Hiring Right

Making a good hire involves more than putting an ad in the paper and conducting some interviews. In a series of articles we will outline the steps to a successful hiring process.

Unfortunately, many employers skip the early steps. Don’t make that mistake. Proper preparation helps not only to clarify your needs and expectations but also to refine your interview strategy. Bypassing this phase can leave you with a new person on the payroll and your needs still unfulfilled.

Step 1: Perform a Job Analysis. Your first task is to identify the essential functions of the position. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, essential functions are those that are fundamental to a particular position (as opposed to marginal). You’ll also need to consider the knowledge and skills necessary to perform those functions.

If you have employees who already hold the position in question, ask them to write down their major responsibilities and specific duties as they see it. They may have more insight into the day-to-day tasks, functions, and skills than you do. Then talk to them about their responses.

For this article, we’ll use the position of sales associate as our example.

After speaking with the store’s other sales associates as well as relying on his or her own knowledge and experience, the owner of our model company has determined that the position’s key responsibility can be summed up in a single sentence: To assist customers in a courteous, professional manner. During a typical day, a sales associate has to greet customers, show them products, answer their questions, and perform the actual sales transaction. Sales associates also help open and close the store, straighten up displays and counters and keep them appropriately stocked. Some also keep a client book.

Sales associates rely primarily on interpersonal skills, especially communication skills. During the job analysis, the owner of our model company has discovered that top sales associates are good at demonstrating the value, features, and benefits of the products and are comfortable using and explaining industry terminology like diamond grades and gold karats.

The owner also knows that sales associates must be able to identify and overcome objections, understand the difference between a stalling tactic and a request for further information, and know how and when to appropriately go for the add-on sale. A sales associate should know how to listen to customers and pick up cues about whether they have special events coming up, whether they know exactly what they want, or need help shopping. Finally, the owner requires that sales associates be well groomed and presentable at all times.

Step 2: Writing the Job Description. Your job analysis is the blueprint for the job description. Job descriptions help ensure that all areas of your business are covered by one job or another, sometimes even overlapping where necessary. Think of the job description as instructions for your employee, and for yourself. It can clarify expectations; provide a basis for measuring job performance; and help you at review time if you wish to reward, or need to discipline, your employee.

Your descriptions of the position’s tasks and functions must be clear. Break them down individually. Use bullet points. Where appropriate, include brief explanations. Include the title, who the person reports to, key responsibilities, specific duties, work hours, and experience and education qualifications if applicable.

Since our model owner has conducted an effective job analysis, the heart of the job description—the essential functions and the requisite skills and abilities—is virtually finished. (See sidebar on p.196).

After you make your hire, job descriptions should be reviewed at least quarterly to ensure accuracy. If they are no longer appropriate, rewrite them. It’s also a good idea to write a summary.

For a management position, consider what responsibilities you’re willing to relinquish to this person after training. If you’re unwilling to hand over the charge, don’t put it in the job description; otherwise, you’ll set up the person for failure.

Next month we’ll discuss how to establish salary range.