By: Michael O’Brien
Great employees will dramatically improve your profitability. Hire the wrong people, and you’ll take a huge hit in productivity and overall morale. And if an employee harbors a grudge upon termination, you can face a crippling lawsuit. The most treacherous parts of an employment relationship are the beginning and the end, so every hiring decision must be made with care and caution.
People are your company’s real capital. After all, in the final analysis, your business is only as good as its people. So, before the need to hire arises, hold your managers accountable for their supervision of your most critical resources—people. Your company must manage its employees for the long term, practice continuous training, and seek constant improvement in performance to minimize the need to bring new people on board.
You Are Who You Hire
Before you advertise the job, know what you’re looking for. Define the role. Get your team involved to ensure the job description is accurate; it must reflect key tasks, responsibilities, qualifications, and expectations. Use your application process to screen for the skills and experiences you require.
Hire for attitude and train for skills. Don’t do it the other way around. In other words, don’t hire someone because he has the right skill set with the hope that you can change his personality later. All too often, people get hired on the basis of skills, and then get fired because of their personalities. So, hire people with character, personality, and drive. Look for people who are doers. Beware of applicants who your gut warns you will be passive or troublesome.
There is no ideal candidate. Each person brings a different set of skills and abilities. If you have to choose between two applicants who both have good personalities, then that’s the time to ask yourself which applicant has the most skills.
Keep It Legal
Hiring is, of course, a legal minefield. Have your attorney regularly review your company’s hiring policies and procedures. Obey all federal, state, and local regulations. If your company has a human resources department, work with it closely so that you are aware of key legal elements in hiring.
Follow common-sense guidelines. Do not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, or disability. Respect candidates’ right to privacy; do not inquire into their marital status, economic background, personal life, national origin, or age. Observe all laws relating to wages and immigration status. Use background checks to check the accuracy of resumes and to uncover criminal history.
When the time comes to interview candidates, your goal must be to explore the unknowns and confirm the knowns. During the interview, ensure there are no interruptions. Ask pertinent questions about the applicant’s past history. Possible topics include goals, working with others, problem solving, gaps in employment, career changes, and salary expectations. To learn more about a candidate, ask open-ended questions such as, “Tell me about a time when you had to solve such-and-such problem.” But don’t dominate the interview. While you want to manage the interview, you don’t want to let the candidates stray off topic; the more you listen, the more you will learn.
At the end of interviews, communicate next steps with candidates. Afterward, meet with your colleagues to get their feedback. Weigh what you’ve learned, and make a confident decision.
Don’t miss O’Brien’s article, “The Right Way to Fire an Employee,” in next week’s Insider.
Michael O’Brien is a regional safety and security specialist with Consolidated Safety Services (CSS) in Peachtree City, Ga. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.