Lisa Panarello, Founder and President of Careers Advance, a full service, New York-based Center for Professional Development, consults with small businesses, hiring managers and recruiters to help them with their HR functions and needs.
One of those areas of expertise revolves around hiring smart.
Panarello, also a career coach and trainer, discusses 9 Steps to Preventing Turnover by Hiring Smart. She breaks this down into three phases:
- Phase I – pre-interview
- Phase II – mid-interview
- Phase III – post-interview
Here are Panarello’s tips:
PHASE I: PRE-INTERVIEW
STEP 1: TRULY ASSESS YOUR HIRING NEEDS
Too often new employees are hired and then quickly let go due to lack of projected work/sales or unexpected company reorganization. Take the time to understand where your business is now and where you want it to go. Then consider why you are hiring. Is it to support local or regional growth, penetrate new markets, expand e-commerce, build global presence, repair failing operations, improve profitability, redirect business? Finally, with your team, determine what you really need from your new hire and whether the expectations are reasonable (will you need more than one staff to handle the job?).
STEP 2: CREATE ENGAGING, DETAILED JOB DESCRIPTIONS
Many postings are tiresome, ambiguous and redundant. Make yours exciting, clear and efficient. First, spark interest by describing your company’s mission, strengths, expertise, environment and culture in a way that will attract the type of talent you want. Next, be open about why you are hiring (from tip 1) and the impact your new hire will have on this goal. Create immediate buy-in to your vision. Then, provide a macro view of the role and micro bullet list of responsibilities, education/skill requirements (in descending order of importance), and character preferences. Finish off with a ‘call to action’ closing.
Lastly, have your team proofread the posting. It’s the only way to know if it’s clear, concise, accurate and stimulating.
STEP 3: CONDUCT GROUNDBREAKING PHONE SCREENINGS
Once you’ve narrowed down the candidate pool through résumé scans and cover letter reviews (yes, read cover letters – they can offer additional/unique insights), consider scheduling 10-15 minute phone interviews with top 10 choices. Outside of ‘tell me about yourself’ ask three to five key questions that would make or break your decision on this candidate. Listen to the words and the voice – what and how they answer. If someone other than the hiring manager is handling the phone screening, make sure they fully understand the position needs and take notes of the call. As a team, decide to move the candidate on to the next round going by your facts – and your gut feeling.
“Invest in the interviewing process and hire smart,” says Panarello. “You’ll reduce turnover and increase business.”
PHASE II: MID-INTERVIEW
STEP 4: EXPECT CANDIDATE INITIATIVE
You certainly want to ask lots of situational/behavioral questions to tap into the candidate’s mindset and validate all they claimed on their résumé, cover letter and phone screening. However, if you really want to know if this is the ‘right’ candidate, expect unsolicited information and questions from them. Listen up to see if the candidate offers company, market and competitive knowledge and, more importantly, asks intelligent questions about your company, position and staff (those beyond what can be found on your website). Also, take stock in a candidate’s ability to ‘prove’ their case with examples and visual aids (portfolios can be scale-tipping decision tools). Do you want someone who wants a ‘job’ or someone who wants a ‘position of impact’? Candidates should treat you like a customer and take the initiative to identify your needs and present a solution—their case for consideration.
STEP 5: CONDUCT BROAD IMPACT MEETINGS AND OFFICE TOURS
Consider which staff this position will interact with the most (including executive, management and support personnel) and arrange interviews with as many as possible. This could be in the form of multiple individual, group, teleconference or Skype meetings (or combination thereof). When you’ve narrowed down your candidate pool to a short list, consider walking them around the office, plant, store. Continue asking questions (and expecting questions) to gauge their response to the workplace. Engaging multiple team members in this process will allow you to get a broad perspective of the candidate’s fit according to you and your current staff’s needs.
“Personalities matter,” says Panarello. “Schedule off-site lunches to see how candidates speak over a meal, interact with the community and behave in business-casual settings. Look for a good balance between professionalism and social skills, such as respect and sense of humor.”
STEP 6: IMPLEMENT LUNCH AND LEARNS
Quite simply: “Personalities matter,” says Panarello. “Schedule off-site lunches to see how candidates speak over a meal, interact with the community and behave in business-casual settings. Look for a good balance between professionalism and social skills, such as respect and sense of humor.”
STEP 7: SET UP TEST CASES/’NO PAY FOR A DAY’ SCENARIOS
Take your evaluation process to the next level. Depending on your type of business and hiring needs, you can choose from a wide variety of cognitive, integrity, personality and/or physical ability tests (some are available for free, but it may be worth contracting a qualified test administrator/evaluator). Another
option, give your candidates a job-related assignment/project with broad or specific parameters to test their listening, comprehension and time management skills, assess creativity and problem-solving talents and analyze overall results, including production quality. If you really want to see your candidates in action, ask them to work at your place of business for a day. Any one of these strategies can broaden the scope of your evaluation and provide a deeper look at your candidates’ immediate and long-term value.
PHASE III: POST-INTERVIEW
STEP 8: CREATE COMPARISON CHECKLISTS
Hiring is like making a big purchasing decision. Compare your options point for point. When you’re down to your top 2-3 candidates, review your team notes and assess ALL elements of each candidate. Create a ‘hard checklist’ of their education level, years of relevant experience, years of complementary experience, proficiency level of transferable skill sets (technical/functional/language) and track record of results. Then create a ‘soft checklist’ with a rating scale that compares their self-managing character traits you seek, such as creative, logical, easy going, responsible, assertive, ability to learn, funny, etc.
“If your candidates are a close match in all these regards, poll your team for final thoughts,” says Panarello.
As in Step 3, make a decision on your facts and your gut. And always remember, just like that big purchase, you get what you pay for, which leads us to the final step in the ‘hiring smart’ process:
STEP 9: CHOOSE QUALITY OVER PRICE
Ready to make your big purchase? Don’t jump at the cheaper hire just to save a buck. If you value youthful energy and social marketing skills and have the time to train on all operations, then go ahead with the recent graduate. But before you dismiss mature or return-to-work professional, review your hiring needs (Step 1). When you’re ready to make an offer, consider all that is within your power to negotiate and create a list of each element in your available compensation package. Salary may be on top as it is the biggest concern for both sides of the table. However, if you have no wiggle room on this figure and you want to secure this ‘candidate of choice’ you’ll need other elements to entice their employment. Here are some low/no cost examples: Annual bonus, stock option, 401K match, company cell phone, partial tuition reimbursement or professional development/training, premium parking space, weekly meal or commuting allowance, windowed office, flexible work schedule, work-from-home days, extra vacation, daycare assistance and so on.
Make sure you and your ‘new hire’ are on the same page about everything, including start date, job expectations, workplace location, percentage of travel, people leadership, ad hoc responsibilities, entire compensation package and more. If any changes have been made during the course of interview/negotiating, modify the job description/offer and have everyone sign off.