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Avoid 5 common hiring mistakes:

April 24, 2006

Small-business owners struggle every day to find adequate time to address key business issues. Not surprisingly, when a hiring need arises, whether from growth or turnover, a business owner's time-or lack thereof-is a major factor in the success or failure of the initiative.

Bad hires take a toll on an owner's time and emotional energy, the company's overall productivity, and customer/supplier relationships. It is better to invest adequate time in the hiring process to ensure a good hire than to pay the painful cost of a bad hire.

Increase your odds of a successful hire by avoiding the following pitfalls:

1. Failure to define the position

If you don't know what you need, how are you going to find it?

Identify key responsibilities for the position and then build a required skill set around these responsibilities. Don't get bogged down by a complete list of tasks.

Identify the top 4-5 job responsibilities most essential to the position.

Define a behavioral style that best fits the position.

Set performance goals to measure the employee's success.

2. Failure to write compelling ads

Create a marketing message to target your ideal candidate.

Draft job ads that compel applicants to respond. They must be able to envision themselves in the job. Incorporate words reflecting the behavioral style or attributes you are seeking. Write the ad from the perspective of "What's in it for them?" Job ads that effectively answer the following questions increase your chances of attracting top performers: What will I do? With whom will I work? What will I learn? What will I accomplish? What will I earn?

3. Failure to create a career site

One of your most effective recruiting tools is your corporate career site. Just as prospective customers evaluate your company with a visit to your Web site, so do prospective employees. To attract top performers, it is critical to promote your employer brand and your career opportunities on your Web site. Review your Web site and ask yourself the following questions: Do you have a "Careers" button on your home page? Does your "Careers" button direct candidates to an information page that answers the question, "Why would I want to work here?" Does your Web site provide a listing of available job opportunities? Can a candidate view specific details about each available job? Can candidates apply for specific positions on your Web site?

4. Failure to screen candidates

People like to work with people they like or with people like themselves. But hiring solely on the "likeability" factor can be a serious mistake. Be sure the people you hire match both the skills and behavioral profile you have designed for the position. Candidates must not only be "able" to perform the job, they must also be "willing" to do the job. Research each promising candidate through pre-screening questionnaires, phone interviews and a multi-stage interview process. Once you finish the interview process and identify a top candidate, it is highly advisable to do the following before extending an offer: Check references. Run a background check. Conduct skills-based testing. Perform behavioral assessments.

5. Failure to treat candidates like you would customers

First impressions are important. A relationship begins the first time an individual communicates with your company as an applicant. If the hiring process is performed well, a trusting relationship builds. If applicants are treated poorly; they may assume employees are treated the same way-and may share their assumptions with others. Be considerate: Respond promptly to candidate inquiries about their status in the hiring process. Be respectful: Don't be late, forget, or reschedule interviews. Be honest: Don't oversell the position responsibilities or the candidate's income potential. If you follow all these steps, you'll be in good shape to avoid costly hiring mistakes.



Clifford owns Indianapolis-based Safari Solutions, an HR consulting firm focused on small- to mid-sized businesses. She can be reached at clifford@safarisolutions.com.
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