This is the second part of a 2-part article on 7 guidelines for hiring employees in a small firm. Part 1, containing the first 3 guidelines, appears here.
4. Sell the candidate on your company.
To get the best people, you may have to “sell” the best candidates on coming to work for you. Problem is, as a small business you may not be able to match a large corporation’s salary and benefits. My advice: if you can’t compete well on pay and fringe benefits, emphasize where you do compete well.
Employees often care as much or more about work conditions than about dollars. They may care more about the kinds of advantages your business offers: a friendly work environment; flexible working hours; work at home privileges; absence of office politics; or bigger job responsibilities and challenges.
Don’t be matter of fact – highlight your advantages! Ask team members who interview the candidate to feel free to describe what they like about working for the company. Hearing it “from the horse’s mouth” often has a huge impact on candidates.
5. Put job offers in writing.
A job offer letter protects you from misunderstandings. It’s also a courtesy for the candidate. At a minimum an offer letter should cover: job title, compensation; start date; full or part time status; eligibility for company benefits; a statement that employment is “at will”; and any prerequisites to employment, such as a background check. Don’t throw in the kitchen sink – instead, refer to your employee handbook for catch-all terms. (You do have an employee manual, right????)
Create a form offer letter and have it reviewed by your attorney in advance. Offer letters have legal ramifications, and this is not an area for playing amateur attorney. Check out this sample offer letter to get started and provide something for your attorney to work with.
6. Conduct background checks.
I wish that you could just size people up and everything would be OK. But in reality, one bad employee – say, a convicted embezzler – could destroy everything you’ve worked for.
Have candidates fill out and sign a formal job application giving you the authority to conduct a background check. Then hire a professional background checking service. You can find them in the yellow pages or in the search engines – or ask other business owners who they use for background checks. At a minimum the background check should look at criminal records, driving records, academic records, employment history, military records, and verification of social security number. Some also will check references for you, so that you don’t have to do it yourself.
Be sure to choose a reputable background-checking firm that operates in your state. They typically know what employers legally can and cannot inquire into. Go over your plans with your attorney, too.
If you wish to do any kind of pre-employment testing (such as personality testing or skills testing or drug testing), those are also areas to discuss with your attorney. Such testing can be a valuable aid in hiring, but it also can have significant legal implications.
For more information, read: Small Business Owner’s Background Check Guide.
7. Have a training plan for new hires.
I will never forget one of my first jobs. I showed up for work. After waiting in Reception about 30 minutes (because everyone was “busy” the receptionist explained), someone wandered out who clearly was distracted and a little annoyed at having to greet the new person. He showed me the coffee machine and bathrooms, plopped me down at a desk, and then promptly ignored me. There I sat, wondering if I had made the biggest mistake of my career, until my new manager finally had time to take me to lunch 4 hours later. What a terrible way to treat your so-called million-dollar investment.
If you have a new-hire orientation and training program, extra points for you. But if not, here’s an orientation and training plan anyone can do. Start by taking the new person around and introducing or reintroducing him or her to other employees. Make sure he or she completes all necessary paperwork (such as for benefits) and has everything needed to get through the day. Think beyond bathrooms and coffee or vending machines. Consider: phone along with instructions for how to use it; computer along with instructions and passwords; entry key or keycard; and so on. If you don’t have time or the inclination to complete all orientation details, make sure you assign another employee in your organization to do it, well before the new hire’s arrival that first day.
Then set aside face time with the new employee regularly throughout the first week. One simple way to train is to have the employee shadow you (or another employee) side by side for a few days, while you explain and demonstrate tasks. Smile and solicit questions in a patient way to develop trust. Be lavish with praise and sparing with criticism. This will build up the new hire’s confidence. Then gradually cut the umbilical cord a bit more each day as the new hire shows that he or she is catching on.
Whatever you do, give some thought to how you will bring the new person on board from the moment he or she walks in the door that first morning. Don’t leave it to chance and assume it will all just miraculously happen. Good management doesn’t just happen – it’s the result of thought and follow-through.
A single hiring mistake can set your company back more so than in a large corporation. If you have 4 employees in your company, and one of them is a bad hire, that’s 25% of your workforce that’s underperforming! But, on the other hand, taking the time to hire right can propel your business to grow and prosper because one great employee can accomplish amazing things.