Ten More Tips for Effective Hiring (plus one)

How to cut down on ‘quick quits’

Few personnel problems tax organizational resources more heavily than employees who leave shortly after being hired. Cleveland-based bank National City Corporation tackled its “quick quits” dilemma after turnover of its hourly workforce hit 51 percent in 1999. Many of those hires departed after less than three months.

The firm created the National City Institute to stop the bleeding. The department called on the expertise of trainers skilled in the art of pre-employment assessment and selection, as well as management development and consulting, and instructional design and delivery. This in-house group soon launched an Early Success initiative. Workshops cover entry-level tasks, customer care, and the financial services menu. A People, Policies and Practices seminar underscores NCC’s commitment to being an employer of choice while covering finer points of the employee handbook.

A peer-directed “buddy system” helps new employees become part of the corporate team. Sessions for managers focus on clear communication techniques and other methods of creating a supportive workplace.

The intensive program costs $1.25 million per year, after an initial investment of $2.5 million. But since its inception, sales have jumped $3.7 million. And new workers are now half as likely to leave within 90 days, trimming $1.35 million a year from the recruiting and training budget. Furthermore, a 25 percent reduction in new employee absences was achieved, making the program a clear winner.

Source: Adapted from “Optimas Award financial impact: National City Corporation,” by Maryann Hammers, in Workforce, as seen in Employee Recruitment & Retention, August 2003.

Avoid these common resume fake-outs

Research shows that up to 40 percent of foodservice managers misrepresent themselves on their resumes. Common problem areas include candidates who:

  • Took a few college courses, but claim they have a degree from the school.
  • Are still in the process of obtaining the professional certifications they list.
  • Don’t list the employer who terminated them.
  • Tweak employment dates to cover gaps.
  • Fail to come clean about a felony conviction.
  • List a friend’s phone number as a reference.
  • Retroactively give themselves a big raise for their last job.
  • Craft creative, but woefully inaccurate, past job descriptions.

“I look for ‘weasel wording’ like ‘participated in’ or ‘in association with,’” says, Shannon Hurley, a regional manager for staffing firm Robert Half International. “Look for vaguely worded job responsibilities and unexplained gaps.”

Tell candidates at the beginning of the interview that you always verify employment history and education level. “We typically catch people off-guard” by doing just that, says Scott Pustizzi, operations VP of online HR firm The Human Equation. “We’ve had applicants call after the interview to correct something on their resume. One candidate must have called from his car just after we ended a good interview to say there was a ‘typo’ and that he hadn’t really graduated from Florida State.”

It pays to check this information out, as resume cheaters often turn out to be exceptionally bad hires. “In nearly 80 percent of all problem employees, we find that there was resume or application fraud,” says Miami employment lawyer Anne Marie Estevez.

Source: Adapted from “Job applicants’ resumes often riddled with misinformation,” by Joan Fleischer Tamen, in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, as seen in Employee Recruitment & Retention, July 2003.

Classified ads: four tips to a better response

  • Consider hiring a ghostwriter. Some firms do nothing but create and place employment ads – and they know what works. Two of the largest: Nationwide Advertising Services in Cleveland, and Bernard Hodes Advertising Inc.
  • Try your ad in other sections. Some companies have great success placing display ads the sports or food sections, for example.
  • Promote your strengths. In a tight labor market, you have to sell readers on the job, not just announce an opening. Explain what sets your firm apart, whether it’s telecommuting or tuition reimbursement.
  • Always track your responses. See which type of wording, length and positioning pulls in the best candidates, not just the most responses.

Source: Success in Recruiting and Retaining brochure.

Candidates put their stock in first impressions

Recruits are sizing up your company on first impressions alone – likely more than any other factor. According to a survey of 191 job applicants by Integrity Search Inc., an executive search firm in Springfield, Pa., more than two-thirds consider the interview process to be a good indicator of how a company operates. If the process seems too long or complicated, it may be a symptom of a dysfunctional company.

Source: Success in Recruiting and Retaining brochure.

Take a clue from Integrity Search’s survey

Here are the problems that job candidates see most during the interview process:

  • Interviewer not prepared/focused – 39%
  • Lack of feedback on stat – 38%
  • Job description is not concrete or is inconsistent – 37%
  • Being kept waiting an unreasonable amount of time – 24%
  • Next step in process unclear – 23%
  • Process too long and complicated – 17%
  • Interviewed by two or more people at the same time – 14%

Source: Integrity Search, reprinted in Success in Recruiting and Retaining brochure.

Tips for firing with finesse

Follow these simple protocols to take some of the sting out oflayoffs and leave remaining employees feeling better about the organization:

  • Thank departing workers for their service (if they’re leaving on their own). “It’s easy to forget and may seem like an unnatural thing to say, but doing that will go a long way toward reducing anger,” says Drew Davis, a partner at career management consultancy Verity Filion Inc. Don’t forget hat they can still be customers!
  • Give them a moment to express frustration or sadness. “I’d rather be dealing with an angry person than someone who goes into shock and doesn’t’ say anything,” he said. “Because [angry people] tend to vent, get it off their chest, and it’s gone. It’s the same thing with tears.”
  • Keep it professional. Sympathetic asides and nervous jokes usually just make things worse. “The meeting is not about you, it’s about conveying a company decision,” says Steve Connor, a layoff specialist at HR consultant DBM.
  • Avoid Friday firings. Letting people go at the end of the week can cut them off from needed support systems for the weekend—such as attorneys, doctors, and financial advisors. “Suddenly they’re out there worrying about making their mortgage payment and everything is closed,” Connor says.

