The first rule to follow for building a successful business, whether a new business or one that has been around for a while, is to have right people working for you. That means that you need to find them, hire them and then nurture them so that you can keep them. We’ll cover the first two of those in this article – finding and hiring – but let’s talk about why you need good people. Of course common sense says that you do, but why?

It is critical to try as hard as you can to hire only good people. Employees are one of a company’s largest expenses these days. If you don’t hire good people, you waste money, and with the world economy the way it is, you can’t afford that. When doing specific projects or even daily work with less than good people, you have to get someone better to review their plans, oversee their work, review the final result, and point out what needs to be redone. Work takes longer then someone has to go back and actually make any changes or corrections. You could end up spending twice as much time, money and effort on their work as you would have spent, if you’d started with someone who was good and didn’t need much supervision. Without the good ones, it can take much more work to get anything done and you will need more people. This raises the cost of the work and the length of time to get the work accomplished. Also your good employees may get tired of babysitting or doing more than their share of the work, and quit. Then you are at the point where you should have someone who reviews people’s work, but there is no one who is really qualified to do so. A terrible cycle or downward spiral is in place, leading to failure.

Also, unlike other major capital costs (buildings, machinery, technology, etc.) human capital is fickle. It is made up of individuals with different personalities, skills and attitudes. This melding of people is the basis of the company or organization’s culture. You, as a manager, are in a key position to reduce the chance that someone will not fit the culture. And culture can have a large impact on the company’s success. The right culture is a significant plus, but we’ll get into building that culture in other articles.

Finding the person

There are many routes to finding employees, but with some of these, it is a gamble whether hires or even the hiring pool will be good. Organizations use ads, recruiters, job fairs, and so on. Most companies receive unsolicited resumes almost on a daily basis, especially with the recent economic woes. Sure, you may find a great employee through any of these methods, but there is one way of finding good people that has a higher percentage of success than others. That is employee referrals.

All of us have read that the best way to find a job is through personal contacts. Using employee referrals is the flip side of that coin. Your current employees know the job and the culture. They also know the potential employee and can make a realistic determination of whether the person will fit in the organization and its culture. People want to work with good people – they are usually not going to recommend someone who is not good or doesn’t fit.

Having worked in the IT community and the government contracting world for a number of years, I’ve personally seen employee referrals provide far better results than other hiring methodologies. I have even referred others. Many companies, including some of the top firms in the US, use it and would prefer to use it more. An HR manager at SRA International stated “Employee referrals consistently give us the best result. Manager satisfaction with their hiring choices is high and turnover is the lowest of any group of hires. I wish we had more.” Because of the success, many firms pay a fee or “bounty” to employees who provide referrals who are hired. It is a win-win situation for all involved.

The dreaded interview process

When you are looking to hire someone, you need to look for talent, education, skills, attitude, personality and cultural fit – most of the requirements should be in the job description. You should know them because you probably got stuck writing, or at least updating, the job description. You then passed it to Human Resources (or Personnel or whatever your company calls it). The true hiring process in most large and even medium-sized companies starts with HR. If it is just you, you get to do it all. But for most situations, HR will review the job description and start looking for candidates. They may go to their database, put out an ad, call a recruiter, or whatever method is used to find candidates. With any luck, they already have a referral or two to start through the process.

The HR people in most companies review resumes and do screening interviews. These are to eliminate applicants who don’t qualify. Admittedly, some who are disqualified would make great employees, but the process has to start somewhere. You, as the hiring manager, don’t have the time to interview everyone. It might be fun to do it, though, but it would be a lot of work and time expended.

Technical skills and education are important, but attitude and cultural fit are key. With good people, you can almost always teach the skills needed for the position. Of course they have to already have basic skills. Realistically, very few job applicants are going to be sitting across from you if they don’t.

Anyway, after finding a potential employee, you must interview them. This can be a stressful situation for both the interviewer and the interviewee. Most of us who have been on both sides of the interview process can remember the sweaty hands, bumbled questions/answers, and the feeling when it was all over that it went terribly. With a little work and of course some common sense, you can become good at interviewing applicants. And hopefully, you can become skilled at picking out the good ones to hire. This might even help you when you have to interview at some point.

