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Management Briefs: Avoid Incurring the Costs of a Bad Hire

By Elizabeth Lions

Managers, you know the employee. The one that has a habit of missing critical deadlines, and instead of results produces excuses. Or the employee that is constantly negative, bringing  the team down. Or the employee that you just cannot coach and tests your leadership skills to the limit.

According to Forbes contributor David K. Williams, the cost of a bad hire can run you anywhere between $25,000-$50,000. The hidden costs quickly add up when you look at a recruiter’s salary, job postings, interviewing, training and related equipment like phones, desks and computers.

Our country is still in a post recession, and recovering from lengthy period where jobs have been consolidated, sent overseas and just plain eliminated. Current data also points to top employees leaving for greener pastures, and turnover is more costly and disruptive to business than ever. A key employee leaving a critical project about to launch could be detrimental to your company’s bottom line.

Ironically, the corporations and leaders I work with spend little time thinking through the hiring process, which can be a recipe for disaster. Here are the five things to consider in order to attract, hire and retain the top employees:

Skill Gap Assessment 

Skill gap assessments are critical in finding the right person for the job, and will change your recruitment campaign from reactive to responsive. Ask yourself the following questions:  What do you want from your new hire?  What skills do applicants need for the position? How much will it cost? Where is your team heavy or light on skills? Are you filling a vacant position or are you creating a new one? Do you have time to train this person? Can you afford to hire based upon character and train up the hire’s technical skills? While it’s tough losing a team member, successful leaders don’t just react and hastily place ads online. Slow down and really think about what you want, then interview and make an informed decision. While this sounds simple, it is amazing how few leaders do this exercise.

Ads that Attract

Writing a catchy ad is no small feat. The best ads I’ve ever found online were from Apple. They made sweeping the floors look like an awesome experience. Few help-wanted ads online read with exciting headers that woo an employee in. Most are dry, focusing on the company and the job description. And while that’s certainly important, it doesn’t focus on the applicant. The magic happens when the ad is written from the what’s-in-it-for-me approach. Think about that. Why would an employee want to work for you over, let’s say, Apple? Think about your culture, growth advancement, pay, mentoring, or wherever you shine. Write the ad from the perspective of the applicant. What will rock their world?  If you want to compete with Apple, throw away your stodgy language. And while you are at it, read one of Apple’s ads. You’ll quickly see why anyone would not only be willing — but happy — to take out their trash!

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Interview Questions

The most common mistake managers make is shooting from the hip when it comes to interview questions. Running from meeting to meeting and not taking recruiting seriously is shortsighted at best. Interviews should be planned with questions outlining what your skill gap assessment gave you. Determine where you want to end up with your new hire, and then craft-thought provoking question that will help get you there. Without scripted questions, you will find it difficult to decide which candidate was the top and which was the bottom pick at the end of the recruitment campaign.  If you were baking a cake, you’d have the ingredients measured out, and you would add them in order, and then you would bake the cake. You wouldn’t approach cake baking without a recipe, so why would you approach interviewing without scripted questions? Have at least five to seven good interview questions that uncover skills, attitudes and behaviors. Take notes during the interview because you’ll need them later for the decision-making process.

The Sell

During the interview, be sure to tell the employee what is in it for him. Make it clear, so that when he is interviewing elsewhere, your job will stand out as the best. Also, be somewhat collaborative. Command and control does not make for a good interview. Rather, try to lead a professional, focused conversation. Discuss your leadership style. Likely your candidate is interviewing elsewhere. Why should he want to work for you? Remember that your perfect candidate will choose you as much as you choose him.

Reference Checks

You can gain valuable information on a reference check if you ask the right questions. In my career, I’ve had reference calls go as short as 10 minutes and as long as 40. Yes, people will talk, and if you ask the right questions, they will share valuable information about what a person is actually like at work.  Just like the outline of interview questions, the process around thoughtful reference check question are a must-have to solidify your hiring decision.

The task of hiring is like changing your oil in the driveway. No one likes to do it, but if you are doing it yourself, what is your option? The good news is if you do it right, you’ll save time and money.

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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