Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink…
If unemployment is so high, why is it so difficult for some small businesses to find good employees? Finding great employees is just like finding great customers. You need a staffing plan just like you need a marketing plan.
A successful staffing plan consists of 5 steps.
1. Recruit constantly
2. Interview efficiently
3. Reference check thoroughly
4. Offer quickly
5. If you make a hiring mistake, (and even the most experienced and skilled interviewers occasionally get fooled) correct it immediately.
When employers find themselves in crisis hiring mode, they have a tendency to hire quickly and fire slowly. I like the opposite approach. Hire slowly and fire quickly.
Build a recruiting database. If you approach recruiting the same way you market your business to attract new customers, 24/7, you’ll find the whole process less stressful and much less costly.
If you recruit only when you have an opening, you won’t get the best people because the pressure to hire quickly causes you to be less selective and sometimes even results in a bad hiring decision. You want the luxury of being able to be picky. It’s also the most cost-effective method. If you are constantly build your recruiting database you may only need to place a phone call to fill an opening.
- Consider calling people who used to work for you who left on good terms. Returning to a former employer is a real trend and it’s happening in all industries. The trend is appropriately dubbed “boomeranging.” These people can hit the ground running! All you have to do is call and ask. Even if they say no, you can then ask if they know of anyone else who might be interested and would be a good fit.
- Ask your current employees. Research shows that employee-referred candidates are three times more likely to be a good match for the job.
- Ask your customers. An often neglected source of candidates is your customers. They already like your product, your store, your location, and the people you have working for you!
- Your current applicants. The reference checking process is also an opportunity to add to your recruiting database
Interview efficiently means taking the time.
Finding someone you like and your team likes can take a long time. If you have a pool of applicants from your database, don’t rush it. And don’t hesitate to involve your star performers in the process as a means of rewarding performance and modeling successful behavior. Just make sure you properly train and monitor them in effective and legal interviewing.
I prefer behavior based interviewing; Asking questions that target previous behaviors. For instance;
“Tell me about a day when you had to complete a certain project by a deadline but on that particular day, someone called in sick and you knew you couldn’t complete it on time by yourself.”
Then follow-up with questions to elicit specifics;
“How did you handle it? What did you do? What was the result at the end of the day?”
Past behavior is a great predictor of future behavior. But behavioral questions are only effective when they prompt a response that reveals the truth about both weaknesses and strengths. It’s important when developing questions that you don’t word them in a way that makes them a leading question.
“Tell me about a conflict with a co-worker and how you resolved it.”
The latter part is the leading part. With this question, you’ve just signaled that you don’t want to hear about any times that they did NOT resolve the conflict with a coworker.
A better way to ask the question would be:
“Tell me about a conflict you had with a co-worker that stands out in your mind.”
Then ask the follow-up questions without leading toward a positive or negative result.
“How did you handle it? What did you do? What was the result at the end of the day?”
In the world of job applicants, there are problem bringers and there are problem solvers. You want to be able to identify which you’d be getting if you hired this person.
You’ll want to develop these open-ended questions to signal whether or not the applicant has the mental and physical abilities required to do the job, the dispositions such as dependability, initiative, and customer service, The personality temperament and traits such as competitiveness, assertiveness, and sociability that will fit in your company and of course the basic skills required to do the job.
Once you get the applicant describing a past situation, the key for you is to listen, and not leading the discussion. Don’t worry about pauses. Listen to what’s not said, as well as what’s said. Listen to tone..
One of my favorites; instead of asking;
“Why did you leave?”
“Tell me about your last day on the job, from the moment you arrived, until you finished the day, describe what happened…”
Reference check thoroughly
It’s important to invest time in checking references. Some small business owners think it’s a waste of time to check references because so many employers have adopted a “limited information” policy; dates of employment, job title, ending wage or salary.
A word about liabilities: As an employer you may expose your business to defamation suits if you provide a negative reference for unlawfully discriminatory reasons; in retaliation for the former employee complaining of an illegal activity; or if you give a defamatory reference or disclose confidential facts that constitute an invasion of privacy. Keep in mind though that a blanket policy of simply giving “name, rank and serial number” of former employees can be an even more dangerous practice. This is especially true when an employer is aware of a former employee’s tendency toward, or history of, violence or sexual misconduct. Former employers can be sued for negligent misrepresentation or negligent referral if the employee is involved in some incident at the new workplace that might have been predicted based on prior behavior.
Not only is it critical to protect your business from claims of negligent hiring by careful reference checking and documenting your due diligence, I often find reference phone calls as useful as the interview itself. Contrary to the myth that prospective employers can only ask very targeted and limited questions, you can ASK anything as long as it’s not about protected classes, like race, religion, disabilities, etc.
As with all other aspects of employment law, it’s important to know your state laws. Some states have laws that may require employers to provide letters concerning past employment services (“service letters”) to former employees upon their request.
The goals of a reference call is to
- Confirm the information the applicant listed on the application is accurate
- Uncover information you won’t get in the interview.
- Add to my recruiting database.
Because I’m a firm believer in past behavior being a great predictor of future behavior, I make it a policy to require a minimum of three references from every applicant who I consider making an offer to. One must be a former direct supervisor and the others former co-workers. I explain my policy to the applicant and then I put the burden on them for the successful outcome of the reference checking process. This minimizes phone tag. It’s also is a good way to confirm the applicant is truly interested in the job. Once I have the name and telephone numbers, I ask him or her to get in touch with the references ahead of time and inform them that I’ll be calling, and that it would be ok to talk to me.
While I still may only get limited information from the supervisor, the co-workers usually give better insight and more substantial answers. I describe the open position to them, the skills and personality traits required and ask if they think it’s a good fit for the applicant. They tend to be more candid.
Assuming that the applicant is not currently employed with them, the last question I ask all three references is to describe the applicants last day. Asking the question this way can confirm or discredit the reason the applicant gave you during the interview for leaving the job.
If the reference doesn’t think the applicant is a good match, I ask who they know that would be, and who might be interested. If I detect desirable qualities and abilities in the person I’m getting the reference from, I add him or her to my recruiting database.
Good applicants that want to work won’t last long. On average they probably have applied at two other places during the period they interviewed with you. Don’t let too much time pass between the interview, reference checks and the offer.
Correct Problems Immediately
If you make a hiring mistake, (and even the most experienced and skilled interviewers occasionally get fooled) correct it immediately. Employees can be a huge cost for your business and can become an even bigger cost if they don’t fit. If it’s not working out, and you have given the person a fair chance and offered reasonable support then you should terminate the employment relationship BEFORE probationary period expires.
You will get much more out of investing time on the hiring side of the equation than investing time trying to change someone.
About the Author: Beryl Coder, of Eco Musings, has over twenty years human resources executive experience in large multi-state corporations with over 5k employees as well as small family owned businesses with less than 15. She now owns her own small business. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice.