How to Hire Good People

Hiring good people can help make or break your business. You want to hire the best person that you can for each and every job in your organization. Going through the selection process can take time, but that time can pay off when you hit on the perfect candidate for the position you're trying to fill.

Define What You Need
Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of hiring good people is deciding exactly what skills, qualities and experience that you need for a given position. If you do not have a job description, write one. Prioritize the characteristics and experience of the person you would ideally like to have to fill a job. For example, if you are hiring for a sales representative for a new product line, experience in working with that type of product may have a higher priority than having a college education in your particular situation.

Today, you have a variety of options when it comes to recruiting new hires. These include:

  • your local newspaper, a tried and true favorite
  • a national newspaper if you are seeking candidates for a high level management position
  • trade magazines and papers
  • online job sites
  • networking or word of mouth
  • employment, personnel or executive search agencies

Don't overlook hiring in house. Companies that hire from within capitalize on both the product and company culture training that an employee already has. Hiring from within can also help a company keep their talent because your people know that there is always the possibility of promotion.

Identifying Good Candidates
Prepare to be buried in an avalanche of resumes. You will probably be able to discard a number of the resumes quickly because of skills obviously not matching requirements. Some red flags to look for on resumes include:

  • No indications of increased responsibilities over time
  • No increases in pay over time
  • Numerous grammar mistakes, typing errors and misspellings
  • Many short term jobs or jobs in different industries
  • Long periods of time between jobs
  • Employment periods rounded off to full year periods in a possible effort to hide months of unemployment

Depending on the type of job for which you are hiring, any or all of these signs could be deal breakers. If you choose to set up an interview with a candidate anyway, make sure that you ask for explanations. Keep in mind that in today's world, it is not unusual for people to have been fired or been caught up in a layoff. Even those fired may still make terrific employees.

Sort your remaining resume piles in "must see" and "maybe." Start with the "must see" pile and start contacting candidates.

Phone Interviews
Interview your candidates over the phone. This will both help you save time and help winnow out candidates that really aren't going to be the best for your organization. Questions should be related to the position's requirements. For example, if the job is a sales position, you might ask:

  • Are you willing to travel?
  • Are you willing to work early in the morning or evenings occasionally to take care of your customer's needs?
  • Have you organized sales presentations in the past?

While this may seem obvious, a phone interview will also let you know how your candidate handles talking on the telephone. If you are hiring someone who will be on the phone a lot with others, you will want to know how the person sounds.

In-person Interviews
In order to hire good employees, go beyond the resume. Yes, you should get more details about a professional background, but you should also be looking for clues as to whether or not this person will be able to do the job and fit in within your organization at the same time. You can, and probably should, ask the standard questions such as:

  • What was your biggest success?
  • What was your biggest failure?
  • What do you consider to be your biggest strength?
  • What do you consider to be your biggest weakness?

Ask about activities outside of work. This will fulfill several purposes. Asking about outside activities will give you an idea of the candidate's energy level. If your potential hire goes home and naps, you might not have an ideal hire. However, if your candidate plays sports, the type of sports, team or individual, may give you some clues about your candidate's personality. It will also tell you that your candidate is probably competitive. Finally, talking about outside activities will give you a clue as to how well your potential hire handles casual conversations under pressure.

Encourage your candidate to talk. Avoid "yes/no" questions as much as possible. Obviously, you will have to provide information about your company and the position, but remember that the more that you are talking, the less that you are learning about your potential hire. Give extra brownie points to candidates who have actively researched your company before coming in for the interview

If you can, schedule interviews with other managers in related areas around the time that your interview is set. Getting different viewpoints can help you make a clearer decision, especially if the job requires interfacing with other departments.

Even if you think that you have an ideal candidate, check the candidate's references, keeping in mind that the companies that you contact may not be able to give you complete information because of legal restrictions. At a minimum, you will be able to double check the dates listed on the resume. You may also consider doing a background check on your potential employee.

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