Employees are the backbone of any company. They can affect a bottom line as much as any market force outside your company. That’s why, it’s critical to find employees who complement your organization. But, before a newly-hired employee can start the job, you first have to develop a solid job description, wade through a stack of resumes, and conduct numerous interviews. So, we spoke with two experienced professionals to give you their take on the hiring process, as well as some tips and tricks to stay on task.
Meet the Experts
Christine Langley is the Director of Organizational Development for a defense contractor. She’s been an HR professional for over two decades and has overseen the hiring of as many as 75 new employees in a single year.
Mary Napier is the founder and owner of Napier Executive Search, an employment search firm specializing in higher education positions. Her company’s website routinely posts new openings for vice presidents, executive directors, and deans for colleges and universities. She has over 30 years of experience in the higher education field.
Think of It as an Investment
The hiring process can take a lot of time and money. According to research conducted by Glassdoor, it takes an average of 24 days to hire a new employee. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) puts the average hiring time at 42 days.
Langley says, that due to the technical nature of many of her job openings, she estimates it can take the company as long as 60 to 90 days to fill a position. But, there’s another reason it takes her company such a long time when hiring new employees: government contracts. “As a federal contractor, we need to make sure to keep our job postings up long enough to get the word out to diverse audiences,” Langley says. “We have to ensure that all qualified applicants receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin citizenship, disability or protected veteran status.”
Napier’s hiring time frame is also above-average. Due to the experience and educational requirements for these positions, Napier estimates the entire hiring process can take 90 to 120 days—or more—to find the right fit for one of her positions.
Hiring a new employee can also be an expensive proposition. The same SHRM study found the average cost to hire a new employee is over $4,000. And considering that both Langley and Napier have longer hiring time frames, it’s safe to assume the cost to fill their positions is substantially higher.
Expert Advice about the Hiring Process
Given the amount of time and energy you put into hiring an employee, it’s imperative that you make the right choice. Here are some tips from Langley and Napier that can help you find the cream of the crop:
Define the position
Langley recommends you start with a clear vision for the position in the job description. “Having the job well-defined in advance helps us to know what a successful candidate will look like, and it allows the candidate to decide if they’re interested in the job,” she says.
Napier finds that quality applicants come from constantly developing relationships over time. “Each conversation with a potential candidate may lead to a deeper understanding of the strengths and distinctive skills that person possesses,” she says. “Then it’s just a matter of matching a candidate with a position.”
Stay ahead of the game
Don’t wait until you have an opening to think clearly about what type of people prosper in your organization. Napier recounts a discussion she had with a retail manager years ago. “The manager told me she constantly had in mind three to five people she would hire,” Napier states. Since turnover in the retail industry is a constant, she could immediately reach out to those individuals and quickly fill her position. “Know your organization, and keep looking for people who will make your organization even better,” Napier says.
Ask the right questions
Just like the candidate should do his research, a good interviewer should also come prepared. Langley isn’t a fan of having a set list of questions to ask every person. “I work through their resume in reverse chronological order asking them about specifics for line items that stand out to me at each juncture in their career,” she says. “Resumes are filled with platitudes and vague generalities. I drill down on these and ask, ‘How did you go about this?’ and ‘What did this entail?’ You would be surprised at how many people can’t speak to their own resume.” She feels this line of questioning really fleshes out the depth of skill applied in the specific scenarios.
After Langley has talked through the candidate’s resume, she’ll then move on to asking them specific questions from the job description. This includes talking about scenarios related to the position and industry to find out how they would cope with certain situations. “This process can easily fill an hour or more of time and leads to a very in-depth conversation where the candidate is asking me questions as well,” Langley says.
Heed the warning signs
There are a couple clues that Langley and Napier find concerning about a candidate. Langley says, “The biggest red flag for me is when a candidate speaks negatively about a former employer. Their story may be very convincing, but you can be sure that they’ll soon be talking negatively about your organization.”
Napier finds that ‘I’ statements are a red flag to her. Since she is often charged with finding strong managers, examples of teamwork can set a candidate apart. Another troubling sign for Napier is when a candidate can’t give specific instances of accomplishments. “The person may be able to speak philosophically about the work or ‘best practices,’ but he or she can’t provide me with concrete examples of how and what they’ve achieved,” Napier states.
Identify the star performers
The experts have several clues they look for in a candidate that can predict success in a position. Napier finds that curiosity is a key aspect of stellar employees. “Star candidates ask pointed and imaginative questions about the work, goals, and challenges of the job,” Napier says. She is also impressed with candidates who talk about their successes in a humble manner, but capture the essence of their accomplishments.
Langley finds that star performers take responsibility for their own careers and develop learning goals to meet the demand of the job. “They’re constantly looking for ways they can add value to an organization before they’re asked,” she says. Napier agrees: “The ability and inclination to work until the work is done always impresses me,” she says.
Finally, both recruiting professionals have found others in their field to be invaluable resources. Langley says one piece of advice she’s found helpful is to cast a wide net. “Many times, I’ve had a hiring manager who had a candidate in mind, but after going through the process, they end up finding someone more qualified for the job,” she states. Napier says some of the best advice she’s received is to hire individuals who can add a different perspective and voice to the organization, then honor each voice in the team.
Share Your Expertise
These are the tips our experts shared. We’d love to hear some of the ways you find the best employees. What’s your advice for identifying and hiring the best person for the job?
Scott Schrecengost is a freelance writer based out of Central Florida. Formerly from Pennsylvania, Scott settled in the Sunshine State and promptly landed a job at Walt Disney World, where he met his wife Bethanne. After graduating Magna cum Laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Advertising/Public Relations, Scott and his wife spent a year teaching English in South Korea.
In addition to his freelance writing, Scott enjoys cooking, gardening, and other manly endeavors. He is an avid environmentalist, having traveled several times to Guatemala to support the Alliance for International Reforestation, planting trees and building fuel-efficient wood stoves. In his spare time, you can find Scott with his wife, two kids, two dogs, three cats, and six chickens.