Whether you’re replacing someone leaving or hiring for a new position, finding the right person requires preparation well before interviews. Departures and expansion bring new opportunities for any practice, but you need to manage them carefully to make sure you’re bringing in the right person for your team.
While you need to keep things operational, rushing to hire someone can create a bigger problem down the road. The wrong person will put more stress on your team than having to cover for a vacancy for a while. So, where should you start?
Take time to evaluate what the position needs going forward. A job description created even a few years ago may need updating as technology changes all the time. Don’t waste time requesting outdated skills or training – it makes you look out-of-date or careless. What are the essential skills for the role and what is just desirable? Are you prepared to offer training to the right candidate?
Make sure you consult with team members who will work with, or report to, the position for input on what they’re hoping for. You can’t please everyone, but hearing what others want can help shape the job description to better suit the role.
If someone left, do you understand why they left? Is there a reason which could create future issues for the next person? Can you better manage issues or expectations with a new person? For example, if there is no upwards career path for this role, do you look for someone who is happy to fit the role into their life rather than someone ambitious for the next step up?
Once you’re happy with the position description, ask around to see if other employees and colleagues know of anyone who might suit. They may know someone actively looking for a job, or someone just thinking about making the move, and referrals can be a good place to start.
This does not mean you don’t need to advertise elsewhere or go through the interview process. You want to be sure you have the best candidate, not the first person with potential.
Your best candidates will usually have several opportunities available to them so make sure your advertisement is clear about the role and requirements, and what needs to be submitted. Someone should also be available to answer questions prior to application and interview stage.
Plan certain questions to ask each candidate and mark, or rate, responses as you go through each interview. Have at least one other person, such as the candidate’s manager or senior colleague, in the room to assist. Be clear about the challenges in the role, as well as the benefits.
You are not only looking for someone who has the relevant skills, or can be trained in them, but someone who will fit your team’s culture. Culture is not about age or gender, but attitudes, values and interpersonal skills.
A second interview with more specific questions can also be helpful in getting a more rounded understanding of the best candidates. At this point your candidates should also have questions for you about the role and organisation.
After two rounds of interviews, you may feel you have found the best person. But while you want that position filled, it’s still vital to talk with their referees.
Some people are naturally good at interviews, but don’t shine as much on the job. A small number of people will falsify qualifications or are leaving a previous job under a cloud. Don’t rush a conversation with referees; listen to see how genuinely enthused they sound. Ask for examples of what they liked about the candidate’s performance and how they worked with their team.
Go back and discuss these findings with the other interviewers before you make a decision. Always have a trial period with clear expectations to be met before a permanent position is offered. Once your offer has been accepted, let the others know promptly and kindly that they were unsuccessful. You may want to hire one of them in the future.
You should have a proper onboarding process for each new person, not just to show them where the tea and coffee is kept! Appoint someone to answer questions on the role, and office facilities, so they can settle and get up to speed quickly.
Over the next few weeks it should become clear you’ve hired the right person. But if you realise you’ve made a mistake, you need to take action in conjunction with your HR person. It’s far kinder to remove someone during the trial period once you’ve given them every opportunity. If you delay the inevitable, you risk losing other team members if the new person becomes their problem.
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