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Is Your Business Prepared for the New Year?

December 23rd, 2011

It’s that time of the year again—it’s time to make sure your business has all its ducks in a row to start the new year. You’ve used December to reflect on the past year and now, in this last week of December, it’s time to focus on your company’s new goals for the upcoming year. It’s time to evaluate things by cleaning house, making sure those financial reviews are completed and getting ready for success in 2012.  Read the rest of this entry »

5 Questions You Must Ask When Interviewing a Candidate

May 4th, 2011

When you have gotten through the initial screening of job candidates, it’s time to bring in the top two or three in for an interview. What questions should you ask them? What answers should you be looking for?

From a general perspective, you want to ask questions that tell you whether the person has the skills to do the job, how they function under pressure, and how well they will fit into the team.

Can they really do the job? You’ve seen the person’s resume, so you know they claim to have the necessary skills. Ask a few questions to verify:

• “I see you managed the payroll for three subsidiaries. What was the most difficult part of integrating all of them?”
• “When you were the V.P of Marketing for XYZ company, what steps did you take when planning the annual marketing budget?”
• “When you are programming with JavaScript, how would you link an indexed field variable to display on mouseover?”

These questions ask how or what. They can’t be answered yes or no. Listen to the answer to see how quickly the candidate answers, how complete his answer is, and whether he actually answers what you asked.

How well do they function under pressure? There are very few jobs that don’t place the employee under stress from time to time. Anybody can do well when things are calm. You want people who can function well when things get confusing or difficult. To identify candidates who can perform under pressure, pose situations like:

• “Tell me about a stressful situation that occurred repeatedly on your last job and how you handled it.”
• “Which co-worker at your last job did you get along with least well? What did you do about it?”

An interesting question to ask here is “What did you think of our website?” This will tell you whether the person has taken the time to visit your website to learn about the company, in addition to telling you how they will respond to being put on the spot.

How well will they fit in? Among candidates who are equally qualified on paper, this is the most important attribute. You need someone who will fit with the team and be a productive member. Remember, you aren’t looking for the nicest person, you’re looking for the best fit. In addition to personality, you need to evaluate work habits and figure out where the team needs the most help.

If you feel you have found a strong candidate based on their answers to the previous 3 questions, try a couple of more specific queries:

“If you stayed with your current company, what would be your next move?” Answers to this question elicit information on several levels. Not only can you get a sense of what the applicant expects — and, in turn, how that jibes with the position you’re looking to fill — but you might also tap into an underlying reason why the applicant wants to move on.

“What’s the toughest feedback you’ve ever received and how did you learn from it?” This shows a candidate’s ability to learn from mistakes. A good answer would involve the candidate recalling specific feedback and detailing how she learned from it and changed. Sometimes candidates say they can’t remember tough feedback. That can be a red flag. It may indicate the interviewee hasn’t worked in a high-risk or creative environment, or that she was unable to handle receiving negative feedback.

Hiring the right people is central to the continuing growth and success of your business. So use your interview wisely — to identify job skills, target personal strengths and weaknesses and get a feel for someone’s sense of teamwork and cooperation.

When Is It the Right Time to Hire?

March 10th, 2011

Now that the economy is starting to pick up, so is hiring. Is it the right time for you to hire some new employees?

Obviously, the first question you should ask yourself is “Can we afford it?” After assessing your cash flow, existing revenue and inventory, you may be unsure. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that the cost of hiring a new employee will have a negative impact on your bottom line. Consider the problem from another perspective by asking yourself the following questions:

1. In recent months, have you needed to extend deadlines, defer product deliveries, or revise schedules to meet commitments? If recent projects have had to be extended or if products have not been delivered on time, most likely you are understaffed.

2. Have a number of employees expressed dissatisfaction about working conditions? If you’ve overheard employees objecting to increases in work, or if people have brought to your attention more issues than usual, they may be experiencing job-induced stress. If a number of them are feeling overworked, it may be time to hire.

3. Have you noticed an increase in doctor’s appointments and sick/personal days? If employees are working too hard, or working in areas beyond their knowledge or skill levels, they may be in legitimate need of doctor’s care or time off. They may also be out looking for a new job that doesn’t present these issues. Either way, the result can be damaging to your company’s finances.

4. What percentage of your employees are consultants or temps? Although using consultants and temps is a wise strategic staffing move for different reasons at different times, over-reliance on consultants is a common sign of understaffing.

5. Have you spent too much or too little time and money on training? If you have had to train more employees than usual, that could mean that too many of your current employees are missing skills that you need, or that they are being asked to do work beyond their assigned function. If you are spending less time and money on training, could it be a sign that your staff doesn’t have the time?

6. Have you noticed an increase in overtime costs, employees working through lunches, or people having to arrive early/stay late in order to get work done? If so, your company is probably understaffed.

7. How frequently are new solutions, methods, technologies or workflow enhancements integrated into your workplace? If productivity and efficiency have stalled, or if new ideas and technologies are not being implemented, then workers may be overwhelmed. They may be too focused on routine tasks and don’t have time for process improvement.

If you detect more than three or four of these issues in your workplace, then it’s time to start thinking about hiring.

Just be sure that you budget the time and energy that you will need. If you have a specific start date in mind for the new hires, make sure you start the process far enough in advance to meet that deadline. Depending on the position you are trying to fill, estimate that the entire process will take anywhere from 3-10 weeks and plan accordingly. If the skills you seek are considered hard to find, you can expect to add 2-6 weeks to your timeframe. And if you feel you don’t have the time, Morgan Hunter Corporate Search is here to help.