Use existing staff, low-cost resources to find right hires

Regardless of the job description, finding and hiring the right staff is an inexact science.

A subtle cocktail of soft and hard skills, company culture, values, expectations and a candidate’s suitability also could be affected by the short- and long-term goals of those across the interview table. In many ways, it’s a spin of the roulette wheel.

But it doesn’t have to be that way – even when resources are limited and budgets are tight. Because finding the right candidate for the job in the long run saves time and money and potentially even improves productivity.

There is no magic bullet for how to get there, but there is a road map.

Small-business owners, employment companies and consultants said word-of-mouth, advice from existing employees, mining trade schools and using social media and job message boards help to find candidates.

The next steps include screening resumes for skill sets, spelling and grammar, using an initial short phone-interview to weed out applicants, and, during the in-person interview, using a checklist, judging for reliability and loyalty and reading a candidate’s body language and confidence to help determine his or her potential fit for your business.

In addition, hiring is an opportunity to revamp a particular position’s job duties to better fit the business and marketplace.

“Small businesses and startups [need to] look at how they hire, and plan for future growth,” said Lindsay Watson, co-founder of FIA NYC LLC, an employment services company based in Allentown.

In-house networking with existing staff or contacts is a valuable and often overlooked place to begin searching for new employees, Watson said.

She said tapping existing talent for names of job candidates makes sense.

“Current employees probably have other people in their network with the same values and skills [an employer] already knows and values,” she said.

Charis Lindrooth, co-owner of Red Earth Farm in Kempton, said while advertising for workers on Facebook is new to her family’s sustainable farming operation, most of her seasonal hires come from word-of-mouth, referred by people she employs.

“We advertise in the newspaper and get tons of applicants, but most aren’t suited for the work, and we’ve not made one hire from Facebook yet,” Lindrooth said.

From one employee during the winter months to as many as 20 during the prime growing season extending from July through August, some universal qualities stand out for Lindrooth.

“Honesty, loyalty, reliability, showing up for work and being suited to the work are the biggest [hiring qualities] we look for,” she said.

From farm labor to executive staffing, taking the time to find the best candidate means not having to repeat the process when a new hire doesn’t work out.

“Many of our clients face a similar challenge – attracting top-notch talent. Whether they are a software company looking for in-demand developers or a professional services firm looking for the best to join their team,” said Andrew Stanten, president of Altitude Marketing in Emmaus.

LinkedIn, job boards and social media such as Facebook have become a place not just for job seekers to look for work but as a corporate and business cultural showcase, providing a window for prospective applicants, he said.

Dr. Michelle McCarroll said she uses networking, word-of-mouth recommendations and taps trade schools to hire office staff. She owns and operates That Foot Doctor LLC, a private podiatry practice in Salisbury Township.

After candidates are in the pool, McCarroll screens resumes by looking at such basic skills as good grammar, punctuation and spelling, she said. Lots of errors are red flags.

“If there are multiple spelling or grammatical errors, I don’t even consider an interview,” McCarroll said.

If an applicant’s resume passes muster, McCarroll will consider his or her employment history to decide if there will be a short phone-interview.

Then, the basics come back into play.

“If a potential applicant speaks properly and maturely” during a phone interview, an in-person interview is the next step, McCarroll said.

Consider a checklist to guide questions during interviews and to help sound out the vacancy ahead of reviewing resumes or interviewing candidates.

“I have an ’employee hiring worksheet’ that has questions an applicant should be able to answer,” McCarroll said.

Among her questions are how do qualifications and skills match up with the available position, contributions made at previous jobs and the candidate’s short- and long-term career goals.

Tom Merrick, president of Tom’s Help Desk in Milford Township, Bucks County, said he rarely uses telephone interviews to screen potential candidates because body language, confidence and presentation are important factors in his hiring practices.

“How they answer questions – with their body language – can tell us a lot,” Merrick said.

Watson said the No. 1 hurdle to hiring well is the ability to hone in on a firm’s existing needs, not a knee-jerk filling of an historical position – one that hasn’t kept pace with the day-to-day workload.

The most successful match-ups mean a candidate would need to meet immediate job requirements, and could evolve over time as the job’s demands change.

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