Question: We plan to hire several employees this year. How can we get good people the first time around so we can save time and money wasted on bad hires, such as having to recruit and interview again and start over with training?
Answer: With the economy defrosting this spring, many small companies will be hiring—and facing the pitfalls of bringing the wrong people on board. As you point out, bad hires are costly, and they can sidetrack your company’s growth.
Frequent turnover can also negatively affect your employee morale and even sour your company’s wider reputation, says Gustavo Pena, managing partner at Florida staffing and consulting company Ascendo Resources.
Lack of time and attention to the hiring process is the root cause of poor hiring decisions and employees who wash out early on, Pena says. “Why does it go wrong? The [chief executive officer] doesn’t take it seriously because he’s busy running the business, so the hiring process is not a priority.”
He recalls setting up meetings for clients with promising job candidates who were left waiting more than an hour while the CEO ran late. Other clients kept applicants dangling for weeks before they made their decisions, only to find that the best ones were snapped up by competitors in the meantime.
Here are some tips to help you make good hires every time.
Be clear about what you want. Do make sure you’re clear about what the job entails and the skill set you need in the person who will fill the position. “Identify the essential requirements—knowledge, skills and traits—for successful performance in a job,” says Carol R. Losee, a human resources consultant with Workplace Dimensions. Choose interview questions that will enable you to quickly determine if the candidate’s experience is relevant to your job opening, she adds.
Don’t skimp on evaluating candidates. That means conducting background checks, having multiple people in your company interview candidates, and speaking personally to references. Robin Throckmorton, president of strategic HR, recommends using behavior-based assessment tools such as those offered by Devine Group to learn what a candidate has done and how she or he will fit in on the job.
Test drive applicants before hiring. Consider try-out arrangements such as temp-to-permanent, contract-to-hire, or working interviews. This allows both employer and potential employee a chance to see if there’s a good fit. “We see situations where the candidate is not a good interviewer, but once they go to work, they’re a rock star,” Pena says. “Other times, clients interview someone they love and think is awesome, but they’re spinning their wheels when they’re put to work.”
Pay fairly. Poor compensation is a major reason a new hire may not work out. For instance, someone who takes a job with you may get a better offer a few weeks later and decide to jump ship. “The economy has rebounded and candidates are getting multiple offers,” Pena says. “If your organization truly likes a candidate, offer them fair market value. Supply and demand has reversed from a few years ago.”
Pinpoint candidates online. Look for niche talent and develop relationships with potential job candidates using online networks, says Deb Cohen, a senior vice president at the Society for Human Resource Management. “According to a SHRM poll, 52 percent of organizations use social networking websites to target job candidates with a very specific set of skills,” she writes in an email.
Ask your employees. Don’t neglect to look inside your organization when you’re filling open positions. “Employee referrals are a great source for potential hires because a current employee is likely to give a realistic preview to a candidate and is less likely to refer someone who will not be a positive reflection on themselves,” Cohen writes. Consider promoting from within, too. Proven employees who already know your company and fit in well with the culture are the easiest hires you’ll ever make.