I can remember when I hired my first employee. She was a very bright and capable young woman who added a tremendous amount of value to my small company. In fact, she was instrumental in helping the company grow and prosper. In hindsight though, I just happened to be lucky with this one. I didn’t have a lot of HR experience and I later learned (the hard way) that hiring the wrong person for the job could become an absolute nightmare for the entire organization.

As the company grew, we required additional staff. Through trial and error, we realized that we had to develop a structured hiring and firing process to ensure that only the best candidates were hired. We were committed to keeping our employees happy and wanted to ensure they were with us for the long term.

1. Develop Specific Requirements

The old saying “you get what you pay for” also holds true for your hiring policy. Depending on the type of position, you should offer a salary range that is very competitive, rather than at the lower end of the scale. Hiring someone with the necessary education and experience is well worth paying the extra premium in compensation.

2. Screening your Applicants

I suggest placing your job postings on all locally popular employment sites. This way, your posting will be noticed and get the desired results. There are several employment sites that charge for their services, but many are available at no cost.

Many web based employment sites have a feature that lets the job applicant point & click to apply for multiple postings at once without much effort. Sometimes it is not even clear to the applicant which positions they are applying for. My personal rule has been to discard any resumes that do not include a personalized cover letter that refers specifically to my company and to the position that I’ve posted.

I also discard any resumes that contain spelling or grammatical errors, even if there is only one error. To me, this is a reflection that the applicant may not be educated and/or professional, and this could result in poor quality of their work. This screening process may significantly reduce the number of resumes that you will need to consider, but after all, you want the absolute best person for the position.

3. Interviewing Candidates

You’ve reviewed all resumes and narrowed down the number of potential candidates. It’s now time for the interview process to begin.

Develop a list of questions that all candidates will have to answer. Ensure that your questions take the candidates out of their comfort zone, and force them to think about their answers. Ask them to explain how they would handle a variety of scenarios. A Google search on “job interview questions” will give you a host of great questions that are utilized by H.R. professionals.

4. Multiple Interviews

After you have interviewed the candidates, and before you make any final decision, it’s a great idea to set an appointment to have other members of your staff interview the top candidates. This should take place during one final short meeting, without you present. After all, they will likely be the ones working closely with this new person and having to train them, etc. You want to be sure the new person will fit into the office environment and get along with your existing staff. Make sure that you prepare your team with questions that they should ask and also coach them to watch for personality traits. Make sure they take note of both positive and negative responses. Multiple interviews will result in more information to help you make the best decision possible.

5. References

We all know to ask for references, but they are worthless unless you call them. Ask for at least three references, ideally two employment references and one character reference. When you call them, be sure to ask numerous open-ended questions to obtain detailed back-ground information about the candidate.

6. Probationary Hiring Periods (Hire Slow and Fire Fast)

Once you’ve found the right candidate, I recommend that each new employee sign an Employee Confidentiality and Non-Solicitation Agreement. Their

Employment Offer Letter should include disclosure that their employment will be subject to a six-month probation period. During this timeframe, should they not work out, you will have the option to terminate their employment. This clause may help to reduce the possibility of them having any legal or financial recourse against your company for wrongful dismissal. I would suggest you obtain legal advice before firing an employee to ensure you are covering all labour laws.

It is also important to keep a close watch on all new employees to ensure they are learning their responsibilities, performing well and getting along with all staff and clients. If during this time you have any doubts about their performance, you must address all issues immediately and directly. If your instincts are telling you this person may not be working out, it is imperative that you terminate the employee within the six-month period. In the past, I have made the mistake of transferring under performing employees to other departments or positions, with the hope of them doing a better job. Unfortunately, this just delayed the inevitable in addition to causing some of my most valued employees a great deal of frustration.

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