August 1, 2011

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Ramping Up

Best Practices for Bringing on New Employees

Gaylen Webb

August 1, 2011

Tera Sunder, chief people officer at Nelson Laboratories, occasionally hires people to work in the company’s “clean room,” a super sterile environment that requires up to an hour to suit up before entry. Inside, team members are isolated for hours. “It’s not the place for an extrovert that needs social interaction,” she says.

Finding people that fit the work environment is often as important as finding the necessary technical skills. “You may have two candidates that are equal in their technical skills, but one candidate hits the nail on the head in terms of fitting into your work culture. That’s the one you want to hire.” Your goal should be to hire the person who has the technical skills and can say to you, “This job is exactly what I am looking for.”

So how do you find and hire a person who has the skills and personality to fit your company culture?

1 START WITH THE JOB DESCRIPTION
Kimberly Barton, HR advisor for the Employers Council, a private nonprofit management resource for businesses, says employers should have clear, written job descriptions for each position. The description should identify the essential job functions, the skills and proficiency levels required, and also describe the work environment—such as how much time the employee will work independently without direction or if the job involves customer contact and for how long.

“Having a written job description provides clarity for the employer and employee,” Barton explains. “You will be more certain about the type of person you are looking for and the description will help you avoid discrimination issues.” Further, she says written job descriptions will help you measure performance.

2 DEFINE THE “EMPLOYEE VALUE PROPOSITION
” What will you propose as the value to the employee so that the hire will be a win-win situation? “What will the employee gain by working for the organization?” Barton asks. Further, be honest with the candidate so he or she can make the right decision, too. “If you sell something the job is not, your employee will leave,” says Sunder.

3 LOOK FOR DIVERSITY
You may be tempted to hire people with personalities similar to yours. Don’t do it—that stifles innovation, says Sunder. Look for people with a broad range of styles and skill sets. There is power in diversity.

4 NETWORK
Before placing help wanted ads, network. “Some of your best people will come from the referrals of people you trust,” Sunder explains. If referrals don’t work, do your research and post your jobs with websites related to your industry to target the audience.

5 SCREEN EACH RESUME
Examine the length of time at each job in the candidate’s employment history and look for longevity. “Not a lot of longevity in a job either means the person wasn’t happy or didn’t have the right skills,” Sunder explains.

“Separate them into two stacks, qualified and non-qualified,” advises Nina Brollier, who recently retired as vice president of human resources for Workers Compensation Fund.

6 CONDUCT PHONE INTERVIEWS FIRST
Broiler says the phone interviews will save you and the applicant time. “The interviews will give you more information and help the candidates better understand the job.”

7 LOOK FOR THE CULTURAL FIT
Ask applicants to describe their ideal work environment and what they are looking for in the workplace, says Sunder. “Speak to what drives your culture.”

8 ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Ask behavior-based and situational questions tied to past performance during the formal interview. For example, Brollier advises interviewers to describe a situation and then ask the candidate, “How have you handled this in the past?”

9 CHECK REFERENCES
“You’d be amazed at the number of people who don’t check references…and the number of people who put things on their resumes expecting that no one will check them,” says Sunder. One trick: If you talk to the applicant’s former manager or an HR person, you’ll likely get little more than what is on the resume. Instead, says Sunder, call the company and ask the person who answers the phone what they can tell you about the person you are considering for hire. “You can catch them off guard and they may spill additional information,” she says. If you don’t get much information on your first attempt, let the applicant do the legwork. “It’s the job applicant that should get you quality references,” she adds.

10 SET THE TONE Sunder says the interview experience should demonstrate how you treat people at your company. “Eliminate distractions. Do the interview in a friendly environment that sets the tone for how the person will feel about your company. Treat them as a guest. Make them feel comfortable and invite them to ask questions.”

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