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Recruiting, Selecting and Hiring Someone
One of the most significant decisions any employer makes is to hire someone as a "permanent" employee. Remember:You must have just the right number, type, and cost structure of people so that your two-legged costs don't create a profit problem for your
While your business may be different in terms of how you "account" for things, you need to determine if you can afford to hire a new person without negatively affecting your bottom line. Here is some food for thought in terms of how you might evaluate whether or not it makes sense for you to add someone to your staff. You need to answer this question BEFORE you spend a lot of time and money on recruiting, selecting and hiring a new employee.
Can You Afford to Add to Your Staff?
Assume you want to hire a good Customer Service Representative. The base salary cost (we'll talk about how you determine this later in this article) for this person is $28,000 per year and let's assume you are spending 25% of base salary for employer taxes and benefits.
The point is obvious, but just to reinforce it, do not make the decision to add someone to your staff lightly. When you make this decision, please understand that if you get it wrong, you have just committed your business to substantially increasing its annual revenues to cover the cost of the new hire. From a business perspective if you are going add a person, the "true cost" to your business in terms of additional revenues is somewhere between 4 and 20 times more than their annual salary and benefits. To make a good new hire decision, be prepared to invest a lot of your own personal/quality time and effort so that you "get it right," as it could cost your business a lot if you get it wrong.
This article will focus on the key topics that encompass hiring a new employee:
Clearly Define What You Need and Want
This is probably the most important step in the new hire process as you will come back to this description/definition for all the steps you will take to make a new hire decision. When you have a minimum of thirty minutes (it may take more) of uninterruptible time, find a quiet spot, take some blank paper, and briefly summarize the major duties of the job and then make a list of everything you might possibly want in your new hire. This should be a free-flowing list (like brainstorming) that you then can go back to and consolidate throwing out things that, in retrospect, weren't that important, etc.
To help you get started, here's an example of a final description and "wants" list for a customer
Customer Service/Help Representative (example)(example)
Major Duties Description
"Using mainly the telephone and the Internet, answers inquiries from prospective customers regarding our products and services, including cost and availability; takes customers' orders and processes them through our sales information system; collects and enters customer data into the sales information system database; processes the necessary documentation in order to correct billing errors; and may answer basic questions from customers encountering problems in the application of our products/services."
List of "Things" I Want in Applicants for Customer Service Position
You might also identify something that you really want but may not find many applicants with this particular attribute. It is also okay to keep items on your wish list that you might otherwise rule out because you never know-you might get lucky. When listing these attributes on the applicable media that you choose to use for recruiting purposes, you might note it this way:
"Highly Desirable" - Previous experience with a company offering similar products/services and serving the same customer base as our Company. (Note: If this were part of an advertisement, you would describe those items-your products, services and customer base in sufficient detail so that the applicants can determine if they meet this "highly desirable" requirement.)
Determining a "Fair Market Rate" for a Position
Establishing a competitive and affordable "market rate" has to take into consideration two major factors - internal and external comparisons.
For the internal comparisons, you should have both an intuitive sense of where the new position fits in terms of its relative value vis-à-vis your current employees. You might ask yourself this question: "If I pay this new Customer Service position $28,000/yr. will my people perceive this as fair versus their pay, especially those employees whose current pay is slightly higher and those whose pay is slightly lower?" This "bracketing" will give you a good range of what would be internally acceptable.
For external comparisons, you are trying to make sure you set the "recruiting" salary at a point that is attractive for job seekers. You can get at this external information a number of ways. At your next gathering, ask your fellow small business owners what they are paying their people for similar positions. You can also check the local job ads (newspaper and on-line) for similar advertised positions. Other sources of information are available online by searching on "competitive salaries for positions" or gathering information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Two things to remember: first, the applicant to whom
you offer a position will be looking beyond the base salary and
will view compensation as pay, benefits, commute time/costs, and
whether he/she thinks there is a good personality/value "fit"
with your company. Secondly, labor-market dynamics will change
what turns out to be an "attractive" compensation package. When
the unemployment rate is twice the "normal" rate because of a
recession, there tend to be more applicants than normal, so it
becomes a buyer's market rather than a seller's market.
Decide How You Will Find/Attract the "Right" Applications
The objective in recruiting is to find the "right" applicant as quickly as possible while spending the least amount of time and money to do so. To accomplish this, you first need to prepare a brief "Position Requirements Description" that you can give to people so they know what you are looking for as you fill this need. Using the same Customer Service Representative example again, here's what such a description might look like:
Customer Service Representative Position Requirements (example)
This position answers inquiries regarding products/services, their cost and availability, processes orders, resolves billing problems, and answers basic product/service application questions. The position requires someone who has two to three years of prior Customer Service experience and a personality and attitude that is customer friendly. Successful applicants will have good communication skills and the proven ability to use automated sales information/order systems and spreadsheet and word processing software. Previous experience in a company with products and services similar to our company, included serving the same customer base, is highly desirable.
Please refer back to earlier pages of this article and note how this "Position Requirements Description" is based on the "Major Duties Description" and the "Wants List" that were previously developed.
