By Dottie DeHart
In a tough marketplace defined by intense global competition and razor-thin profit margins, your people are everything. Competitors can steal your ideas, copy your products, and go after your customers--but they can't replicate the men and women who make your company work. Your employees are the innovators who come up with the next big idea that keeps your company a step ahead of the rest. That's why it's so critical to hire the right people, says Ruth Haag, author of Hiring and Firing: Book Three (Haag Press, ISBN: 0-9665497-2-4, $15.00). And when you start looking for that perfect employee, you'll find that you have your work cut out for you.
"Any interviewee can look good for the brief time of an interview," says Haag, "When you are interviewing someone, you are really looking to avoid the 100 percent failure points.
"There are two main principles I urge employers to follow. One, realize that you can't always identify the right person, but you can screen out the wrong person. And two, if you realize you've made a mistake, get rid of the non-performer quickly. Low performers can destroy your culture and, ultimately, your company."
Realize that you can't always identify the right person, but you can screen out the wrong person
First things first: hiring. In her book, Haag lays out what employers should and shouldn't do during the hiring process, from reading the resumés to asking the right interview questions. Consider a few of her easily executed tips that can help you find better employees for your company:
Set crystal clear hiring goals. Before you do anything, from placing a help wanted ad to conducting the first interview, make sure you know exactly what you want in a new employee. Not only does the person need to have the necessary experience, he or she will also need to share your basic work philosophy. "You must determine what you want out of a new employee with regard to both experience and work ethic," says Haag. "You may not find someone who meets all of your hiring goals, but having goals will help you weed out those who don't fit with you at all."
You must determine what you want out of a new employee with regard to both experience and work ethic
Never hire anyone until you've conducted a thorough interview. Interviews provide a way for you to assess whether the candidate has the skills, knowledge, and attitude necessary to perform the job. "Some supervisors tell me that they hire everyone and let the training sort them out. They feel that there is a 'niche' for everyone," says Haag. "But there really are some 'niche-less' people."
Know the right questions to ask. To get all of the information out of the interview that will help you make the right hiring decision, you have to ask the right questions. Make sure you learn all you can about the person's training, job experience, and perhaps most important, work ethic. "Remember to keep the interviewee's personal life out of the interview," says Haag. "Make sure that you clearly explain to him what you want out of the person you hire for the job and then allow the interviewee to determine if his personal life will be able to handle your requirements."
Keep an interviewee's personal life out of the interview. Clearly explain to him what you want out of the person you hire and allow the interviewee to determine if his or her personal life fits with your requirements."
Reading the resumés. It may not be your idea of great reading, but it is necessary reading when choosing a new employee. Paying close attention to what your applicants' resumés say can make a huge difference when it comes time to decide who would make the best employee for your organization. "No one can read a resumé and determine if the candidate will succeed in his company," says Haag. "But you can look at a resumé and be 100 percent sure someone will not succeed. Look out for red flags that indicate someone isn't right for you. Things I'm always on the lookout for include gaps of unemployment, a lot of job hopping, or an inappropriate presentation. Reading the resumés is a great way to find out who will definitely not work, so that you can weed them out of the hiring process."
Never make it sound like a candidate already has the job. Sounding overly sure you are going to hire someone happens for many reasons. Sometimes inexperienced interviewers may commit this sin out of nervousness, or experienced interviewers may want to avoid making poor candidates feel bad. Or an interviewer may jump the gun because she really likes a candidate and gets excited about snatching him out of the job market. "Regardless of the reason, take care to avoid giving a candidate a false belief that you will hire him," says Haag. "Even if you think someone is perfect for the job, don't hire him in the heat of the moment. Tell him you will call him in a few days so that you have time to really think about all of your options."
Always ask about a candidate's past work experiences. Be sure to listen closely to what she says about the topic. You might discover that she claims to have had an experience at a company that just doesn't add up. "A candidate may tell you that she left her previous job because her fellow employees were complaining to her supervisor that she wasn't working hard enough," says Haag. "Of course, she will hasten to reassure you that that isn't true. But think about your past work experiences. Most likely, whenever there has been a complaint about someone not working hard enough, she really wasn't working hard enough. If you take the time to consider the story, you may think twice before deciding to hire."
Reference checks usually aren't worth your time. The problem with reference checks is that most of the people you call as references aren't being forthright. Previous employers don't often say bad things about their departed employees. If the person's employment ended poorly, chances are his employer is happy to get rid of him and may give him a good reference to make sure he stays away. "While the information can be useful on some levels, you should never base your final hiring decision on a reference call," says Haag. "They are simply too unreliable."
Previous employers don't often say bad things about their departed employees.
Too much concern about money is not good. A sure sign that someone isn't the right person for the job is a preoccupation with how much money comes with the job. If she is overly concerned about money during the interview, chances are that attitude will carry over into the job itself. Look for people who are enthusiastic about what they bring to the table and who express an interest in professional growth. "You want to find someone who wants the work itself, not just the paycheck," says Haag.
Look for people who are enthusiastic about what they bring to the table and who express an interest in professional growth.
Not only is taking steps to find the right person good for your company in a "big picture" way, it yields a "small picture" benefit as well: it keeps you from having to say those two awful words. ("You're fired.")
"Firing employees is one of the most unpleasant experiences for many supervisors," says Haag. "Donald Trump may enjoy it, but a majority of supervisors do not. If you know what to do before and during the hiring process, you will be able to avoid those dreaded words by hiring the right employees who will last for years at your organization."