Hiring Employees

HR person thinking about hiring employees

Hiring employees requires a lot of thought and preparation. You need to make sure you have all your bases covered, avoid common hiring pitfalls, and still manage to get enough info on applicants to make a sound hiring decision.

The Job Description

If you're going to be successful in hiring employees that are the right fit for the job, you have to know what you're looking for. The best way to do that is to write out a job description for the position you're looking to fill. You will need to include things like:

  • A list of the exact duties of the position. List every task that needs to be performed to execute the position to its fullest. If you leave duties out, your new hiree can claim it's not his/her responsibility because the task wasn't listed in the job description they agreed to at hiring. Cover your bases.
  • A list of qualifications for the position. If the position requires a college degree, say so. Is working knowledge of Excel programs part of the job? Then list it. Does the job require someone who can lift up to fifty pounds? Say so now. Your goal is to be sure that all applicants have had a full and fair disclosure of the job requirements so they can be truthful about their own qualifications. A carefully laid out list of job requirements can help you quickly weed out applicants who do not have what it takes to fill the position, and is a fair way to let a prospective employee know what to expect.
  • The expected work schedule. While there can be some flexibility in this, it's important to let a prospective employee know the hours you expect them to fill. Whether it's a nine to five job, forty hours a week, a part-time position, nights or weekends, you've got to give the applicant a clear picture of when they will be expected to work. This helps you both decide if this job and the applicant are the right fit. Better to find this out now than after the job begins.
  • The rate of pay for the position. Be sure to be clear about this, and avoid overstating the company's prospects for growth. Never lead the applicant to expect more than what is currently being offered, unless you are prepared to back it up at a later date. If you promise raises on a regular schedule, and then find your company taking a down turn, you will still be expected to provide those raises if you want to avoid litigation.

Pre-Screening Applicants

You will likely list your employment opportunity in the local newspaper, and perhaps at an online bulletin board, and soon you will have your first wave of applicants calling. Prepare for this by creating a list of pertinent questions to pre-screen applicants, and weed out the obviously unqualified applicants before you invest time in a face to face interview. Include questions confirming that the applicant has the educational background, and availability necessary for the position. If the job includes heavy physical labor, state that again too, and ask if the applicant is capable of performing these tasks. Better to ask this particular question now before meeting the applicant, as it can save you from a discrimination suit later. The Americans with Disabilities Act is something every employer should make themselves familiar with before beginning the process of hiring employees.

The Interview

You've created a detailed job description, pre-screened your applicants down to people who may actually have what it takes to do the job, and now you are ready to begin person to person interviews. Here are some tips to help keep you on point and out of trouble.

  • Stick to questions strictly related to the job requirements. Avoid digressing into personal conversations that may reveal unnecessary information that could later be used in a discrimination suit should you choose not to hire this person. A casual question such as "Do you have children?", can later be used to say you refused to hire the applicant because he/she is a parent. Never ask questions about race, religion or sexual orientation either. This may all seem a bit extreme to you now, but it won't if you ever land in court over a hiring decision. Again, cover your bases.
  • Be sure you are asking the same questions of all the applicants you interview. Consistency will help you find the best person for the job, as well as show that you treated every applicant the same during the hiring process.
  • Avoid questions about the past, keep your language in the current tense. While it's okay to ask applicants if they are physically capable of performing the job, or if they are currently using illegal drugs, it's not okay to ask if they've ever been injured before, made a claim against Workmen's Comp, or if they've ever been involved with illegal drugs. Stick to questions about their current ability to perform the job as described, and if they can meet your scheduling requirements.
  • Be sure to have a copy of the written job description at the interview for the applicant to refer to during your discussion. This puts all expectations and compensations in black and white, and no one has to rely on memory of the terms agreed upon in the event of a hire.

Background Checks

After the interviews, you should have narrowed your choices down to a few likely candidates. Now it's time to do a little checking on the information they've provided. Do call former employers listed to verify your candidate worked there. Do not expect to hear much more than the dates the candidate was employed and the position held, because former employers don't want to open themselves up for a lawsuit either. However, if the candidate was an exceptional employee, most former employers will at least say they would be willing to rehire this person in the future.Do you need to do a criminal background check? That really depends on the position you are hiring for, and your individual state laws governing the subject. If you are hiring for a licensed position, or a job in the child care industry, most states allow for a criminal background check.

Hiring Employees Summary

Always keep the focus on the applicant's ability to do the job as laid out in the job description, and be clear and up front about the job requirements and compensations. Fairness and consistency throughout the whole process should ensure that the best candidates are brought forward, and that both employer and new employee share a clear understanding of what is expected of each of them.

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