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Time to hire employees? It pays to do it right

September 21, 2011

(An interview with Toni Talbott, SPHR. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.)
The factors that go in to hiring an employee can be enough to make your head spin. However, if you take the process one step at a time and pay attention to the important details, your hiring experience will be a success and prove fruitful for your business and your new employee. SBAM’s radio show, Business Next, interviewed Toni Talbot, SPHR, owner and general partner of Human Resource Management Services, LLC, to talk about some of those important points to consider. Please take a moment to visit SBAM’s radio show, Business Next at, to listen to the full interview where Toni also talks about how best to advertise for that next position and provides more specific and important details on the topics covered below.
Business Next (BN) What’s state of the art now for small businesses when they’re out there trying to recruit and get people to come to their companies as new employees?
Toni Talbot (TT): I’m seeing more staffing activity happening in Michigan. [Increased staffing activity] provides an opportunity to hire the right person as opposed to hiring skill sets. It seems like for a long time, what happened is that we hired the person who had the skill sets, at least a minimum skill set. You put that person in place – but you don’t necessarily have a successful hire and it ends up causing a lot of problems. So what I think employers need to do is take advantage of this opportunity to start fresh. And the first thing they need to do is make sure they have a job description that describes all aspects of the job, including the physical and environmental requirements and minimum education. Make sure this job is going to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act because even though you have under 15 employees you still have Michigan law to contend with.So it’s important to have that compliance.
BN: You hear a lot of horror stories about businesses advertising a position and getting 1,000 applicants, few of whom are actually qualified. Even if they are qualified, how do you winnow through that kind of volume to find the one that might fit? 
TT: Take my word for it, you have to really touch every single resume because you never know which resume is or is not going to be the one for you. So it is important to start with that job description and write the ad in a manner that allows you to clearly set expectations for the job. There are a lot of websites that I’d recommend to help you. CareerBuilder is one that I use often. I always tell people, if you’re going to run an ad, also send it to your website. Your website can be the best advertisement of all.
BN: So now you’ve got a large number of applications, what’s next?
TT: The next step is the interview process. You need to set up your interview questions in advance. One of the things that I recommend is using what’s called “Behavior Based” Interviews and Questions. These are questions that focus not only on the skill sets that the person has, but on how they’re going to interact with your customers, how they’re going to interact with each other. What kind of work ethic they’re going to have – there are a lot of good questions you can ask that will get to the heart of that. One more tip: I think it’s important to have the candidates spend some time with your staff so they can have a conversation without you – the business owner. This step will help decide whether the person is a right fit.
BN: So, how do you handle a situation where you think this is really the person you like, but you take them to your staff and they do not like him/her at all?
TT: Well I think you need to listen to your staff as well, but it is ultimately your decision. It does happen and there are times you have to say, “No, this is the right person for me.” But if you are going to do that, you need to make sure that when that person comes on board, he or she is going to be set up for success. So you need to address the issue with your employees and you need to listen and think about what they’re saying and ask them why. I’ll tell you, the biggest hiring mistake I ever made when I was a manager was when I did not listen to my staff. I had one employee who told me, “I don’t think she’s going to work.” I disregarded her opinion and I paid for it.
BN: Going back to the job description, are there some legal pitfalls that you should avoid in writing a job description?
TT: You want to make sure you don’t put yourself in a corner with a job description. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you want to hire a manager and you want this person to have three to four years experience. You can only find somebody with one year of experience. So you hire that person with one year of experience. You’ve basically violated your job description. So anybody who had three to four years of experience that you turned down now can say, “Wait a minute. You told me it was three to four and you hired somebody with one.” And let’s say one of those people is in a protected classification, you may find yourself with potential action regarding discrimination or retaliation. This is happening quite a bit right now. So you want to make sure that you write your job description in a manner that protects you from both outside sources and inside sources.
BN: How important is an application?
TT: A lot of employers, especially small employers, do not have candidates fill out an application. And that is really dangerous. A resume is a memoir. It’s basically choosing what you’re going to put out there. An application is a testimonial and states, at the end, that I attest to the accuracy of this information. You are getting information that has to be accurate and has to be complete. If you do not have an application filled out, they can say anything they want and you’re hiring based on what you think is the truth. If you have an application, I also recommend that you have it customized because what you need as an employer in one industry isn’t going to be the same as another industry. The final thing it has is all the disclaimers at the end, which provide employers a tremendous amount of protection.
BN: So Toni, here in 2011, what’s the state of the art in 21st century advertising for small employment?
TT: I would say, if you’re going to advertise, do it on the web. There’s no other option. You have to do it on CareerBuilder. There are a number of business specific sites that you can go to and advertise for. There are industry specific sites, so there are sites designed just for hiring dental assistants or sales people. So you want to look at those industry or career specific sites. You want to look at colleges and advertise on university websites. And again, you also want to make sure that you send to your website – and then advertise on your website.
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