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North Central Business Journal News

(October 1999 issue)

by Sandra Kay Neal, Ph.D.

     The most important human resource tactic is selecting the right employees initially.  Spending time on the selection process will save time, headaches, and money later.
     The following steps will increase the likelihood of hiring the right staff at the outset.

1)     Describe the job in detail.
            Write down on paper all the tasks that you expect the person to do, not just a general job title.  For instance, if you hire a secretary, describe in detail each task the person will need to do such as answering the telephone in a customer-centered manner, producing accurate documents on time, keeing usable files, presenting a positive interpretation of the boss to customers, etc.

2)    Prioritize the job tasks.
            Assign a letter to each of the tasks.  Create a grid with the letters on each axis.  Decide whether task A or task B is more importnt; place that letter on the grid at the junction of those two letters.  Then compare task B to task C, etc.  Add up the number of times each letter appears in the body of the grid; the higher the number, the more important the task.

3)     Specify important work attitudes, values, and habits.
               Write down all the job attitudes, values, and habits that you expect this person to demonstrate, such as punctuality, low absenteeism, ability to respond to emergencies without stress, etc.  Also specific attitudes, values and work habits that could be hindering.

4)     Prioritize these work attitudes, values, and habits.
                Use the same prioritizing process as was used in determining the relative importance of job tasks.

5)     Develop a set of questions or tasks that will help you find which applicants are good at these tasks and habits.
               Look at each job task and habit and ask yourself, "how would I know the person can do this?"  Your answers will provide the information you will seek when screening the applicants.
               It is particularly useful to establish these questions or tasks as a type of test, with good, adequate, and inadequate responses specified prior to secreening the applicants.  That allows you to assign a "grade" to each applicant on each aspect, so that you can easily compare applicants at the end of the screening process.

6)     Advertise the job.
               Use whatever means are open to you in getting the word out that you are hiring.  Spending a lot of money advertising the job does not result in more applicants, so a small ad is as good as a large ad.
               It is useful to have an application deadline.  This reduces the possibility of prolonging the selection process.

7)     Do as much screening as possible outside the interview.
                Have applicants provide reference names and phone numbers who have been given permission by the applicants to discuss their work with you.  Ask the references prepared questions connected to the expected skills and attitudes, and translate their responses into a grading system for ease of comparing.
                Check out background training.
                 Use a skill test if appropriate.

8)          Interview using a structured format.
                Interview each applicant using a standard set of questions, with previously determined good, adequate, and inadequate answers.  This reduces the possibility of responding to irrelevant aspects of the applicant, such as their personality, and helps the interviewer discern appropriate differences between applicants.

Sandra Kay Neal holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and has 19 years experience helping organizations solve human resource issues.  Her company, Synergistic Organizational Solutions, specializes in aiding small businesses. Dr. Neal can be reached at sos_hr@localaccess.com.

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