Hiring the Right Person the First Time
By Chelse Benham
“Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake
that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him.
Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?” – Thomas J. Watson
The Management Research Associates Web site stated that recent research by
Sihson & Co., a market analysis research firm, estimated that turnovers cost
companies more than $75 billion to replace the 6.5 million employees who leave
their workplace environments each year.
High attrition within a company can lead to low morale, adding another hidden
cost companies face because the low morale typically leads to more turnovers,
thus creating a domino effect in the workplace. Ultimately, economic experts say
that low morale and high turnover affect the bottom line. They caution that the
extent of the damage is not restricted to attrition costs. Companies sometimes
lose clients and new business opportunities when people leave. One solution
would be to hire the right person the first time to prevent turnover that affects the
Margaret Murphy, vice president of global communications for the consulting firm
Right Management Associates, suggests the key to a successful hire is in the
attitude. She says an employer should hire someone who is passionate about
what they want to be doing. Murphy advises skills can be acquired on the job, but
the right attitude and being passionate are indicative of the person and what they
will give to the company. There is a greater return in the form of loyalty, follow-
through and ability to fit in from a person with a positive attitude. The employer’s
job during an interview is to discern what the candidate is passionate about and
whether the person will fit within the new workplace environment.
With so much pressure on hiring the right person, how do you conduct an
effective interview process? There is no perfect answer, but the interview
process can be a tremendous help if used well. There is more to an interview
than asking a candidate a question. Long before arriving at the negotiating table,
human resource experts say the interviewer should follow some basic steps to
improve the selection process to help choose the right candidate.
At Business.gov, the site outlines several steps for interviewing candidates.
Below are some key steps to finding the right person to fill a position in your
• Determine your need to hire a new employee. Are you properly utilizing
the skills and talents of your current employees? Do you know what needs
to be done? Can your business support a new employee?
1. Know what you want in a candidate.
2. Prepare a list of standard questions.
3. Prepare a list of prioritized and measurable criteria, either in the form
of a worksheet or other method, for analyzing and comparing the
4. Review a candidate's resume prior to the interview.
5. Set specific appointment times and reasonable time limits.
• Conduct a thorough job analysis. What are the job's essential functions
and key performance criteria?
• Write a job description and job specification for the position based on the
• Determine the salary for the position, based on internal and external
equity. Is the salary comparable and proportional with the salaries and
responsibilities of other positions inside your company as well as similar
positions out in the marketplace?
• Decide where and how to find qualified applicants. What are the
recruitment techniques to be used? What is the time frame for conducting
your search? Remember, advertising is not the only, or necessarily the
best, way to recruit.
• Collect and review a fair amount of applications and resumes and then
select the most qualified candidates for further consideration.
• Interview the most qualified candidates for the position, based on the job's
description and specification.
• Check references.
• Hire the best person for the job.
Once you begin an interview, collect pertinent information. Be sure to take
informative notes to make the selection process easier. In the article “Ten traits
CIOs Look For In Hiring A Manager” by Michael Sisco at Tech Rebublic.com, he
identifies specific areas to evaluate in a prospective employee. Ask the
interviewee questions that reveal something regarding the following areas:
1. A self-starter attitude – Look for employees who take initiative and
want to do a good job. Being proactive is an excellent trait as long as it is
consistent with the mission of the organization.
2. Adaptability to change – Hire people that are adaptable. They usually
tend to achieve more. Managers need employees that can adapt to
change and can maintain high levels of productivity even in uncertain
3. Appreciation for good customer service – Gauge whether a
prospective employee values customer service.
4. Team players - Managers need staff members who can work well in
teams and be reliable. Providing examples of how they have worked
successfully with others is a positive indicator of teamwork skills and a
5. Proven commitment – Give scenarios and ask for examples of how
the person would demonstrate going the extra mile and do what it takes to
get the job done. True performers come through under pressure.
6. A strong desire to achieve – Ask the person about their passions.
Why are they applying for the job? It's hard to teach people to want to
succeed if they don't already have the desire.
7. Problem-solving skills – Is the person good at solving challenges?
Will they ask for help when they need it? Good employees are those who
are willing to work hard to find answers and enjoy the challenges that land
on their desks.
8. Solid communication skills – Is the person able to articulate well?
Does he or she speak effectively with confidence and look you in the eye?
Having the ability to communicate effectively with others is no longer just a
desirable trait; it is a necessity. Strong verbal and written communication
skills can set candidates apart from other interviewees.
9. Low maintenance – Can this person function independently, solve
problems, and not create unneeded personnel or workplace issues? No
manager wants an employee tapping them on the shoulder all day,
double-checking things and seeking assurance. The employee who
requires minimal direction and who can deal with issues while validating
that the appropriate steps are being taken is a valuable asset to an
Since past behavior predicts future behavior, experts say to look for the
candidate's behavior patterns as you collect information. Often times, by listening
to how the candidate responds to your questions about previous jobs, you will be
able to get a very good idea of what their behavior will be like in the future.
Moreover, human resource experts suggest that the interviewer not offer too
much detailed information so that the candidate can formulate answers
demonstrating the person understands something about the company and the
nature of the job. Remember, the candidate wants the job and will be looking to
say the right things to impress.
Also, it is important to remember that an interview is not an opportunity to delve
into someone’s private life. There are very specific areas where asking questions
is contrary to federal and state employment laws. Business.gov Web site
provides a list of subjects that is widely regarded as off-limits for discussion in an
interview by employment experts. In an interview, or on an employment
application, do not ask questions:
• Concerning the age of the candidate. Be careful using the words over
qualified with older candidates.
• About their arrest record (this is different from convictions - in most
states, it is permissible to ask if the candidate has ever been convicted
of a crime).
• About race or ethnicity.
• Concerning the candidate's citizenship of the United States prior to
hiring (it is permissible to ask "Will you be able to provide proof of
eligibility to work in the United States if hired?").
• Concerning the candidate's ancestry, birthplace, or native language (it
is permissible to ask about their ability to speak English or a foreign
language if required for the job).
• About religion or religious customs or holidays.
• Concerning the candidate's height and weight if it does not affect their
ability to perform the job.
• Concerning the names and addresses of relatives (only those relatives
employed by the organization are permitted).
• About whether or not the candidate owns or rents his/her home and
who lives with them (asking for their address for future contact is
• Concerning the candidate's credit history or financial situation. In some
cases, credit history may be considered job-related, but proceed with
• Concerning education or training that is not required to perform the job.
• Concerning their sex or gender. Avoid any language or behavior that
may be found inappropriate by the candidate. It's his/her standard of
conduct that must be met.
• Concerning pregnancy or medical history. Attendance records at a
previous employer may be discussed in most situations as long as you
don't refer to illness or disability.
• Concerning the candidate's family or marital status or childcare
arrangements (it is permissible to ask if the candidate will be able to
work the required hours for the job).
• Concerning the candidate's membership in a non-professional
organization or club that is not related to the job.
• Concerning physical or mental disabilities (asking whether the
candidate can perform the essential job duties is permitted). The
Americans with Disabilities Act allows you to ask the applicant to
describe or demonstrate how they would perform an essential
function(s) when certain specific conditions are met. Check the law or
consult with an attorney before moving forward.
Hiring the right person for a job can be mixed with emotion on both sides of the
table. As the interviewer, you must appear calm, collected and professional. It is
just as important to leave a good impression with the interviewee to ensure he or
she chooses your company when the time comes.