach might reveal that the candidate actually has the necessary skills and could be the best person for the job.

  • Hiring yourself. Too many people want to hire somebody just like themselves to do a job that they can't or won't do, and then wonder why this arrangement didn't work out. They fall in love with the personality and react favourably to people whom they perceive as being like them. They don't realise that this similarity may not necessarily mean these candidates are suitable for certain jobs.

  • Rush to hire. Business conditions or growing demands can force a relaxation in hiring standards. If they fog the mirror, they're a strong candidate. Many people overlook signs of trouble in their haste to relieve the burden on the business.

  • Poor communication. The inability to ask the right questions or to hear what the candidate is really saying often leads to a misinterpretation of the discussion. Avoid the trap of hearing what you want to hear. Keep formal notes to accurately record what is said during interviews. Make sure your job requirements and performance expectations are clear. Be prepared for interviews to get what you need out of them.

  • I'll know it when I see it. No systematic, well-thought out hiring process has been developed and the employer uses highly subjective methods to make a decision. The belief is that particular skill sets or personality traits will emerge in some "A-ha" type epiphany during the interview process and that applicant will be viewed as the right person for the job. This is usually attributed to a poor hiring system, overconfidence, and shortcuts in the hiring process.

Use any of these inappropriate methods to make a hiring decision and you risk not choosing the right person for the job. Avoid these mistakes by developing a system - comprehensive, effective and professional. And stick to it.

A carefully designed and implemented hiring plan provides an effective means for attracting and selecting the best available candidate for a job.

  1. Develop a hiring game plan. Define the job and the selection criteria. Why are you hiring? Are there other ways to get the work done without adding staff? Is the workload temporary or permanent? What is the position profile? What is the job description? What are the selection criteria? What are the sources for potential candidates? Who's responsible for the hiring decision? How will the new employee be absorbed into the workforce?

  2. Determine the output. The hiring system must be designed to select people who meet the requirements for the job and the culture of the organisation. In other words, every bit as important as the technical proficiency to do the job is the personal style or energy to get along with coworkers and managers. Carefully review the candidate's personal attributes. You should hire for attitude and train for skills, not the reverse.

  3. Define the job. Carefully establish the technical requirements of the job, behavioral requirements and performance expectations. Once defined in detail, these three areas provide a guide for evaluating every candidate. This should include a position profile (the mission, performance standards, specifications and conditions of the job) as well as the job description (the detailed list of tasks to be performed).

  4. Know when to hire. Develop a hiring needs analysis that will determine when you need to hire a new employee. Why do we need another worker? What will happen if no one gets hired? What are the costs and benefits of hiring now? How else can the work be done? What will happen if the work is not done?

  5. Develop a recruiting plan. How do you attract good people to your organisation and make them aware of the opening? What are the selling features of the job?

  6. Collect the application. Although it's the function of the human resources department in most companies to do the dirty work of gathering resumes, you want to ensure that you get to look at all the qualified candidates. Go ahead and let HR weed out those that definitely don't hit the mark. But you need to look at the rest to see if anyone rings your chime or if your recruiting message is playing effectively.

    Also, make sure all candidates have easy access to informed people within your organisation to get prompt and accurate answers. You'll also want to collect as much of the paperwork as possible in person (to give you another way of getting a better read on the candidate). Treat all candidates like customers so they receive a positive impression of quality and professionalism within your organisation.

  7. Screen the candidates. After the application is received, it should be reviewed to determine whether the candidate meets the minimum standards established for the position. Again, the HR department generally takes the lead on this, but you need to put your personal stamp on the process. Make sure the best candidates are coming out. If none emerge, don't lower your standards - look harder. If a candidate doesn't survive the cut, let them know politely and immediately.

  8. Interview and interview some more. After the cursory background checks, you want to talk in-depth to assess the behaviour, attitude and general character of the candidate. Go through a standard set of questions, but do not be afraid to ask unconventional questions to elicit a more profound understanding of how the candidate thinks.

    Such questions could include: "What's your favorite Elvis song?" "Who are your heroes?" "What books are you reading?" You'll be surprised at what the answers to these questions will tell you about a person. Take them to lunch and assess how they interact socially.

    Also, put them in situations they may encounter on the job and see how they handle the stress. For instance, for a customer relations position, at the end of the interview you might say something like, "Well, thanks for your time. That just about wraps it up but we've just received a phone call from an upset customer complaining about our service and I'd like to tape record your response." It's not important what the candidate says but rather how they handle the stress and their ability to communicate. Also, the interview process should be conducted over several days and with different levels of people within the organisation (most importantly, the head honcho) to get a full and complete picture of the candidate.


See also: Interviewing for Staff and  Tips for Interviewing Employees and Sample Interview Guide. 

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Turn to Kelly Services for strategic and innovative staffing solutions.
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