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Hiring the "Right Stuff"

Hiring the "Right Stuff"

Martin E. Davis /

July 07, 2008

How you approach hiring the right person for a job depends upon the level and type of job. It goes without saying that hiring an entry-level person is substantially different than securing the services of a high-level technical person or a number two or three in the chain of command. In every case, however, reference checking is mandatory.

Despite your prior knowledge of a key manager-level applicant, you may be surprised at what you find when checking references and credit. Remember: Some of the biggest names in industry (and in our federal government) have been embezzlers, bankrupts, accused of sexual misconduct and harassment, felons, and convicted of lesser crimes. Check out their education, call prior supervisors, check for felony convictions and verify prior employment. In short, do your homework!

Assuming you’ve identified a good candidate and completed all of the homework with positive results, how do you convince him or her to become a part of your company? There are several employment selling points that you should emphasize.

Stress the positive factors that have influenced the candidate to favorably consider the position. They may include your company’s reputation, a positive environment in which to work, an equity opportunity, the possibility of advancement, the prospect of securing improved monetary rewards for outstanding performance, or simply a “great challenge.” Remember that compensation is not the key incentive for people with the “right stuff.”

Do not “buy” their services. Any person who is primarily motivated by an immediate increase in base pay is not looking for the strong, long-term relationship that will contribute to the company’s success. Why wouldn’t he leave your company six months from now for another immediate increase in base pay? This is quite different from a candidate’s desire to be properly rewarded for an outstanding contribution to the company’s objectives. Although you shouldn’t “buy” the candidate, you should be willing to “pay for what you get.” Good people cost more! More about incentive compensation later.

Assure the candidate that his contribution to the company’s objective is meaningful. What is more discouraging than being pursued by a company and, once employed, becoming an unnoticed number on the employee roster?

Consider involving more than one key manager in the hiring process to reinforce the positive factors. It’s fine to discuss prospective employment with the key manager who is involved; however, if other managers are present, it will give the candidate a stronger feeling of being wanted. If you are hiring your number-two man or prospective successor, the group approach is not appropriate, unless that group involves other owners or directors of the company.

Consider an employment contract or offer letter. There may be occasions when a candidate for a high-level management position will be more comfortable seeing all of the conditions of employment in writing. The written document is a permanent record of the covenants between the candidate and the company and lessens the possibility for misunderstanding between the parties.

The written document may be as beneficial to the company as it is to the candidate. It would be desirable for you to have your legal counsel draft or at least review and approve either of these types of documents to prevent any potential future legal problems. Be especially careful with any noncompete language. Noncompete agreements are frequently not enforceable.

“Getting Acquainted”
One of the most common mistakes made by small businesses in the human resources area is believing that a new hire will perform exactly as expected. At the very least, there is an indoctrination phase that should be provided to every new employee. In addition to learning his way around the facility, the new employee must be provided information that will improve his chances of contributing immediately to the company’s performance. This indoctrination phase should consist of the following, at a minimum.

Presenting the company’s personnel policies
Although the new employee will have learned a good bit about the company’s personnel policies during the hiring process, he should now be provided a personnel handbook (assuming one is available) that explains the more important policies. These policies should include the hiring process just completed, a definition of salaried and hourly personnel (and their differences), salary administration, incentive bonus plan, profit sharing, retirement plan (if any), pay grade structure, time reporting, working hours, overtime pay, shift premium, pay for attending funerals and jury duty, and performance appraisals. Employee benefits should be explained, including vacation time, health and dental insurance, disability compensation and other benefits, such as awards and company automobiles.

If the company has a 401(k) plan and a Section 125 “cafeteria plan,” they should be covered carefully so the new employee understands how and when he can begin to participate. All of these matters, and others you may think of, are important to the employee and should be presented as soon as possible.

Teaching the company’s safety programs
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued standards and regulations designed to protect employees from safety and health hazards. These standards and regulations involve the communication of information about hazardous or toxic materials, infectious materials, respiratory hazards and safety procedures for the operation of equipment. In addition, OSHA requires the development of a fire safety program that prescribes, among other things, fire exits, fire extinguishers, an emergency action plan, evacuation routes and procedures, an accounting for employees, assigned fire personnel, the alerting of fire emergencies and training relative to all of the above. Check within your state for any other local regulations and related reporting that may be required.

Many companies also have plans that relate to local or regional weather problems, such as tornados, hurricanes and flooding. All of these plans and programs must be communicated to the employee, who usually must also be trained in the execution of the plans.

Understanding the company’s business
This may be the most important part of the indoctrination program. The new employee needs to learn about the company’s operations, its objectives and, in broad terms, the plan for achieving the objectives. The new employee should understand product information, competitive position, marketing strategy, manufacturing or service process, and personnel organization.

Obviously, the depth of this part of the indoctrination will depend upon the position. He must be involved and made to feel a part of the company’s business; the best time to initiate that feeling is at the very beginning of his employment. If there is a plant, include a brief plant tour and introduction to other employees. If there are products, provide an explanation of what they are and why they are unique. If the company offers services, explain what those services are and how they’re provided to the customer.

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