The right stuff

Forget about headhunters and staffing firms, Jim Sexton believes in one degree of separation when it comes to hiring.

Sexton, founder, president and CEO of ready-to-assemble furniture manufacturer Z-Line Designs Inc., says you need to ask employees and industry contacts for referrals in order to get the best pool of candidates in front of you.

From there, it’s asking a little bit about their past and, more importantly, how they can help you in the future.

“These are really direct questions,” Sexton says. “‘Can you do this? When? How?’ It’s just like boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. We want to know right now what can you do, what can you do fast. I think a lot of other corporations and people that I talk to it’s more of a, ‘Where have you been to school, and what have you been doing, what was your job like?’ and that type of thing.”

Smart Business spoke to Sexton, who has 250 employees, about how to hire the best person for the job.

Use your resources to network. I’ve been in the furniture business for probably 30 years or more. So when you’re in this industry you sort of meet people over the years that you’ve respected that are sharp people.

We go out there. We’re looking for people that are related to the industry that we can plug into something immediately.

There are two big problems if you’re going out looking for people, and these are two horrendous problems. No. 1 is if you go out and you just go to an agency and hire someone. If you’re in my world where designs and customers and everything that we’re doing, you have to be so protected about. So, when someone brings me someone in here, I want to know what they can do for me tomorrow and what (they can) do for me right now. Tell me about what’s going to happen here.

Then, the second part is you have to learn to have a level of trust with this person because once you open that door to your business, that door is wide open and they’re going to see how you operate this business.

You can’t just hire someone just because you go to an agency and they say, ‘Oh, well, we know these people and they’re a really smart person, and send them in here, and let someone else hire them.’ It doesn’t work that way in my opinion.

What I try to do is reach out around my world with my wife, with anybody that’s in my world, and say, ‘OK, we need someone to do this job. Does anybody have any ideas?’ What we’re trying to do, again, is pull from the people that are inside this world. We’re looking for people that we know a little bit about, we don’t want to hire people just off the shelf because we’ve tried that and, quite honestly, they’ve bombed two or three different times.

Go to everybody in your building and say, ‘Look, we’re looking for a such and such; got any ideas?’ That’s a lot stronger because the people there know a certain person, a certain idea, a certain guy or girl, whatever, and that brings you strength with it so you can say, ‘OK, here’s kind of putting your neck on the line that you know this person.’ That’s very, very important.