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Hire with care as economy recovers

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in Centerpiece,Hiring,Human Resources

now hiring signChances are, your organization is hiring more employees than it has in years. The improving economy has prompted businesses of all sizes to stop  layoffs and cancel hiring freezes.

At the same time, many of your employees may be ready to move on. Some feel more confident about their ability to find better jobs elsewhere. Retirement-age staffers may have restarted plans to wrap up their careers.

That new optimism means your organization has an opportunity to bolster your workforce.

But going on a relative hiring binge is not without challenges. Research shows that even with a willing pool of job applicants, many companies are having a hard time filling vacancies with employees who have the specific skills they need.

As you transition into hiring mode, consider these trends and insights from hiring managers who have weighed in with pollsters and researchers:

Promote from within

Before looking far afield for candidates, take stock of your existing talent. It can be significantly less expensive to promote a current employee than to hire an outsider. In 2012, University of Pennsylvania researchers found that employers typically pay external hires 18% more than those promoted from within.

In addition, outside hires received lower marks in performance reviews for their first two years on the job. Existing employees already know your organization’s culture, customers, hierarchy, products and politics—so they’re more productive from day one.

Interview remotely

Hiring pros are split on the value of using online chats, Skype and mobile apps to conduct interviews. Even so, it’s becoming more common.

Preliminary interviews—conducted to narrow down a long list of candidates whose résumés made the first cut—lend themselves to phone and Internet conversations. Just as with “live” interviews, you should carefully document your questions and candidates’ responses.

Of course, for most positions, you’ll eventually need to meet candidates face-to-face before sealing the deal.

Screen everybody

Highly publicized incidents of workplace violence have made it more routine—and more critical—for organizations to screen prospective employees to ensure they are not going to expose staff and clients to harm.

The Hanover Insurance Group has issued tips for hiring pros:

  • Screen even if you or another employee already knows the applicant, and even if the candidate will fill an executive-level spot.
  • Conduct background checks early in the screening process to weed out job-seekers who are not suitable for your organization.
  • Require all candidates who fill out applications to read the organization’s policies on abuse, neglect and employee conduct—and sign a statement saying they understand the rules.
  • Ask open-ended questions during the interview, and have more than one person talk with every applicant.
  • Check references—orally rather than in writing—before extending a job offer.

Address job security

Despite an overall increase in employee confidence, don’t be surprised if the job applicant sitting across from you during an interview seems worried. The new Harris Poll “Jobs and Benefits Security Index” says more than half of American workers fret over the security of their income, benefits and ability to find work. Older workers and those with household incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 are most concerned, the poll notes.

A survey by financial news organization TheStreet confirms that insight, noting that 44% of Americans are still worried about losing their jobs.

Get ready to negotiate

With business on the rebound, candidates expect salary flexibility—and know how to leverage their side of the negotiation. Top-notch job candidates typically apply for positions with several organizations and will use job offers from other companies to wrangle higher pay from you.

Your competitors understand this. Six in 10 execs say they’re willing to negotiate starting salaries, notes a survey by The Creative Group. If they have narrowed their choice down to one outstanding professional, they’ll sweeten the deal if the candidate asks.

Even in a hurry, hire carefully

Tempted to fill an immediate staffing need by hiring someone you haven’t met, whose references you haven’t checked or who has not thoroughly impressed you? Don’t!

Two-thirds of U.S. companies responding to a CareerBuilder survey said they had made a bad hire last year—at an average cost of more than $50,000. “When you add up missed sales opportunities, strained client and employee relations, potential legal issues and resources to hire and train candidates, the cost can be considerable,” explains CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson.

The smarter route, he advises: Take your time to assess whether a candidate is the best fit for the job and the company culture before extending an offer.

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