The perfect match? Featured

12:53pm EDT May 25, 2006
Whether in response to staff retirement, personnel relocation or corporate expansion, all businesspeople eventually need to add or replace staff. Seeking, screening and interviewing candidates, then selecting new hires is an arduous process. That’s because — when it comes to making new hires — the stakes are high.

“Hiring the wrong person can cost an estimated two times the employee’s salary in lost production, morale and training,” says Polly Knox, manager in the HR Placement and Consulting Division of SS&G Financial Services, a Cleveland/Northeast Ohio-based comprehensive accounting, business consulting and management firm.

Smart Business spoke with Knox to learn how employers can recruit prospective new hires, identify appropriate candidates and choose the one best suited to the job and the workplace culture.

How can managers search for employment candidates?
Very little is done with print advertising searches. Instead, professional associations and networking with others in comparable fields can be useful candidate resources. Online job search engines are also a good option. To avoid getting 450 resumes, write ads seeking a person with the specific experience and skill sets required for the job.

Once appropriate resumes are submitted, what are the next steps?
After a resume review, choose those candidates who appear appropriate on paper and contact each for a 10- or 15-minute telephone interview. Ask ‘self-ejecting’ questions such as those about a specific skill set or experience level. Also, ask about current or most recent salary. Above all, listen to the person’s tone of voice and manner of speaking on the phone. Ask yourself, ‘Do I want to meet this person?’ Of the people chosen for a telephone interview, it is generally possible to choose at least three to five candidates to invite for a face-to-face interview.

The person conducting the interview should understand the goal of the interview, the company’s personnel needs, the culture of the office and the style of the person managing the new employee. Interviews should last about one hour and be conducted at the workplace.

How can employers conduct an effective in-person interview?
A good interview has a format: a beginning, middle and an end. It begins with an introduction that sets the stage for the interview by explaining to the candidate that he or she will be asked a number of questions, and at the end of the interview, will be able to ask his or her own questions.

The middle of the interview should be designed to learn what measurable skill sets the candidate possesses, and what kind of workplace cultures he or she has been in previously.

The interviewer should ask open-ended questions that discourage yes or no answers. But don’t be too broad by requesting a candidate to ‘tell me about yourself.’ Ask specific questions about skill sets, education and experience that reflect the candidate’s past experiences and reactions to workplace events.

You should also ask behavioral questions. The theory behind behavioral questioning is that past behavior is a predictor of future behavior. For example, if your workplace has a strict 8-to-5 workday, or the manager has a micro-management style, ask the candidate for a specific example of when he worked in that kind of environment, and how he felt about it.

How should an interview end?
It is the interviewer’s job to let the candidate know the interview is completed. Ask questions to learn what the candidate has learned about the workplace, the position and the company’s culture. Then allow him or her to ask questions.

How should employers follow up after interviews?
Background checks should be performed on all candidates on your hiring short list. Check motor vehicle record, credit, education and criminal records. All these investigations may be performed by an outside service able to quickly access resources. Results can generally be presented within 72 hours.

Company CEOs or CFOs are effective in obtaining necessary information for the higher level positions in their companies. When one CEO is talking to another, he or she’s going to be more candid with a peer than with an HR person or someone on another management level.

On average, how long does the hiring process take?
Typically, between 20 an 30 hours to source, screen, interview and select qualified candidates. Often, someone within the organization is performing the task in addition to doing his or her own, unrelated job. Companies can hire search professionals who charge a percentage fee (up to a third of the starting salary) to conduct the screening and interviewing process for them.

How can employers fill critical positions during the hiring process?
Employers can fill critical positions during the hiring process by temporarily hiring a person. Someone with lots of experience who may have lost a job through a merger or buyout can be productive right away. Also, establishing a good rapport with a temporary employment agency is a good idea.

In long-term hiring, employers should understand that 80 percent of hiring success lies in the fit of the candidate within the organization and its culture There are not short cuts to finding the right person for the job.

POLLY KNOX is a manager in the HR Placement and Consulting Division of SS&G Financial Services. Reach her at (800) 869-1834 or