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| HOW TO HIRE GOOD EMPLOYEES

Don't Cut Corners in Search for Job Applicants

September 06, 2000|STEPHEN GREGORY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Los Angeles-based PDQ Personnel Services Inc. has been helping businesses find temporary and full-time employees for 21 years. Company President Patty DeDominic recently discussed tips for finding quality employees in a time of tight labor markets.

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Q How can business owners tailor their job descriptions to ensure the right people apply?

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A The first step is to clearly define the responsibilities and objectives of the position you have open. If you're going to build a home, you wouldn't do it without an architectural blueprint. The job description is the blueprint for the position you're trying to fill.

It doesn't have to be overly detailed, but needs to capture the main objectives of the position. Why do you need this position? You need to be absolutely clear about what you want and why. What kind of role do you want this person to fill in your business?

We've had people ask for a receptionist when what they really needed was an administrative assistant. Or a computer systems analyst when what they really needed was a programmer.

Think about what the responsibilities are of an individual who would be successful once the job orientation process is over. The absence of clarity on the goals and the defined roles and responsibilities of a job is one of the key reasons people fail.

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Q How can business owners maximize their search for applicants?

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A lot of times, people will just get a referral from a friend. A lot of great candidates can come from a friend's referral. But in today's climate, where we've got a lifetime low in unemployment, you really want to tap as many sources as you can. That would mean taking out a classified ad and calling the local trade schools, universities and community colleges for candidates. You might use a staffing service. Of course, you should use free job posting boards on the Internet. In California, we have CalJobs (http://www.caljobs.ca.gov), where you can post free job orders.

You do need a couple of people to compare and contrast their skills, capabilities and experiences. It helps if you've taken the time to cast a wide net so you can really see what is out there and feel more confident about your decision.

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Q What can employers do to make sure they get the most out of applicant screenings?

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A They should try to ask applicants many of the same questions. People make the mistake of letting the applicant's background or previous employment history dictate the line of questioning.

If you have a core of 10 to 12 key questions that you ask all the applicants, plus additional ones that are pertinent to the individual, you get a better sense of the applicant pool. What you're doing is screening based upon the criteria that you've developed in the job description.

If you're looking for a bookkeeper, you could ask applicants to describe the types of software and accounting systems they have used. Also ask them how they managed their schedule for closing the books every month and how often they produced profit-and-loss statements. Hiring a bookkeeper who can't get financial statements or payroll taxes done on time, you might as well have not hired anybody.

From those applicants, you can cull a shorter list of three to five that you want to see in person.

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Q How can employers use the interview process to make sure they are picking the right person?

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A In the personal interview, you should have a checklist for things that you're looking for such as experience and/or capabilities that demonstrate the ability to do the job as you've defined it. You're also looking for education and/or experience that would enhance the individual's contribution to your company.

For instance, if I need a bookkeeper, I need somebody who can do QuickBooks, and if they're a [certified public accountant] that might even be better, especially if I'm planning to take my small business up over $1 million in the next few years. So you're breaking it down between "must have," "would be nice to have" and "someone who can really make a major contribution."

Another point, if small businesses are planning on growing, it's good to have employees who have worked in organizations that are two or three times larger than the one you have now. Their experience isn't too oversized for what you're going to need, but at the same time, they've already walked the road you and your growing business are going to need to go down.

During the interview process, you can also give some skills-based tests. In the example of a bookkeeper, you can buy bookkeeping tests or get them from a local community college. Usually the accounting teachers have some tests they can give you. Interview carefully. Ask for real examples of experiences.

Ask them to tell you about a stressful situation in their job and how they dealt with it. Avoid hypothetical questions because almost everybody in the world knows the right thing to do and they'll say it in the interview.

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Q How can you be sure that what people are telling you in an interview is true?

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