Interviewing tips

Here are some suggestions that might help. We’ll start with a caveat – keep it legal. You shouldn’t ask about any of the following (in the US, anyway), because not hiring a candidate because of any one of them is discriminatory – and lawsuits are no fun.

· Race

· Color

· Sex

· Religion

· National origin

· Birthplace

· Age

· Disability

· Marital/family status

Before the interviews start, decide the essential things you need to learn from a candidate and prepare questions to obtain the answers. It may be the ability to work with others, education, past experience, or certifications. It may be all about being a team player and integrating into a really tightly knit high performance team. Decide whatever is important for this position and then ask the questions to determine if the candidate has the “right stuff.”

The next step is to write down those questions. Otherwise there is too much of a chance that you will forget them. It also makes it easier to ask each of the candidates the same questions. Don’t feel bad about looking at your notes. It is a good thing. More interviewers should be doing it. Of course you should also be taking notes on the answers given. You don’t want to get confused about who gave what answer or forget a critical fact.

Plan the interview environment:

· There should be privacy

· Ensure no interruptions

· If the applicant has to wait, have someone look after them

· Arrange the seating in an informal relaxed way, if possible (e.g., sit around a coffee table or meeting room table and not across the desk)

· Have what you need for the interview, so it shows you are prepared and organized

· Review the applicant’s resume and the job description beforehand

Try to put the interviewee at ease. Remember that it is a stressful situation for them, so try not to make it any worse. Each person has to find their own technique for putting people at ease.

It is usually a good idea to begin by explaining a little about the organization, the project and the job to be filled. Some, or even all of this information, may have been covered by the HR person. You should check with him/her beforehand to see what information is generally covered. In a small organization, it may be up to you to explain it all.

Ask open-ended questions – how, why, tell me, what, (and to a lesser extent where, when, which) to get the interviewee talking. Use how and what questions to get the interviewee to give examples and feelings. Why questions are usually more difficult for the interviewee because the answer is an explanation or justification. Be careful about multiple why questions in a row. It creates pressure and may cause the interviewee to have a hard time. Of course some interviewers want to place stress on the applicant. High pressure causes people to clam up and rarely exposes weaknesses A calm, relaxed approach with good questions is more revealing. Personally I always felt that the goal of the interview was to understand the other person and their talents, not to intimidate them.

Make sure that you get the information that you need. Ask questions about the resume if you are unclear on any points. Give the applicant a chance to explain anything unusual (e.g., periods out of the workforce or frequent job changes).

And finally, give interviewees opportunities to ask their own questions. Questions from interviewees can be revealing. They also help good candidates demonstrate their worth, especially if the interviewer has not asked the right questions to bring out examples of their capability and potential.

Once you have made up your mind about hiring someone for the job, get back to them as soon as possible. You might miss out to a competitor if you don’t act quickly. And get back to any candidates that you don’t choose. Let them know. It is cruel to just leave them hanging. You wouldn’t like it if it were you just sitting there waiting for a call or e-mail.

I won’t bother going into the offer and actual hiring process. That is specific to your organization or company. Every organization has their own hiring process – some good and some not so good. Just don’t let the process cause you to lose out on a good person.

Author Bio:

Wayne Turk is an independent management and project management consultant with Suss Consulting. He is a retired US Air Force lieutenant colonel and defense contractor. He has supported information technology projects, policy development and strategic planning projects for the US Government, Swedish Air Force, companies, and non-profit organizations. He is the author of Common Sense Project Management (ASQ Press) and numerous articles.....


It Is Only Common Sense to Hire Good People

By Wayne Turk

In today’s world, hiring good people is critical to the success of a company. If you don’t hire good people, you waste money, and with the world economy the way it is, you can’t afford that. While there are many routes to finding the right employees, referrals are by far the best. Once you have found potential employees, you have to interview them. The interview process can be difficult for both the interviewer and the interviewee, but with thought, preparation, and adhering to the guidelines in the article, it can be accomplished.

Edited By: Dr. Divya Singhal (Guest Editor)

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