Profitable Times Newsletter

Hiring the Right People

In good times and slow times, whether it's an ample or tight job market, this is a major area of concern. I'm not going to suggest what kind of people you should hire (except in a couple instances) because so much of that decision depends on your customer base and the kind of store you have. But using the points in this article as a checklist will help you make sure you've given thought to all the major considerations.

WHO are you looking for?

In general, hire for attitude and train for skills. The person with the capability and attitude to do the job can usually be taught the necessary skills. Of course you may have special experience or accounting needs, but attitude in all areas is important because people buy people not just product, and a positive attitude affects this relationship. In addition, a positive attitude has been correlated with dependability and honesty.

Start by writing down the general and specific characteristics of the ideal candidate. This description should include education level, special skills, relevant experience, work ethic, etc. Consider for this list the characteristics you are looking for if they are to grow with you. If horizontal growth is a potential, the ability to learn more about what they will be doing is an important requirement. If vertical growth is a possibility, then the ability to accept more responsibility becomes an important trait. Any list of characteristics must exclude race, color, creed, national origin, religion, gender, physical appearance, residence location, age, disability, and sexual preference.

After you have completed your list, prioritize the most important attributes to make it easier to make a decision if you can't find or afford the 'perfect' employee.

WHAT do you want this person to do?

Write down specific tasks that need to get done. How many people are you looking for? How many hours/days/shifts need to be filled and when? Is an intern a possibility?

Next, write a job description. A job description will help you organize and present your requirements and start the building of a file of expectations to which you can refer should there be issues in the future. Of course, the employee can do the same.

WHERE (#1) will this person work?

On the sales floor, in the back room, buying, product development? Is telecommuting possible — such as for a bookkeeper? Is flextime a possibility?

WHERE (#2) will you find this person?

I know, you and everyone else searches for employees through the newspaper and it can be expensive, but it often works. Here are some other possibilities:

  • Business networks including recommendations from current employees.
  • Local web sites dedicated to employment activities and links from other sites such as news organizations.
  • Newsletters sent to clubs and residential areas where you do a lot of work. Flyers posted in neighborhoods with lots of people like your customers.
  • The gene pool. As long as the rule is established that one family member can't supervise another, this can be a terrific source of talent.
  • Past employees. Keep in touch with good employees after they leave because the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
  • Customer referrals.
  • Sharing a good employee, with another employer, who works someplace else in the industry but needs more hours.
  • Leads from suppliers.

WHEN do you need this person?

Anticipating your needs and planning your hiring can result in a more successful search. When can you afford to start paying? The quicker you need an employee the less chance you'll have of finding the right one.

WHY do you need this employee?

I often believe my clients are too conservative about staffing levels during the busiest of times. It's certainly not a pleasant experience to go through slow times. It is far worse, however, to not take full advantage of a busy period because you are inadequately staffed. In this circumstance not only have you lost sales but many customers will perceive and remember this inadequate staffing as poor customer service.

So, you may want to think about why you need additional employees in terms of return on investment (ROI). Will adequate (additional) help generate more revenue from the current level of customer activity? Are you too busy now resulting in lost sales and poor customer service? Does planned future growth require additional staffing to maximize results? Or, can the current staff absorb the additional workload?

HOW are you going to pull this off?

Do you have the money to pay for the 'perfect' candidate? What's the ROI on a higher pay level for a superior employee? How close to the perfect candidate can you afford? If you can't afford the best employee refer to the priorities you established under the Who section to make sure you are focused on the most critical characteristics.

Require a job application. Ask for references. Check the information and the references on the application but don't put too much weight on positive references.

The Interview

The goal of the interview is to get an inner-view of the prospect. Focus not on what you can do for the prospect but what the prospect can do for you. A rigorous and candid interview process is essential to identify high and low performers, outline individuals' strengths and weaknesses, and to show that you care about whom you are hiring and you're not just interested in a warm body.

Pump up your strengths but don't sell the job. Listen for tips from the prospect about why they are looking for a job and then focus on how you can meet their needs. Understand the difference between a perk (they can bring their dog to work twice a year) and meaningful work. To hire the best, interview using your best employees. Using these employees gives you a valued second opinion, subtlety showcases one of your strengths and makes your employee feel important.

Use established interview questions to make it easier to compare candidate to candidate. Whenever you can, conduct a second interview asking many of the same key questions again. Candidates often relax and let their guard down during a second interview and it's a good test of consistency.

In addition to specific questions, ask some open-ended, non-work related questions that encourage more subjective, personal responses. Click here for a list of Sample Interview Questions.

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