Personnel e.bulletin – September 2016

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Smart Hiring

Prepared for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc.

Hiring isn’t only about finding someone with the right skills for your business. Small business owners need to be thorough in each step of the hiring process for several reasons. It’s expensive to pay out salary and benefits, and if someone isn’t a good fit for the company and leaves, you’ll need to dedicate time and resources all over again to finding the right person. Also, because there are fewer employees in a small business, a new hire can have a bigger effect on company culture and the bottom line – for better or worse – and it can be more difficult to cover for an employee who leaves.

On the other hand, a great employee can help advance your company and boost morale. Here are some tips that can help you optimize hiring.

Make Time for Hiring

Devote time to all aspects of the hiring process because down the line a good hire can reward your hard work. Make time to determine the type of person you’re looking for; lay out the job description; explore resources for advertising and recruitment; identify mismatches; progress with qualified candidates; and fill in gaps with contract employees as needed.

Avoid the temptation to fill a job just to fill a job.  This can be difficult if you have a pressing need and your employees are shouldering the responsibilities that will belong to someone else.  Keep in mind that you’ll most likely have to go through the process all over again much sooner – and will have taken some blows to morale and productivity – if you hire the wrong person.  Be transparent and explain to your employees why you’re being deliberate.

Stay Active in Networking

You should always be networking and on the lookout for talent – even when you aren’t looking to fill a position – because who knows when you’ll need to hire someone. Here are a few networking ideas:

  • Make and update a list of talented people in your industry and compile their contact information. Explore whether they’re looking for a new position or company.
  • Contact people with whom you have relationships. Often you can get referrals this way and signal that you have a need.
  • Look at trade schools. These can be great resources for candidates who are already interested in your industry and stand out, and you can incorporate them into your culture from the start.
  • Form relationships with those trade schools. Do more than post on job boards. Get to know career counselors at local schools because then they’ll be more likely to refer good candidates for your company when you have a need. If possible, hire interns or host lunches for students; career counselors and those students will get even more of a look at your company and come away with a good impression.
  • Consider Employee Referrals. One of your existing employees might know some good candidates in your industry. The employee would already be familiar with your company culture so would have a good idea of who would fit in. The employee probably also wouldn’t want to look bad by recommending someone who lacks the skills to keep up or who wouldn’t be a good fit. It could therefore be a good idea to offer a bonus for employee referrals if the referred candidate is hired, if possible.

Make the Most Out of the Interview

You’re trying to find an employee who will both increase productivity and embrace your company’s culture. Therefore, analyzing a candidate’s fit via interview is a crucial part of the hiring process. Here are some suggestions:

  • Conduct multiple interviews with the same candidate. Do this when possible so that you get the best idea of his or her skills and personality.
  • Show the candidate around the company. The candidate will be able to see whether he or she will fit in, and you can get a sense of the candidate’s fit with your employees as well.
  • Have the candidate shadow an employee for a few hours. This will give you an even deeper sense of the candidate’s fit in terms of both skills and personality.
  • Ask open-ended questions. The candidate will more likely give you a fuller picture of motivation, values, and ability to deal with problems. 

Here are some areas to consider in structuring your open-ended interview questions:

  • the candidate’s ability to handle and embrace adversity;
  • the candidate’s personality;
  • the candidate’s enthusiasm about the job and company;
  • the candidate’s motivation to contribute and grow as a professional;
  • lessons the candidate has learned in his or her professional life;
  • situations in which the candidate has overcome obstacles; and
  • the candidate’s top accomplishments. 

Communicate Your Company’s Culture

Remember that picking someone who doesn’t fit in with your company’s culture can hurt morale and productivity. You can teach new hires skills, but you can’t change their values and personalities.  Here are some tips for hiring the right person in this regard:

  • Define your company’s culture, if you haven’t done so already. By laying out the values and mission you most want to emphasize in hiring, you’ll be more likely to clearly communicate them to a candidate and get of sense of whether the candidate will embrace them.
  • Ask employees why they like working for your company. You’ll be better able to sell your company’s culture if you know what about it helps your employees succeed.
  • Include employees in the process. Whether this is through having them be part of the interview, asking them to allow a candidate to shadow them, or introducing the candidate to them, your employees might see something you don’t and can help you judge whether someone will gel with your culture. Also, your employees will see how dedicated you are to hiring the right person.
  • Communicate the culture. Hiring is a two-way street. Make sure to emphasize to candidates what makes your company great and that you’ll support them in helping to promote its mission and values.

Set Expectations

Just like with your company culture, make sure you define and clearly communicate the roles and responsibilities of the position, from drafting the job description through interviewing the candidate (and through onboarding, of course). You’ll be more likely to identify the best candidates, and you’ll attract candidates who are better set up for success. Similarly, be transparent about the challenges of open positions in the interview process so that the candidates can assess whether they are ready to handle any obstacles and will be more likely to succeed if you hire them. 

Following these strategies to find the right people can be time-consuming and work-intensive. But by identifying and hiring the right candidates, you’ll develop a strong company culture and see the best results.    _____________________________________________________________________________

This content was developed for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc. ( Please consult your HR professional or attorney for further advice, as laws may differ in each state. Laws continue to evolve; the information presented is as of August 2016. Any omission or inclusion of incorrect data is unintentional. Please note this article is not intended to provide legal advice or to substitute for supervisor employment law training.

The PHCC Educational Foundation, a partnership of contractors, manufacturers and wholesalers was founded in 1987 to serve the plumbing-heating-cooling industry by preparing contractors and their employees to meet the challenges of a constantly changing marketplace. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting the Foundation by making a contribution at

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