Source: Adapted from “Break it to them gently, be sure to thank them,” by Peter Brieger, in the Financial Post (Canada), as seen in Employee Recruitment & Retention, January 2004.

Hold off telling other candidates that you’ve filled the position

When you hire a new manager from several candidates, try to hold off telling the other candidates that they weren’t chosen, at least until the new employee starts. Candidates have been known to change their minds at the last minute, or accept another offer. If you jump the gun and tell the other qualified candidates that you’ve chosen someone else, you could lose them as well.

But it’s also not fair to string other candidates along. Don’t wait until you’re satisfied with the new employee; wait only until you’re sure the person is actually coming to work for you.

Advice on hiring

Hiring the best

First-rate people hire first-rate people, second-rate people hire third-rate people.Leo Rosten

Judgment and taste

When hiring key employees, there are only two qualities to look for: judgment and taste. Almost everything else can be bought by the yard.John W. Gardner

Employees who soar

Eagles don’t flock. You have to find them one at a time.Ross Perot

Don’t make these four deadly interviewing mistakes

  • Mistaking charm for competence. Certain kinds of people have all the right skills to come across well in an interview: they’re charming, funny, good with people, and so on. Get past that. While these skills may be important down the road, you first have to make sure they are qualified to fill the position. Attack their resume, find out what they’ve accomplished, and make sure they’ve done what they say they’ve done. If you find someone who is qualified and has the people skills mentioned above, you more than likely have a winner.
  • Talking too much. Experts say that top-notch interviewers talk no more than 20 percent of the time. Avoid long conversations about yourself or the company where you’re doing most of the talking. The more the candidate talks, the more you’ll learn. Learn to ask open-ended questions that elicit long, detailed responses.
  • Hiring too fast. The interview process is a long, grueling affair. It’s tempting to take the first qualified person who comes through the door—just so you can stop interviewing. Instead, force yourself to compare at least two or three candidates.
  • Not following up on the references. It’s shocking how many companies don’t check education records, or professional references. Managers across America have been burned by phony resumes, imaginary references, and education “backgrounds” that don’t exist. Don’t bother to check out everyone you interview. But when you narrow down the field, make some calls before the final interview or before you actually hire.

Source: Adapted from The Association of Support Professionals

Six signs you need a new search firm

Working with search firms to fill vacancies can be rewarding. But enlisting the wrong recruiter can waste both your time and money while great candidates slip away. Six signs that it’s time to move on:

  • Not enough groundwork. The recruiter should get a strong feel for your culture and the position’s specifics before meeting potential candidates.
  • The bait and switch. It’s bad news if a top consultant woos you and then hands the search off to underlings as soon as you sign. Get an up-front commitment to hands-on involvement.
  • Too much acquiescence. Be concerned if the recruiter doesn’t take a critical look at your expectations and offer a reality check or two.
  • Weak guarantees. It’s standard to pay a search firm 33 percent of the new hire’s annual cash compensation. But at those rates, recruiters should offer a written promise to refill the position if the hire leaves in less than a year.
  • A small pool. If recruiters are offering candidates recycled from other searches more than a month into the process, they’re not working hard enough. If you are unsure whether the candidates are “fresh,” ask the recruiter how they found your candidates, and when. Then, double-check the information with recruits.
  • Paper cuts. If you’re seeing a succession of candidates who fit the job but not your culture, the recruiter hasn’t taken enough time to understand your organization.

Source: Adapted from “You’re getting jobbed by your search firm,” by Marie Leone, on CFO.com, as seen in Employee Recruitment & Retention, August 2003.

Eight steps to structured interviews that work

Eliminate personal bias when hiring by adopting a structured interview process. The federal Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) recently issued the following guidelines for creating a successful structured interview approach:

Whenever possible, use an interviewing panel rather than a single evaluator.

Train interviewers to develop effective questions. Try to establish rapport with applicants, use a rating scale, take notes, and make informed hiring choices.

Questions should flow from a thorough job analysis that pins down key duties and core skills employees must have to excel in the position.

Open-ended and behavioral questions elicit the most useful responses.The more you can get candidates to elaborate on their experiences and how they would handle various job scenarios, the better you’ll be able to evaluate them.

During the structured portion of the interview, ask all candidates the same questions. That will not only help you treat them fairly, but also will give you comparable information for comparison. At the end of the interview, throw in queries tailored specifically to each candidate to get a better sense of the person.

Document the interview with notes that not only jog the memories of selection committee members, but also provide a paper trail that can help you defend hiring decisions. Such notes should focus more on what applicants say rather than how they say it—unless their behavior is erratic enough to render them unsuitable for employment.

Use some type of rating scale. It can be as simple as rating each candidate as excellent, good, fair, and poor—or it can ask for written evaluations of the job-seeker’s interview performance.

Reach an objective, but informed, decision. Notes and rating scales are tools to help you in the hiring process. After each session, make sure interviewers also discuss the candidate’s responses and qualifications to reach a consensus.

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