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The hiring process for the “perfect” employee

March 1, 2015

By Diana Moroney, SPHR® Senior Human Resources Consultant

The man (or woman), the myth, the legend. We have all heard of that elusive person, and we all try hard to find them. The perfect employee. Is this person really out there? It depends. Are you willing to compromise one characteristic or skill from your wish list in place of another, more important one? Should you have to? Does this now make them imperfect?

Let’s start from the beginning, and see how close we can get. When recruiting for a position, each employer makes a wish list of what it wants to see in its next new hire; it’s called a classified job advertisement. Whether you choose paper or web-based advertising, when you have your recruiting hat on, you make the list. Typically, this list is a top five or top 10 inventory from that job’s position description. A good ad will include any educational requirements and/or training; hard skills (i.e. Word and Excel experience) necessary for the person to do the job; and soft skills (i.e. highly-organized, strong communication skills, etc.) important for the position and to make them a good fit within the company.

The next step on the road to perfection is screening resumes and/or applications. The recruiter goes into scanning mode, looking for the items to complete their wish list and choosing those resumes that do, or at least have a majority. A company may also implore an HRIS program to scan these documents for them, finding all those key words needed to make that match. This is the first step in which a conscious decision is made to either stick it out for that perfect person and only pull out those candidates who had all top five or 10 items listed in the ad, or err on the side of a larger eligible applicant pool and screen in some that just have a majority of them. Applying the concept of a difference between “wants” and “needs” is crucial here. Hiring managers need to be able to separate the two, ensuring their final candidates have the needs of the position covered, with as many of the wants being an added bonus.

With this narrowed down group, the next step should be telephone interviews. This screening tool can save a lot of time and effort for both the employer and the applicant. A phone interview is a brief version of an in-person interview in which the employer can first get to know the candidate by inquiring about skills, behavioral items, past employment,etc. Questions should be brief, primarily the same for each person applying for the same position, and at this stage should be limited to around five to eight total questions. Employers should aim for 10 to 15 minutes per candidate, since again, this is just the pre-screen. However, it may be surprising how much can be gathered in such a brief amount of time by just picking-up the phone.

One of the key skills to utilize for an effective phone interview is listening. Does the applicant seem distracted even after you asked if this was a good time for them, or are they making an effort to give you their full attention? Do they seem excited about getting your call, or are they monotone and short with their answers throughout? Take advantage of being on the phone with them – listen for change in tone, inflection, uncertainty, etc., to learn about their attitude and interest in the job opportunity. Employers can expect to cut the original narrowed group by one-third or even half by the time phone interviews are concluded without ever bringing the candidates in to the office.

Employers typically move to the in-person interview next, following up on any questions from the phone interview for further explanation, in addition to the company’s standard interview questions. This is also the time to tell the candidates much more detail about the position, such as what a typical day would be for them, what the work environment is like, etc. It’s important to be completely honest with this information, including difficulties of the position. This allows them to get an accurate portrayal of the job, rather than encountering unwelcome surprises that may drive them to quit shortly after you’ve spent the time, resources and money recruiting and training them.

As the amount of candidates is narrowed to the top two or three, skills testing and personality-based assessments are normally the final screening procedures. Tests help prove and measure level of skills listed on an applicant’s resume. Assessments help measure ability, personality traits and how the candidate may be the right fit for the job. Tests and assessments combined can be extremely effective in choosing the right candidate. These screening tools help improve the hiring success rate over just using that “gut” instinct.

At the end, the candidate that has risen to the top is chosen. Are they perfect? Maybe not. However, this gives you the opportunity to provide the training they need, the way you want them trained, so they can truly become your employee.

Copyright © 2011 Honkamp Krueger & Co., P.C. All Rights Reserved.

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