It is Monday morning and you are sitting in your office. There is a knock at the door. You can tell immediately by the expression on his face and the tone of his voice that your top sales rep has something on his mind. Then he hits you with the five most dreaded words you can imagine: “Do you have a minute?” You instantly know that this is a resignation meeting. (In these situations, I always wanted to respond by telling the employee to give me five minutes to call the recruiter or place an employment ad first.) Does this sound familiar? Maybe instead of a sales rep, it is a technician, the receptionist or your office manager. No matter what the details of the scenario, you need to get busy.
It is time to hire a new employee. For most managers this can be a very stressful time. But with proper planning and preparation it does not have to be a difficult task. The purpose of this article is to give you a simple plan to follow any time you hire new staff members. The steps described can be made into a checklist and used as a guideline for you and your managers to follow. The process is the same whether replacing an employee who is leaving or filling a newly created position.
Writing the Job Description
The first step in the process is to clearly lay out what this new person is going to do. In the case of a sales rep or a service technician, the process is fairly easy. When hiring for administrative or management positions the task can be more difficult. Before beginning the search for a new employee it is best to compile a full written job description, or what we call a “hat” write-up. The use of the word “hat” in this context comes from the days when different jobs on a train were distinguished by the hat worn. Engineers, conductors, porters, etc., all wore different hats and were easily identified by those hats.
A hat write-up needs to include the purpose of the hat, the product(s) the hat is responsible for producing and statistical measures to determine the volume of production. For example, when considering an accounts receivable clerk the purpose of the hat could be to contact all customers that have unpaid invoices and get these invoices paid as quickly as possible, in an effort to improve cash f low and minimize losses. The product of the job is fully paid invoices. Measurement statistics would include the number of calls made, dollars collected and percentage of accounts receivable more than 60 days old. Having this hat write-up prepared in advance allows you to get the new employee on board and producing very quickly. It also helps to organize your thoughts while screening and interviewing candidates.
Finding Qualified Applicants
Now that you have determined what the new employee will do, it is time to find qualified applicants. There are a number of places to look. Start by asking your current employees for referrals. If you do not have a formal program to pay employees for referrals, you should consider putting one in place. Offer a “Referral Reward” where employees earn a bonus if they refer someone who is hired and stays on board for at least 90 days. Other good sources include newspaper ads, Internet ads and recruiters. Ads should be planned out carefully in advance. Getting a high volume of good-quality applicants depends on the wording of your ad. Make sure the ad is upbeat and portrays a professional image. Based on surveys we have done, success is increased when you include words like “fun-filled, fast-paced environment” and emphasize a team atmosphere. Ads should direct responses to the Human Resources department, even if that department is you. This will add to the professional image of your company and bring in more responses.
Screening and Interviewing
The next step is to plan out the screening and interview process. If you have ever gone to Disney World and waited in line for a ride you can appreciate the frustration of not knowing where the process is leading. While waiting in line for Space Mountain, there are so many turns and curves that you do not know if you are two minutes from the ride or two hours. Though it works for Disney, I do not recommend it when hiring new employees. You need to have a predetermined interview process and let the applicant know what that process is. If it is going to take you 30 days and three interviews with each candidate to make a decision, let applicants know this in advance. I have seen many dealers lose good candidates because they left them in the dark.
Here is a process that works well. Start with prescreening. Have each applicant fax in a resumé and cover letter. For some lower-level positions this may not be necessary. Once these are received the manager who is hiring this new person can go through the resumés and sort them by potential. All responses that are categorized as strong potential are then called for a telephone interview. The purpose of this telephone interview is to see if the person meets the basic requirements and can communicate well. If all goes well, the candidate is invited to the office for a formal interview.
The initial interview usually lasts 30 to 45 minutes. The purpose is to review the candidate’s past experience and qualifications and determine if he or she would be a good fit for your company and the job you are looking to fill. You are also looking to see if your position is a good fit for the candidate. Hiring someone who is clearly overqualified or under-qualified rarely works.
If this interview goes well, the next step should be to administer assessment tests. We use a series of tests called the Personnel Potential Analysis. This system includes personality, IQ and aptitude tests. The results give a comprehensive look into who the candidate really is and how well he or she can be expected to perform in the position.
If after conducting the initial interview and testing you are still interested, the candidate is invited back for a final interview. This is a much more detailed interview and could last an hour or more. During this interview you would ask a lot of the same questions you asked in the initial interview and make sure that the responses have not changed. You will also ask more detailed questions about the candidate’s past experience and how he or she can help the company if hired. You really want to dig in during this interview. You want to give the candidate sample situations and ask what he or she would do, and role-play common scenarios to get his or her reactions. You should not leave this interview with any unanswered questions. Obviously, you never violate Equal Employment Opportunity laws at any time during the hiring process.
Assuming this final interview went well, and both you and the candidate are ready to start this relationship, you make a formal offer. The offer can be made verbally at the end of the final interview, but I recommend that a written offer letter be sent as a follow-up. The offer letter should clearly state that it is not an employment contract and should outline the basics of the agreement. This would include the position the person is being offered, the basic duties of the position and the compensation offered. I cannot even count the number of problems I have seen arise from ambiguous offers that were not properly understood. Do yourself a favor and make the offer crystal clear up front.
Once the offer is accepted you need to plan for the arrival of this new employee. Starting a new job is an exciting time for most people. I liken it to getting a new car. Imagine how you would feel if you purchased a new car and when you went to pick it up it was filthy dirty, had someone else’s belongings in it, had a full ashtray and an empty gas tank. Sounds totally unreal, doesn’t it? Well, it is not much different than bringing in a new employee to the dirty, cluttered mess of a desk that their predecessor had, or even worse, no workspace at all. Yet it happens quite often.
Take the time to be sure that the new employee has a workspace that is clean and ready. This includes the basics like a telephone, computer, stapler, office supplies, etc. The workspace should be neat and organized. Have it set up to look the way you would like to see it once this new employee is up and running. As the saying goes, you do not get a second chance to make a good first impression.
Make sure that the person has any necessary user names and passwords for computers systems and software, a telephone extension assigned and any other needed information. You want your new employee to be ready and able to start working and producing as soon as possible. This is where the hat write-up developed earlier really comes into play. The manager should give the hat write-up to the new employee on his or her first day and review it in detail. The expectation should be set for immediate production in the employee’s job.
Preparing for the Next Hire
Now that you have filled the immediate need, be sure to document the process you have developed. When the need arises to hire another person you simply follow the same steps. You also have a tool to teach others in the company how to locate, screen, interview and hire their new employees. Good luck and good hiring!
Jim Kahrs is the President and Founder of Prosperity Plus Management Consulting, Inc.
If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call 631-782-7762 or email.