How to hire the best employees

Whether it’s your first hire ever, or you just want to avoid another employment disaster, here are common sense strategies to keep in mind when hiring.

The person.

Rayanna Anderson

Rayanna Anderson

No matter what the job is, you are hiring more than just someone to do the job. You are hiring a person with good and bad personal attributes. Naturally, you want to hire the person with the best personality for the job, even if just for the summer. Overall, you want someone who is engaged, has a reasonable sense of responsibility for his or her own actions, can see themselves as part of the team, is relatively calm and is someone you can count on to get the job done with limited oversight once they are trained.

Asking questions about the last time they worked on a team, such as, “Give me an example of when you worked as a team member to accomplish a work goal,” or “How would you handle being on a team when a team member wasn’t doing their part?” are key. If you can visualize them working with the team you have in place, that’s a huge plus. Remember that one employee, especially in a small company, can destroy the camaraderie you are working so hard to build. Years of experience have told me to trust my first instinct and you should, too.

The job.

Can they and are they qualified to do the job? This issue starts with a complete and detailed job description. Deciding exactly what the person will do, detailing that in easy to understand language while keeping in mind what kind of experience, certification or education that requires is vital. If this is a rehire for someone who has left the company, you have an opportunity to rethink job functions and update essential duties and responsibilities. Take it.

Now you must determine if they can do the job. Notable ideas include giving the applicant hypothetical problems to solve, seeking answers to a real business challenge your company is experiencing and asking candidates to provide examples of their experiences in some of the job duties you depicted on the detailed job description you created. These questions need not be as piercing if it’s just a seasonal job, but you’ll still need to know if they can perform. One of my favorite questions is to ask an applicant what they least liked about a previous job and why. Also, remember to give the candidate time to answer your question. Silence on behalf of the interviewer is a key interview component and may lead to relevant information about the candidate you would never have learned with your standard set of questions.

The offer.

Once you’ve decided on the candidate, check references, and not just the ones the candidate provided. Never skip this step because of an outstanding interview or a time constraint! You may learn key revelations including fudging a resume or a red flag regarding their integrity or work ethic. Hopefully, your inquiries will confirm your decision to hire the candidate. But don’t be afraid to dig deep.

And remember you are selling your position to the candidate, too. Be attentive to your need to make a favorable impression. Wise candidates are watching for clues to determine if your company is a place they want to work, even temporarily. Interaction between employees, the business’s appearance and how employees are treated make up your company’s culture and give an indelible first impression to potential candidates.

Where to find good summer employees?

Interviews with teenagers can be exasperating. While sometimes undeniably bright, teens may lack the social skills and work ethic you expect from employees.

So instead of putting ads in local media for any warm body, look to existing part-time staff. They are already somewhat familiar with your business and may want additional hours. They will also catch on more quickly with your everyday operations than someone starting from scratch. Or ask employees for referrals, and not just from their children. Look for people with a willingness to learn, flexibility in hours and responsibilities and a genuine interest in your business. These summer employees may become valuable full-time employees down the road. And if you’re still having trouble finding the right seasonal employees, consider using a temp-staffing agency. Fees vary enormously, but some agencies only charge about a 10 percent premium.

– Contributed by Rayanna Anderson, entrepreneurship coordinator and community liaison for MSU’s College of Business and former director of the MSU SBTDC. Anderson writes about issues she regularly sees consulting with small businesses in Springfield and in the state of Missouri.
This article first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader and News-Leader.com. Used with permission.