Hiring: Finding the Best Employees

Does your system screen out the best and hire the rest?

When it comes to recruiting and selecting new hires, it's amazing how many astute business owners and managers repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot.

I've made hundreds of best practice hiring system presentations, and whenever I ask if anyone in attendance has hired "the employee from hell," without fail, at least 20 percent of the audience will raise their hands. (And those are just the ones brave enough to admit it in public.)

Most of these hiring mistakes are the result of two behavioral tendencies that seem to be part of our all-too-human nature: 1) resistance to change, and 2) an inclination to take the out.

When it comes to change, no one in their right mind would deny it's an entirely different world today than it was even a short 10 years ago. Yet, rather than change, many employers stick with outmoded hiring systems that might have worked well in the past, but now actually screen out the best.

Make the job easy to apply for, hard to get

Few recognize that in today's economy almost all the people who want to work, are working. The people who are employed now are the dependable, honest, diligent people you want to hire. So how do you go about attracting them?

If you're like most, you have some sort of automated application process. And, for those who pass muster, you expect them to forfeit income and/or lie to their present employer to take time off to interview with you at your convenience, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In this scenario, a person making $10 an hour would probably have to take half a day off, so their weekly paycheck would be $40 lighter and there's no certainty that you'll offer them the job.

I read a story not long ago about a customer service rep who was desperate to find new employment because working conditions where she was were deplorable. When she was invited to interview, she went out on a limb and asked her manager for a half day off "to attend a funeral." Then the prospective employer called her to change the interview to another day!

When it comes to salaried staff, another of resistance to change, is hanging on to the requirement that the applicant submit a resumé. When was the last time you updated your resumé? Five years ago? And why should you? You're not looking to go anywhere else. No matter how enticing, intriguing, and challenging the position you have to offer is, not many busy working people are going to jump through this time-consuming hoop just to apply.

You cannot hire anyone better than the best person who applies, so make it easy and simple for working people to apply (through 24-hour job hotlines or online), schedule interviews at their convenience, and don't have a lot of up-front paperwork that discourages top talent. (Then be sure to make the job hard to get with rigorous pre-employment testing, interviews, reference, and background checks.)

Are your up-front requirements necessary?

When you're overwhelmed with applications, you must whittle the pile down somehow. Not long ago, this was a manual process. Today this is handled by automated screening programs, but they pose some pitfalls as well. This is where many tend to take the easy way out. We let the computer analyze applications and resumés and send automatic "Thanks, but no thanks" emails to those who don't perfectly match our requirements. It's a great time-saver, but works in your favor only if the requirements are really required to do the job at hand.

Take the need for a college degree. What kind of degree genuinely prepares someone to be a customer service rep, or for that matter, a manager or business owner? If you have a degree, how much did it contribute to your success to date? And consider these famous folks who couldn't apply to work for you because they don't have degrees: Paul Allen, Wally "Famous" Amos, Mary Kay Ash, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs, to name just a few.

Another common mistake is to screen out the "overqualified." The thinking is that these people would soon become uninterested or bored with a job beneath their capabilities and leave for something better as soon as possible.

When someone applies for a job for which they are overqualified, it usually means they've been looking for a long time and are strongly motivated to find work of any kind, hoping it will be a starting point that leads to better things. People who have a long, solid work history with a pattern of increasing responsibility will unfailingly bring the same qualities that made them successful in the past to bear on any job. They can't help themselves, it's their nature. Rather than dismiss the overqualified out of hand, give folks with a wealth of real-world problem-solving experience and the ability to get things done the consideration of an interview to explore the possibilities. You could get a top-notch performer for a bargain basement price.

So don't discourage top talent by making your application process long and involved, or asking people to take time off work to interview for a job they might not get. Require only the skills and abilities it really takes to be successful on the job, and don't automatically rule out the overqualified. Those are all good ways to ensure you screen in the best--and skip the rest.

Mel Kleiman is a speaker, consultant, and author on strategies for hiring and retaining the best hourly employees and their managers. He is one of only 650 speakers worldwide to have earned the Certified Speaking Professional designation and is president of Humetrics, a leading developer of systems and for recruiting, selection, and retention. He has written five books, including The 5 Firsts: A Simple System To Onboard and Engage Top Talent, and he publishes a regular blog. Find him at 713-771-4401 or at mkleiman@humetrics.com, www.Humetrics.com, and www.KleimanHR.com.

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