Hiring Right Starts Here!

I was recently speaking with a friend about hiring and orienting staff for her small business.  It’s very expensive to hire someone if you look at the time it takes, the lost revenue while you have a vacancy, the likelihood that you or someone else has to fill in and do the work while you’re looking for the new person.  Then, when you hire someone they’re never up to speed immediately – even if they’re fully qualified.  You still have to orient them to your workplace and wait for them to learn your routines.  Depending on the job, that could take a few days or a few years. 

There are a number of things you can do to minimize the difficulty of hiring and orientation and maximize the chance that the person will work out in the long run.  In my next few blog entries I’ll talk about some of these.  Today I’m going to start with the first step: really, carefully defining the job behaviors (demonstrated knowledge, skills, abilities and personal characteristics) it takes to excel in the position. 

For a smaller workplace, the best way I know of to do that is to think about the ideal person in that job, and then to write down the job behaviors that person would demonstrate above all others.  If the best gardener you ever met just became the crew chief, consider the job behaviors that made that person the best.  Better yet – talk with them and ask what made them the best.  If you’ve never known the ideal gardener and you need to hire one, imagine how that person behaves on the job and write that down.  

Before you start looking at applications or resumes you’ll first want to define any absolute requirements.  These may not help you find the ideal person, but they will screen out those who simply cannot do the job.  For example, the gardener may need to drive your company truck – and therefore needs to have a regular or commercial driver’s license and meet your insurance company’s standards.  

Once you’ve defined the absolutes, proceed to list out the job behaviors that that incredible gardener has.  A list of some of these behaviors might include:

  • Demonstrates plant knowledge by picking appropriate plants for a wide variety of different settings.
  • Demonstrates gardening skill by correctly planting and caring for a wide variety of plants.
  • Actively listens to customers. 
  • Explains attributes of different plants so that the customer understands.
  • Arrives at the job early with all the necessary tools.

 Note that all of these are observable job behaviors.  You don’t need an exhaustive list of everything a gardener does, just a list of those things that that really special person will have above all others.  I’ve not listed things like, “Good attitude,” or “Does quality work” because these are not behaviors.  If these are critical, figure out what the behavior looks like and list that.  For instance, “Good  attitude” might mean “Completes a large quantity of work in a day” or “Establishes positive relationships with difficult co-workers.”  Turn those fuzzy statements into behaviors to help you really define what you’re looking for. 

Most employers begin the hiring process by posting a job somewhere and then reviewing applications or resumes.  This isn’t ideal, but it is often the reality (for a better approach check out the work of JoBehaviors).  Some of the behaviors you listed above may be hard to detect in a standard application, resume or cover letter.  You might have to screen the applications on some very general background (like gardening and landscaping experience or education for our gardener), and then hone into what you really want to know during the interview and in reference checks.  In future blog posts I’ll address those. 

Have you experienced some challenges hiring the right person for the job?  Please share them, and tell us what you did about them.  ~ Daphne Schneider

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