To meet the objective of spending the least amount of time and money to fill a position, you might consider the following recruiting activities in the order presented:
Detail the Testing Process to Qualify Applications and Make a Selection Decision
Choosing whom to hire from a group of applicants is probably the most complex and difficult personnel/HR task you as a small business owner will be asked to complete. At the outset, please take note that interviews alone are about 60% reliable in terms of a stand-alone testing/selection tool. In other words, the odds of making a good new-hire decision based solely on an interview are only slightly better than a coin toss. Please be aware that the qualities of being pleasant, articulate, convincing, smooth, well-spoken, likeable, etc., are phrases often used to describe con-artists. The key point is that you must not rely solely on what you see and hear in an interview to make a hiring decision. Conducting a good interview is an important element in this decision-making process, but you will need to gather additional information outside the interview. To do that, having a well thought-out selection plan for each of the items on your "wants" list before you begin interviewing is quite important.
Step 1 in this testing/selection process is to review the potential candidates based on what they have submitted to you before a decision is made on whom to invite for interviews. You will probably have a resume and possibly a cover letter. At this step in the process, you are accomplishing three objectives - first, do the applicants have the basic background you require for the job; second, do you have a suitable number of applicants based on your "wants" list; and third, were you able to find an applicant who had your "highly desirable" background? If the answers to the first two questions are "yes", then you are ready to move to Step 2 of the selection process. If the answer to the third question is "yes" then count your lucky stars.
Step 2 is to put together your detailed selection
process based on your "wants" list. To help you understand
what this might look like, the Customer Service Representative
"Wants" list will be used to show what a written, detailed
selection plan might look like.
Customer Service Representative Selection Plan (example)
What selection "tests" were suggested in the example above?
In addition to these selection devices, follow the suggestions in the HR Policy, and also conduct drug and alcohol screening tests. The point being made is this:
You need to gather a significant amount of verifiable information from a variety of sources before you make an employment offer.
Plus, if you follow the suggested HR policies, you have one more test-- the new hire must successfully complete a probationary period of from three to six months-the final test to make sure you have made a good employment decision.
(Note: If any of your positions require the use of a private vehicle for company business or if you provide a company vehicle to conduct business you need to also require the applicant to submit a copy of his/her State Department of Motor Vehicles current report. It should give you at least a three year look at the applicant's driving record. A DWI in the last three-years, operator at fault motor vehicle accidents, excessive speeding tickets, etc., could disqualify an applicant for a job requiring use of a vehicle. If the new hire is to use his/her private vehicle for company business, you must verify his/her insurance coverage and make sure these activities are covered under the company auto insurance policy or general liability policy, if applicable.)
There are many methods you can use to compare the qualifications of multiple "finalists" for your position. You can get as sophisticated as devising a "weighting system" for each criterion and assigning a rating from one to five on each of them (please refer again to the "Needs & Wants" list example above, as this is a list of your criteria) and then total up the scores. You probably won't have that many "finalists" to compare, so it is suggested that you start by force ranking each candidate on an overall/global basis and then double check this perception by force ranking each candidate on each criterion to see if the final "score" agrees with your overall impression. Having done this, you are now ready to choose the person to whom you will make an employment offer.
Making an Employment Offer
The process of getting to a final deal is usually one that involves some dialogue between the Company (you) and the final candidate. While it is recommended that all employment offers are in writing, it is typical to get to the point of having a verbal understanding on the following items before anything is solidified and formally presented to the finalist candidate:
It is highly recommended that any offer you extend be done in writing and signed by both the Company and the candidate. (Note: A sample employment offer letter is provided below for your use.) Also, and this is very important, if you are going to ask the candidate to sign a Confidentiality Agreement and/or a Non-Compete Agreement, both of these documents need to be signed and dated on the same day that the written employment offer is signed and dated.
In the sample offer letter, also please note the section on the overtime compensation. The "tests" for what constitutes an "exempt from overtime" position (exempt) versus a position that must be paid overtime (non-exempt) are convoluted and you are urged to consult both the federal guidelines and your state's guidelines on how to determine if a position is exempt or non-exempt from the laws governing mandatory overtime compensation (search: "laws on overtime pay").
As you will see in the sample written employment offer, the offer is made contingent on passing the company's drug test. Such tests can only be administered (legally) after an offer of employment has been extended to an applicant. You cannot drug test someone (legally) until you have made her/him a formal offer of employment. You may also note that the sample also indicates that the offer is contingent upon "satisfactory completion of all references." The letter is constructed this way so that it can be withdrawn if you discover negative information about the candidate after the written offer is signed by both the Company and the applicant. (Author's Note: In my experience this happens less than 5% of the time, but it does happen.)
What You Must Do to Legally Hire a New Employee
Legally, all employers, no matter their size in terms of number of employees, must complete the following to be in compliance for hiring a new employee:
These forms are available online and the instructions on their completion, etc., are also online as shown above. Please note that you are required to maintain originals of these documents in your files while the person is employed and it is recommended that, after termination, such files are maintained for a period of seven years from the date of termination.
Sample Written Employment Offer
Month __, 201_
This is your offer of employment with__________. It is contingent upon your successful completion of our hiring process which includes all references being satisfactory, passing our drug/alcohol screening, and passing our background check.
Starting as soon as the hiring process is completed, but
not later than __ (start date)____you will be a Customer
Service Representative, reporting directly to__(name)__, __
(title)__. To start, we will pay you $28,000 per year, paid
__(weekly, bi-weekly, monthly)__. Your next salary review
will be in 201_. Based on federal and state law, __ (you
will be eligible to receive overtime compensation at the
rate of one and one half times your normally hourly rate
after you have worked forty hours in a given workweek.) __
or __(as an "exempt" employee you are not eligible for
Finally, you may accept this offer of employment by signing and dating a copy and returning it to me. We are looking forward to our professional and personal association.
(Name of Company Representative)
I accept these employment terms and conditions.