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Hiring Right: How to Attract Productive Talent for Your Team

Robin Reshwan

Ready to expand your staff or replace a recent resignation? Hiring mistakes can be costly. Here are tips to ensure that you attract and retain the ideal professional for your team.

1. Know what you need -- not what you want. Hiring mistakes originate from a lack of clarity and communication around what is actually required to be successful. Typical job descriptions frequently sound like a dating ad where the user asks for every "nice to have" credential instead of what is actually required to be successful. A hiring manager must first outline what is the real purpose behind the position and how success will be defined. This can be done by reviewing previous or currently successful employees and outlining what technical and soft skills they use daily. Additionally, examine what these employees did before they moved into this position. Their history may surprise you -- you can uncover paths of achievement that may not be obvious but are very effective.

For example, looking to add a receptionist who will also handle some billing and office management? What is the highest and best use of this person's time? Will you be more disappointed if the receptionist misses a few phone calls or if he has a delay in invoicing? In nine months, what things will make you glad you hired this person? You can also frame this in the negative, by considering what things have been most frustrating or most disappointing about previous receptionists.

No matter what the answers, asking these questions will aid in defining what is truly needed -- instead of what looks good on paper.

2. Predict the future. Hiring that is solely based on what is needed leads to discontented and underutilized staff in six to 12 months. Productive employees want to be challenged and make an impact. Hiring someone who is already doing your exact position today is a surefire way to make sure she is bored before the end of the first year. To remedy this potential turnover, honestly ask yourself what will this person do in a year? If the job will basically be the same a year later -- you should not look for someone who is doing the same role today but wants career growth in her next role.

There are three ideal candidate pools to pull from for a more flat career plan: someone who is a step below your desired level who can grow into your position, a professional who has a track record of being content in parallel movement or a professional who has recently experienced life changes that make stability at work more appealing.

For the growth position, look for candidates who have a background of increasing responsibility with demonstrated ability to adapt to change and learn new things quickly. Change is difficult for most employees, but it is even more pronounced for someone who is coming from a low- or no-change work environment. Target high-achieving candidates for rapid growth positions.

3. Know who you are. Are you a manager who loves to groom rising stars? Are you a manager who prefers to work with very independent people who require minimal interaction? Do you have zero tolerance for mistakes in written communication? Whatever you enjoy doing and what you just can't stand do not change just because you hire a new employee. For a successful working relationship, don't choose candidates who need what you don't enjoy providing or exhibit traits that drive you crazy.

There are lots of people out there. Hire those who will feel successful and motivated under your management style. If your new hire requires professional development or direction that you cannot or do not want to provide, you may short change him in this area or resent when he ask for assistance. Either way, neither of you is set up for long-term success.

4. Realize what your company can provide. Do you work for a conservative, slow-growth firm that only promotes people related to the owner? Is your firm filled with professionals that work long hours and are highly competitive? While it is not often brochure worthy, recognizing your true company culture or department culture is essential to recruiting and retaining the right long-term staff. Sugar coating the work environment may aid in the recruiting process but all of those gains are lost when new hires see the real workplace. Disillusioned employees lose motivation quickly and are apt to pull down overall morale. Make sure everyone in the recruiting process portrays the good, the bad and the ugly of the business.

This also includes being realistic about potential compensation. Use the hiring process as a time to clearly define the connection between effort, results and compensation. If you set the stage before the employee starts, you have an excellent platform for developmental discussions once on board. You also have a point of reference to manage money expectations. Unclear or inflated compensation plans don't motivate staff. There should be a direct correlation between results and dollars.

5. Don't like what you see? Make a commitment to improve. Once you have thought through the first four areas, you may be disappointed in what you have to offer. Feeling valued and making an impact are key factors of employee satisfaction. Use each open position as an opportunity to outline how to convey work value and impact that is relevant to that role or job function.

For example, in the receptionist role described above, the firm can use client satisfaction survey results to emphasize the value of a friendly and efficient phone or front office experience. Additionally, a company can show employee impact with recognition or a free Starbucks gift certificate for staff who receive positive comments from a client. Longer term employees can be offered attendance in a professional development workshop or training in a new technical skill as a reward for tenure. Thoughtful reinforcement of desired performance, no matter how big or small, goes a long way in motivating staff and increasing loyalty.

The sting of losing a desired candidate during the interviewing process is quickly erased by the productivity of well-hired professionals who were set up realistically and still wanted the job. Taking the time to accurately portray the role, the future, the manager and the culture has a high ROI for your staff retention and productivity.

Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.

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