Is it Time to Hire a Support Staff? (Part Two of a Three-Part Series)

7 Tips in Finding the Right Applicant(s) for Your Needs

An applicant extends her hand.Last week we gave you a quiz to help you determine whether or not now is a good time for you to hire an employee or add another one to your support staff. If you’re reading this article today, we’re guessing that you’ve decided that now is the time to expand your business by hiring help. Finding and hiring the right employee can be one of the most important decisions you make for your business. Unearthing the perfect applicant can improve the profitability of your business and make your professional life a lot easier. But how do you do that? Small business owners especially have little room for error when hiring individuals to work for them. Poor judgment can cost you money, and sometimes even a client or two. The following 7 tips can help you avoid pitfalls in finding just the right applicant for your needs:

1. Create a job descriptionBefore you start looking for applicants you need to know the skill set you want to find. Write down all the tasks this employee will perform. Focus on the verbs. Do these skills require experience? If not, what characteristics would the employee need in order to acquire those skills? Be specific. The only way you will be able to hire the right person is if you know exactly what your business requires.2. Get the word out Inform professionals in your network about your opening; they may know of skilled individuals looking for a good position. Also consider job placement services, especially if you’re looking for applicants with a valuable skill set. The want ads and job boards are also a good way to publicize your opening.3. Develop informative interview questionsGood interview questions will enable you to find the right person to fill your position. Consider questions that will help you learn of past performance, determine problem-solving ability, determine their work preferences and future career goals. All these things can inform your decision. And in order to fairly weigh one candidate against the next you must ask all applicants the same questions.

Note: Be careful! It is illegal to ask candidates anything discriminatory. Avoid all questions that address the following: race, color, gender, sexual preferences, religion, national origin, birthplace, age, disability, marital/family status.

4. Perform two interviewsMost employers perform two job interviews; the first enables them to filter all applicants who are ill-suited for their position. The second interview is designed to help them narrow their pool a bit so they can focus on the most important questions. For example, if costumer service is important to you, craft questions that will help you recognize whether or not candidates will work well with your clients. If punctuality and a good work ethic are important to you, again you must craft questions that help you see how your candidates measure up to these requirements. As long as you take the time to thoughtfully compose your interview questions and ask each candidate the same set, you’ll be sure to find the perfect fit for your position.5. Check references and perform background checksWhy ask for references if you don’t check them? I’ve heard countless stories of references who shared crucial information about a candidate’s true nature in a job environment that either foiled his/her chances or sealed the deal. Either way references can provide you with more information on which to base your final decision. And background checks can also be informative, telling you which candidates may threaten the livelihood of your business.6. Listen to your gutOften a gut instinct will tell you which applicants are a good match and which would be bad for business. Don’t rule those feelings out, but consider them, as well as the applicants’ skills and experience as you make your final decision.7. Extend the offer of employment or try againOnce you’ve determined who you will be hiring, extend the offer. Be sure you inform the other applicants that you will not be hiring them; good etiquette requires you do it by phone. It’s important, however, that you don’t rush to hire someone simply because you’re anxious about expanding your business. If you didn’t find the right person this round, you should consider waiting a month or two before trying again. You don’t want to be in need of an article on how to fire your employee later. When you choose employees wisely upfront you have a better chance of building a more dynamic and successful business later.

Come back next week when we discuss how to retain good employees.