are the days when new employees queue up for signing
bonuses and the cappuccino machine in the lobby. Reports
of rising unemployment and corporate belt-tightening
paint a picture of a stagnant economy in which employers
call the shots when it comes to hiring.
Appearances, however, can be deceiving.
While some segments of the economy have an oversupply
of labor, and job posting can prompt an avalanche
of resumes, in other segments it’s almost like
the 90s again. Moreover, experts insist companies
are having as hard a time as ever finding highly skilled
workers— the mythical top 10 percent that every
company says they want.
Author and management consultant Gregory
Smith recently surveyed companies to ask if they plan
on any new hiring.
“A whopping 72 percent said
yes,” he reports. “That amazed me.”
In areas such as healthcare, mortgage
banking, construction and even real estate, the hunt
for workers has heated up. In fact, in coming years
these hot spots may turn into widespread shortages,
some experts predict.
Warnings of dramatic changes in the
composition of the American workforce have been sounded
since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed
a year ago that by 2010 the nation will face a potential
shortage of more than 10 million skilled workers.
The study projected that economic
growth will produce approximately 168 million skilled
jobs; however, there may be only 158 million workers
to fill these jobs.
critical is that companies have to be selective in
whom they hire and more
conscious of how they manage their human capital,”
companies do a better job of recruiting the right
worker, they not only are likely to lower costs, but
also may be able to ensure their economic survival.
Unfortunately, many firms are still operating in a
reactive mode that yields low productivity and early
termination instead of a high performer.
many companies if somebody quits, they move on and
hire somebody fast, hire somebody cheap, and at a
low salary,” says Ed Pease, a director with
the Atlanta office of Spherion Professional Recruiting.
“Then they deal with the consequences later.”
experts say that companies could avoid these problems,
and perhaps many of these consequences, by recruiting
and hiring the right way. A better hiring process
yields better workers and cuts the costs of frequent
slow economy has also emboldened companies to rely
less on outside search firms and more on their own—
sometimes flawed— networks. For example, the
large number of tech companies that went bust has
created a ready pool of executive talent for VCs looking
for a known quantity.
downside is that they are not able to cast a net as
a search firm,” says Kathy Forbes, principal
at the Forbes Group, a specialist in executive search
for tech companies. “When they know someone,
it increases their comfort level. The problem with
that is they’re often not able to be as objective
as they should be in the interview process—
which is very important.”
seeking new hires are also making greater use of the
Internet and the old standbys— ads in newspapers
and trade journals. All these methods are guaranteed
to produce large numbers of applicants. Internal HR
departments, themselves downsized and disconnected
from the real needs of a hiring manager, must in turn
sift through these stacks of resumes.
wonder then, say recruiting experts, that finding
a good candidate is hit or miss. But it doesn’t
have to be that way.
secret to finding the best employees is to develop
a formal hiring process— one that is driven
by deep understanding of the results the company wants
the worker to achieve. Figuring out what the job really
consists of is not as easy as you might think—
even if you have a job description handy.
typical job description can rane from the short and
poorly written to multi-page single-spaced epics,
they often don’t deal with some of the cultural
nuances and environmental factors within a company,
which can be strong attributes or indicators of success,”
of creating a job description that lists degrees and
certifications required and general tasks to be done,
a performance profile is far more effective.
defines what you need to get done, not the skills
and experience a candidate needs to have,” says
Forbes. “It provides a simple means to make
past comparable performance the basis of the hiring
decision— not experience and personality.”
other words, if the candidate can achieve the performance
objectives, he or she has sufficient experience and
skills. On the other hand, the candidate who possesses
an arbitrary list of skills and experience may not
be able to deliver the end results a company is seeking.
a candidate has those traits must be discovered during
the interview. This conversation, in which a company
and the candidate attempt to sell themselves to each
other, is where the entire process is most likely
to break down.
problem with interviewing is that it’s a learned
skill,” says Joe Koscik, co-CEO of IT staffing
company, MDI. “Some people may be better at
it than others, but it’s definitely a skill
that can be acquired. The more you do it, the better
you’re going to get at it.”
The process contains many pitfalls
that can snare a hiring manager— or a job applicant—
and result in the best qualified candidate being rejected.
“Most interviewing methods measure
interviewing skills, not job competency,” says
Forbes. “When interviewers need to do is control
their biases. They need to minimize the impact of
An interviewer can develop rapport
with the candidate and spend his time talking about
common interests like golf and children, according
“Now you’re going to like
the person on a personal basis— which is important—
but you don’t get their skills and how they’re
going to perform the job,” he warns.
Even if the interviewer sticks to
the subject, he may come away with a biases impression
of the candidate. Even good prospects get nervous
and may be excluded for superficial reasons.
“The number one cause of hiring
errors is that most managers hire people based on
the candidate’s ability to get the job—
not do the job,” says Forbes.
In fact, there is little correlation
between interviewing skills and job competency, she
adds. The best candidates are rarely the best interviewees.
To minimize these problems, hiring
managers must carefully follow a structures approach
such as Chronological Structured Interviewing. The
object is to take the candidate through their entire
career by asking in-depth questions about each position.
The goal is to get a feel for how they actually did
their job and how well they performed.
This process also allows a good interviewer
to match the candidate’s skills and accomplishments
with the performance objectives of the job. Through
this matching process the interviewer also can avoid
the mistake of dismissing someone who might not have
all the skills, experience and education required
in a typical job description.
“They’ll bring traits
to the table that are more difficult to assess, such
as self-motivation, tenacity, leadership, vision and
other (soft skills),” Forbes explains.
In addition to appraising the candidate,
an interviewer also must remember that while the interview
is about the job seeker selling himself, it’s
also about selling the company as a desirable and
challenging place to work.
For the best companies, becoming an
employer of preference means providing benefits that
appeal to workers. Quick entry into the company’s
401K plan is increasingly common among businesses
seeking the best workers, according to James H. Landon,
a partner at Jones Day and an expert in employee benefits.
“Employees, particularly in
the non-executive ranks, find healthcare to be one
of the most essential elements of employment,”
Finding the right employees to help
drive your company to success isn’t easy—
even in a down economy. When it’s done right,
however, hiring can be a highly successful and bottom-line
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