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For small business (or large), 11 steps to hiring right

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in Hiring,Human Resources

by Jeb Breithaupt

I own a home building and remodeling company. It takes me longer to hire someone for my staff than it does to design one of my custom homes.

The philosophy behind my 11-step hiring process: Make the applicant work to get the job. Yes, that takes time. But my success rate is 90%. When I’ve failed to follow it, I’ve regretted it every time.

I’m not an HR professional, and my business is small enough that we don’t have an HR position. So I’ve been hiring staff on my own for a couple of decades. I’ve come up with a hiring process that has rarely let me down.

1. Define the job you’re trying to fill, very specifically. Write an eight- to 10-sentence description. Ask your staff for help. I have made the mistake of starting to recruit for a position, only to discover later that staff had other, better ideas for a job description.

2. Ask friends, suppliers and employees to recommend candidates. I find 10% of my new hires that way.

3. Post help-wanted ads. Use the newspaper and online services like CareerBuilder and Craigslist. Include as much of your job description as possible. Reveal your non-negotiables. For example, if the candidate must have three years of experience, say so. If a college degree is a must, put that in. Don’t include your phone number. At this stage, email is enough.

4. Weed out résumés with spelling errors, long stretches of unemployment, lack of experience or the wrong kind of experience. Look for education and training that could help an applicant succeed in your company, even if they gained it in a different kind of job in another industry.

5. