In today's tight labor market, it's very tempting to hire the first person that walks through the door, even if he or she is barely qualified for the job.
But don't do it, no matter how long you've been trying to fill the position.
"The smaller you are, and the fewer employees you have, the more important it is to hire the right person," says DeAnne Rosenberg, author of "Hiring the Best Person for Every Job."
To find the right person, start by ignoring most of what is on the resumes you receive.
"The resume is virtually a nonplayer," says Rosenberg. "Resumes can be very misleading. Candidates say they have a familiarity with computers. What does that mean -- they've seen one? They say they worked very closely with the buyer. What does that mean -- they had a desk down the hall from them?"
Candidates put forth on a resume only the information they want you to know. Before you hire, have a long conversation with yourself and determine what skills you need in a person to fill that position.
"Get some clarity about your expectations," says Rosenberg. "For most jobs, there are only five major areas you need specific results in, with the rest not being as important. Pull each one apart and determine what you regard as satisfactory performance. Then, figure out, in order to meet those expectations, what skills will the person need. Your interview questions should target those competencies."
Don't make the mistake of falling back on cliches for your interview questions, because there are cliche answers that go with them. The entire interview will be on autopilot and you'll learn nothing.
"You want a match between the candidate's goals and what you need for your business," says Rosenberg. "It has to be a partnership where the candidate is helping you achieve your company goals while you help them with their career goals. You can't motivate people who have no goals, so don't hire them.
"You want people who want to expand their knowledge, because then you have the basis for a partnership."
If you have your expectations listed in advance and work off of those, you are working off a set foundation and can keep the interview focused on the aspects that are important. If you are working off the resume, you're working off the moving target that the candidate has prepared and you've lost control.
If you panic and fill a position with the wrong person, you can alienate your other employees and end up with more open positions. If the person hired isn't pulling his or her weight, and the manager simply reassigns work to other employees to make up for it, you may find that the employees picking up the extra work are heading for the nearest exit.
"There are two main reasons people leave work: They either don't like the way they are being managed or the work is boring and nonchallenging," says Rosenberg.
Being a smaller company isn't necessarily a disadvantage in the job market. Emphasize that employees will never be a number in your business and that they will have many more opportunities to grow because they are expected to perform many tasks. Also, don't give up on people who have left the company.
"You never know how the new job will work out," says Rosenberg. "Keep in touch with them by sending them birthday cards and tell them they are missed. It's always nice to know you are wanted, and it's hard for a person to admit they made a mistake by leaving.
"This way, they don't have to, and you won't have to train them." How to reach: DeAnne Rosenberg, www.managementsense.com
Todd Shryock (firstname.lastname@example.org) is SBN's special reports editor.