Recruit new employees as you would find customers: HR expert

BY BOB MIODONSKI OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF ST. PETE BEACH, FLA. What your company does while recruiting and interviewing prospective employees is critical to successful hiring, Eileen Levitt told Quality Service Contractors Feb. 25 during QSC's Power Meeting here. In fact, before hiring anyone, a contractor should focus on the job to be filled, not the person who will fill it. Levitt told contractors

BY BOB MIODONSKI
OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF

ST. PETE BEACH, FLA. — What your company does while recruiting and interviewing prospective employees is critical to successful hiring, Eileen Levitt told Quality Service Contractors Feb. 25 during QSC's Power Meeting here.

In fact, before hiring anyone, a contractor should focus on the job to be filled, not the person who will fill it. Levitt told contractors to create a job description that includes: needed qualifications, education, skills and experience ; title and purpose; essential functions and responsibilities; future outlook for promotion; and physical and mental demands of the job.

She compared recruiting to finding customers.

"Can you attract all your desired customers by using one sales technique?" she asked. "You can't bring in all employees with one method of recruiting. Advertising and recruiting are expensive. Hiring the wrong person is substantially more expensive."

Levitt, who is president of Baltimore-based consultant The HR Team, suggested that QSC members create a budget for recruiting as they would for any other marketing or sales initiative. In marketing to prospective employees as they would for new customers, contractors should keep in mind what makes their organization different and why.

"Is it hours, pay, flexibility or reputation? Tell people!" she said. "Think of something that makes you different, or you will look like everyone else."

About 50% of applicants should come from referrals of employees or through word of mouth, if a contractor operates a company that people want to work for. Some companies recruit through direct mail, although Levitt cautioned this method could be expensive and should be done carefully.

"If you use direct mail, your letter has to be amazing and even the envelope is important," she said. "Make sure you send it to a prospect's home address, or you will get an angry call from your competitor yelling at you."

Other recruiting avenues that can be costly include headhunters, temporary labor agencies and newspaper ads. She said that more companies are posting job openings online at Craigslist.com, which can be free or cost $25, depending on the locale.

"It's one of the best values out there," Levitt said. "An entire generation looks for everything there."

Other less expensive places to recruit include schools, unions and job fairs as well as advertising on trucks, restaurant placemats and in fliers.

Before bringing the prospect in for an interview, she suggested contractors call the person on the phone. If the person doesn't sound like a good fit, there's no point in doing the interview.

"Ask five questions about things like compensation and transportation," she said. "Ask each applicant the same questions consistently."

During the interview, an employers wants to find out whether the person can do the job as well as other details. These include: the person's reason for changing employers; how much training and supervision are required; the person's career path and job history; the ability to handle stress; and whether the person will thrive in the company's work culture.

Two types of interview questions can help get this information. Situational questions use the person's experience as an indicator of future behavior. Self-appraisal questions require the person to describe what it is about himself that makes him act in a certain way.

Contractors should be aware of "problem answers" to these questions, Levitt said. For example, a prospect who says, "I have no problem doing ..." is less preferable than the candidate who answers, "I would enjoy doing ... ." Also, someone who describes himself as a "people person" may be a gossip and spend a lot of time chatting, she said.

Contractors have to be careful in their choice of words too, she said, in order to avoid legal risks. For example, instead of asking a candidate, "Have you been arrested?" they should ask, "Have you been convicted of a crime?" Rather than ask, "Do you have a valid driver's license?" they should ask, "May I see your driver's license and verify it?"

Even prospects who do well in inter-views should be investigated. She said she is a big fan of background checks and checking references.

Once they have decided to hire someone, contractors should send a letter to the candidate to communicate the basics of the position, salary, starting date and other pertinent details.

It is a good idea, by the way, to send letters to candidates who did not get the job.

"They could be your customer one day," she said, "or have a cousin or an uncle who is a customer."