As a serial entrepreneur and management consultant, I've often been tasked with screening perspective employees in several different industries. While there is no such thing as a sure hire because no one has a crystal ball, there are definitely steps that any small business owner can take to come closer to the right way to hire an employee.
Be specific in your verbiage when placing an ad seeking new employees.
Whether you are running a restaurant or looking to fill a telemarketing position, the way you word your advertisement will attract a specific type of employee. Avoid broad catch-phrases unless they are necessary for the employee to be a successful hire. If it is absolutely necessary that the employee be punctual or organized, as in the case of someone who will open a gym in the wee hours of the morning or a sales professional, then state this in the employment advertisement. If not, leave it out and use verbiage that will state exactly who it is that you want to hire because, after all, you know your small business best.
Begin the interview process from the very first exchange.
If a perspective hire can't be bothered to put their best foot forward in the beginning, they won't be much concerned with impressing you, his employer or your clientele if you hire them.
Do not rush through the interview.
Most people can control themselves, both their body language and speech for short periods of time. I have found that longer interviews where a perspective employee is interviewed for at least an hour yield the most positive results, or at the very least cut down on what I call a "false positive." In other words, give the perspective employee enough to time truly be themselves and see who you are hiring and not just who you are interviewing.
Ask difficult questions.
I have always found the best hires resulted when I asked some fairly uncomfortable and unexpected questions. "Why did you leave your last position?" may be somewhat uncomfortable but it should be expected. I've always found that a more novel approach yields a better result as it will cause the interviewee to think on their feet giving a more authentic, less rehearsed answer. For example, I've always found the verbiage, "This position isn't rocket science but there is a tremendous amount of rejection involved. This job will be baptism-by-fire and you will be constantly corrected so you can excel. The pay is marginal but the bonuses are quite high if you are successful. In other words, this can be a very difficult job. So tell me, why do you want this job? Why should I hire you?"
Consult online resources to gain useful information.
There are many online resources which give examples of different types of interview styles. It would behoove you to read different approaches and internalize those that resonate with you best. You will also find specifics regarding background searches and rules and regulations regarding your rights as an employer.
Always check references and conduct a background search.
A negative past should not necessarily preclude you from hiring someone. I've hired many employees in the past that had troubles with the law. If a perspective hire was forth-coming about past mistakes, chances are that they were definitely making a good-faith effort to turn their lives around. If an interviewee was deceptive, I would not hire that person. If you don't check, then you won't find out until it's too late.
Resist the temptation to hire anyone on the spot.
This will save you the trouble of having to rescind a job offer or having to fire someone that you shouldn't have hired in the first place.
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