By Jan Allison
One of the greatest challenges of a small business owner is hiring employees. Once you’ve determined that your business can financially sustain a new employee, you are faced with the daunting task of the application and interview process. Questions come to mind, such as “What should my application include?” and “How can I tell if my applicants meet certain qualifications?”
After 12 years of hiring and firing employees for my own small businesses, I have finally landed on a hiring process that has a proven track record of success.
What qualities should my employees have? At Nu, we like to say “We want to exceed your expectations.” Expectations cannot be met or exceeded if they are not first explained clearly. Begin by clearly outlining the job description. If you’re not sure where to begin, start by creating a list of what tasks this person must do. Next, review this description to identify the exact qualifications your new employee must possess. There will be qualities that are obvious, but also identify the ones that are out of the ordinary for this position.
For example, when we were reviewing the qualifications needed for our Client Relation
Specialist position, we identified two unique needs. (1) We rely on this person to write hand-written notes, so legible writing is important. (2) Math skills and money handling are also critical to be successful in this position.
Now that I know the skill set required, how do I test it? Think outside the box when finding ways to ensure candidates have the skills you need. Legible handwriting had an easy solution for us – we just asked for a sample. But the money handling and math skills required a bit more. I created six word problems to include in our application that were relevant to the daily tasks of this position. Adding math problems became the first step in reviewing applications. If the math is wrong, I didn’t need to review any further.
• Following Directions
A successful employee must be able to follow directions. Therefore, our application process includes well-thought out ‘mini’ tests that aren’t obvious to the applicant. We only accept applicants through our online application that includes uploading a resume and handwriting sample, which will show computer knowledge. Many questions are left to answer free form to provide a glimpse into writing skills and grammar. Upon completion, applicants are asked not to contact us directly, that we will follow up with them. Little things, but they still provide a glimpse into an applicant’s ability to follow directions.
• Scheduling an Interview
Once we narrowed the applicants, we contact them through email to set up an appointment,
which once again shows computer skills. But we also add another mini test for following
directions. We ask applicants to Reply All with their response. It is simply amazing how many people miss this simple direction, which shows a lack of attention to the small details.
• The Interview and Hiring
Our actual interview process is less structured and more fluid. We have a list of questions that we follow, but prefer to have a more open-ended conversation. A potential employee’s fit with our team is the most critical factor in making our final decision. We often follow our gut when making the hiring decision from this point, but we have the luxury of doing so because the well-planned application has already identified the cream of the crop.
As a company, we believe that we should be “slow to hire and quick to fire.” Someone once told me that, “If you have to fire someone, it is often because you hired the wrong person or did not invest in the proper training.” Hiring and training someone takes significant time and can cost a company valuable productivity if not done well the first time. If you need to hire someone (even if you needed them to start yesterday), my best advice is: slow the process down and take the time to invest in the process at the beginning. It will be WELL worth it!
If your company needs to hire someone and would like us to create a digital version of your application to post online, give us a call.
Jan Allison is a monthly contributing writer to Forsyth Woman. Jan has a passion for helping small businesses succeed. Each month’s articles will focus on different topics important to local business owners. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, please send her an email at email@example.com.