So, You're Ready to Hire a New Employee or Are You?

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As a business owner, you expect to work long hours and wear many hats. But, there comes a time when "enough is enough." You make a decision to get some help.

Depending on how long and how hard you've been working, your first reaction might be to hire the first promising candidate that applies or the first warm body that walks through the door. But, wait! How often have you heard talk about the candidate that seemed so good in the interview, but turned out to be more of a headache than an asset? The new hire whose resume looked so good, and whose skills turned out to be mediocre? The new hire that turned into the company "Romeo", and harassed the female staff?

How do you avoid hiring the dream-applicant-turned-nightmare-employee? Whether you are considering a part-time employee or full-time staff, the rules are the same.

1. Start with clear, specific job requirements. Developing a written job description will clarify in your mind what tasks and responsibilities will be assigned, what goals and objectives will be set, what value this new position will add to the organization.

2. Create the Candidate Profile. The candidate profile will keep you focused and objective. It should outline what knowledge and experience the ideal candidate should possess. Keep in mind that the knowledge and experience should be relevant to the tasks you will assign and the expectations you have for the position.

3. Develop an Interview Plan. The interview is the most important part of the selection process. It is a tool to determine the candidate's qualifications, job-related knowledge, and personality. It is one way to predict on-the-job success based on past and present behaviors and a way to determine if the candidate is a good fit for your organization. Be prepared to ask specific questions. The quality of the questioning is more important than the number of questions. See 4B below.

4. Practice "defensive hiring." Just as we drive our cars defensively -- looking for hazards, observing other drivers' behaviors, and anticipating emergencies -- we need to hire defensively. Since 95 percent of employee problems are caused by 5 percent of the employees, it is wise to take a few precautionary steps in this important selection process.

A. Use employment applications instead of relying on resumes only. Applicants can be required to sign an application and state that all information contained in the application is true. Failure to be truthful or omission of relevant information such as a criminal conviction can later be grounds for immediate dismissal. Resumes only give you the information the candidate wants you to have. An application can ask for information you need to evaluate the suitability of the candidate.

B. Prepare interview questions that require candidates to give examples of past performance and behaviors, demonstrate their skill level, motivation and competencies. Probe for more information. If you are interviewing more than one candidate, ask several "core" questions of all candidates to evaluate them fairly. Here's a list of Behavior Based Interview Questions.

C. Conduct thorough reference checking. At a minimum, verify employment history and educational degrees or certification. When requesting references, always ask for work-related, not personal references.

D. Conduct a background check. If the job requires handling of money or financial transactions, permits access to client's homes or business sites, or has contact with children, it is your responsibility to check for a history that might expose you to liability once that candidate is hired. Candidates must be informed that you will be conducting such checks and must give permission for you to do so.

5. Evaluate all candidates using the same criteria. This means that you have asked each one the same core questions; that you have evaluated the knowledge and experience demonstrated in the interview (use a scorecard to help you here); and that you do not base your decision on race, color, gender, age, disability, medical condition, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, or military/veteran status.

It is important to note that the best-qualified candidate is not necessarily the best fit for your organization. People are almost always hired based on appearance and skills and usually quit or are fired because of personality. Effective interviewing will increase your chances of hiring and retaining the right people.

Margaret Jacoby, SPHR, is the founder and president of MJ Management Solutions, a human resources consulting firm that provides small businesses with a wide range of virtual and onsite HR solutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs. From ensuring legal compliance to writing customized employee handbooks to conducting sexual harassment training, businesses depend on our expertise and cost-effective human resources services to help them thrive. This article first appeared on the MJ Management Solutions blog.

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