Hiring for the growing economy


This weekend, IBM announced that they would be hiring 15,000 new employees in 2004. That’s 50% more than they originally thought they’d be hiring this year. In fact, according to Reuters, IBM Chief Financial Officer John Joyce describes 2004 as "the year when the IT industry will begin its next growth cycle."

So, as the economy grows and companies return to hiring instead of downsizing, it behooves us to pause and refresh ourselves on best practices in hiring.

First Things First
Before starting the hiring process, HR and those doing the interviewing should review the company's strategic vision. Key players from all departments participate in its creation, and it defines where the company wants to be. If positions are filled without considering how the new hires’ strengths will contribute to the strategic vision, the result may actually hinder company growth.

This coincides with the philosophy that HR and CEO’s need to be on the same page.

Next Things Next
With the strategic vision in mind, identify the behaviors needed for success in the positions that are open. Then, in keeping with best practices, conduct behavior-based interviews. Essentially, this is making sure that your finalist candidates have exhibited in previous jobs the behaviors you deem important. Don’t consider someone who “might” exhibit the behaviors you want – you want people who have a successful track record of showing those behaviors.

Julie Montgomery is an HR professional with Sprint who uses behavior-based interviewing. She says, "People repeat behaviors. If you can see what a person did in the past, they’ll pretty much act the same way in the future."

Other Things to Notice
Pay attention to the verbs your candidates use. According to the Manager’s Edge newsletter, if you hear phrases like “I helped maintain” or “I supported,” then you may have the wrong person – a support person instead of an initiator. If you’re looking for leadership material, listen for a candidate who uses strong leadership verbs, such as, “I headed,” “I established,” or “I led.”

Another skill necessary for success is communication. Too often in the screening process we judge communication skill by how well a person talks during the interview. But we often neglect checking one’s ability to write.

Considering the prevalence of E-mail, it is important to discover how well a candidate communicates via the written word. Have applicants write a letter or two as a part of the hiring process. Give them a few topics and tell them to draft letter. This requires some time, but the letters you get back provide good insight into your candidates’ ability to communicate. In day-to-day operations, that’s important to your bottom line.

Final Selections
Good interviewing also means finding people who are “real.” Several organizations I know of say the best way to find “real” candidates is to invite them to a social function. How? Once you’ve identified your finalists, invite them to a company social event – if no social events are scheduled, schedule one! Then watch your candidates carefully – look for those who are socially capable and have quality people skills. It’s amazing what you’ll learn.

One organization I know of holds pot-lucks with the expressed purpose of letting a department observe their candidates. The department knows it, and the candidates do too.

Another final selection step is to check references – thoroughly. Statistics show that only 30% of employers conduct background checks. That’s a dangerously low number. Employers I know who conduct background checks find themselves much happier with their selections than those I know who don’t.

Last Things Last
When you finally bring your new hires on board, provide them mentors. Their first week with the company is the most vital for setting the tone of success. If someone is assigned to them as a “go to” person, your new hires are likely to feel plugged in and secure. It’s an intangible that can’t be bought.

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About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Dan Bobinski is a training specialist, author, and an accomplished keynote speaker. He's been providing management and leadership training to Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller, regional concerns for more than 20 years.