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Resolve to recruit better

Hiring the right person the first time can save you money

By John Featherstone

Have you ever hired the wrong person? Most managers will have to answer “yes.” Hiring the right person the first time can save you tens of thousands of dollars in time and resources. And it’s not as difficult as you might think.

People are a company’s most valuable asset, so the company will only be as successful as the quality of the people it hires, trains and leads. Identifying what you need for the most success in a position, and then knowing how to find it in a candidate, is critical.

Improve your process

Step 1. Clearly identify the “musts” needed for a position, and then weight each criterion. These are things that candidates must have in order to be called for a phone interview. Beyond basic skills, managers need to give serious thought to special skills the employee will need to solve current problems and achieve performance improvements.

Step 2. Look for and rate those “musts” during the initial resume review and all interviews (phone and in-person). Ignore your “gut feeling”—whether positive or negative—until all candidates are interviewed and evaluated against the same criteria.

Step 3. People succeed from their strengths, so keep your focus there during the interview. Just be sure there are no weaknesses that would almost surely lead to failure on the job.

Step 4. The in-depth interview is a fact-gathering session that allows you to make a good hiring decision. Spend your time gathering facts directly related to job performance. Don’t do all the talking. Candidates should be able to share tangible results that are directly relatable to the position for which they are applying.

Step 5. Commit to taking time for a successful recruiting project. Take no shortcuts. Doing the job properly the first time will save you time, money, energy, frustration (yours and the employee’s co-workers) and the need to do this all over again too soon.

Too many managers hire based on their “gut feelings” or on interviews in which the hiring manager has talked more than the candidate for hire. Seldom does one learn anything while talking. The purpose of the interview is to gather job-related facts. This requires that the candidate talk about 80% of the time.

Areas of assessment

There are areas of assessment in which intensive questioning is needed to clearly identify the best people to hire. Here is just a sampling of those areas and related questions:

1. The practice of management
a. Define “management” for me.
b. How would your previous superiors describe your management skills?
c. What is your style of management, and can you share an example of how well it has worked for you?

2. Leadership
a. Tell me about a policy you put in place that generated employee resistance.
b. Describe and give examples of your self-confidence.
c. How do you convince people to want to do what needs to be done?

3. Risk-taking
a. How do you assess risk?
b. Describe the circumstances where you had to make a decision before you had sufficient facts.

4. Results-oriented
a. How did you bring about your greatest achievement?
b. How are your previous employers better off as a result of your employment?

5. Delegation
a. Is delegation worth the risk? Explain with examples.
b. How do you manage a task delegated to a subordinate?

6. Judgment
a. What was the worst decision you made in the last year, and what was the outcome?

7. Ability/desire to learn
a. What periodicals do you currently read?
b. What did you learn from your previous superior?

8. Planning ability
a. Tell me about the best plan you prepared, how you implemented it and the results.
b. How do you decide what elements of a plan to delegate?

9. Ability to organize
a. Help me to understand how job descriptions help employees work better.
b. What data do you collect to measure progress in your area, and how do you use it?

The other areas can be identified by contacting the author:

John Featherstone, author of “Start Hiring Winners,” is a consultant to small business and a former five-year volunteer with SCORE, mentoring and training small-business owners and employees. As a division vice president/general manager for a privately held confectionery company, Featherstone managed a spectacular annual growth rate of 50% for seven consecutive years.


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