The process of finding, hiring and training quality staff requires dedication. It involves a conscious decision to profile the ideal employee, identify key job characteristics and responsibilities, establish the necessary skill sets, and use creativity to discover pools of qualified candidates. It also takes a commitment to employee training and to providing the benefits and growth opportunities that build team loyalty and empowerment.
When creating your employee profile, be clear and precise. Know the education level, job skills, experience and qualifications you feel are necessary for success in your organization. Once you have established these criteria, you can begin looking for candidates who fit the bill. There are several possibilities:
- Recruit from within. You can often find the ideal employee within your current organization. Internal promotions send a message that the company offers career-advancement opportunities for qualified, hard-working, dedicated individuals.
- Seek personal recommendations. Ask current employees, former employees, vendors and business associates for recommendations.
- Create an internal referral program. Consider offering a bonus for any recommendation that results in a successful hire. The incentive should be contingent upon a minimum length of stay.
- Advertise. This method should yield the broadest response. One of the keys to successfully advertising a position is to write a clear description of the job being offered, including the title, salary, benefits, requirements and qualifications. Next you need to choose the size and placement of the ad. Know how much you are willing to spend, as some resources can be expensive. Just as with any marketing campaign, you want to attract the highest number of “hits” for the least amount of money.
Hopefully, your recruitment efforts will attract more candidates than you can handle. The most efficient way to weed through the list is to peruse the resumes looking for key phrases and buzz words that match your employee profile. Separate them into three piles: definite, maybe and no way. Beginning with the “definites,” read through each resume again, following these simple guidelines:
- Start at the end, where many applicants include their least flattering and relevant information. Be suspicious of “functional” resumes that focus on tasks and duties without clarifying dates of employment. These candidates may look qualified, but they could be job jumpers.
- Look for worthwhile accomplishments that have benefited employers. This will be a good indication of a candidate’s profit-mindedness.
- Steer clear of trivial information. Some candidates puff up their resumes with achievements or experience that is unrelated to the work at hand. For example, an excessive list of hobbies may indicate the applicant is more interested in extracurricular activities than a strong work ethic.
Once you have narrowed your list, you’ll move on to the interviews, the most critical step in the hiring process. Keeping your employee profile in mind, write a series of pointed questions that will help you get the most “mileage” out of this brief dialogue. Place a number value on each and award candidates scores during the interview. This will help you when it comes time to make a decision, as it can be difficult to remember your impressions after conducting several meetings.
Following are some questions that will help you see through each applicant’s interview persona and discover the real employee:
- Describe the type of people who most annoy you. (This should identify characteristics the candidate does not see in himself.)
- Describe the types of improvements you would make at your last job if you could. (This will help you gauge the candidate’s creativity and general sensitivity.)
- Why have you chosen to make a job change at this time? (Be aware of candidates who bad-mouth former supervisors or coworkers.)
- What are your expectations of a new employer in terms of support and assistance? (Equilibrium is important here. Watch out for applicants who seek too little or too much.)
- Can you give me examples of emergencies that required you to reschedule your time? (This is a good way to determine if an employee is willing to go the extra mile.)
- What did you like about the last company you worked for? (A thoughtless answer may indicate the candidate is just going through the motions.)
- How would you describe the best person you have worked for? (This helps identify qualities the candidate admires.)
- What has been the most interesting assignment of your career? (This will help you determine how the candidate responds to challenges.)
Ending an interview can be just as awkward as beginning one, so set strict parameters and time limits. While 16 minutes is usually enough time to determine the qualifications of any candidate, allow 30 to keep it more sociable and leisurely. Announce the time limit at the start and have a clock visible. Give the candidate clear indications when the interview is coming to a close, and end decisively. If the candidate is strong, let him know your interest. Otherwise, simply provide a time frame in which he can expect to hear about your decision.
There are only two ways to handle references: thoroughly or not at all. If you decide to be thorough, which is recommended, here are several points to consider:
- References should be checked by the person who will be the candidate’s supervisor. Only he knows the pertinent questions and responses he is seeking.
- Don’t hesitate. Check references as soon as the candidate gives you clearance to do so.
- Do not base your decision solely on letters of recommendation, which could have been written by anyone. Always follow up with a phone call. This will also help you gauge the level of scrutiny provided by the reference.
- Call as many former employers as possible, especially those who were not listed as references. Most candidates only list those who will give them positive reports.
After all the proper procedures and techniques have been followed, your remaining failsafe tool is gut instinct. Ask yourself which candidate came across as the one who could do the best job and fit into your work culture. Which has the most outgoing, personable attitude and customer-service orientation? In the end, what you want is the kind of employee you would want to deal with if you were your customer.
David Blum, an industry consultant, is president of Blum Management Services Inc., based in South Florida. He is also past president and founder of the Florida Self-Storage Association. Mr. Blum has more than 10 years of experience in self-storage and more than 35 years of business experience. For more information, call 954.255.9500; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.blumms.com.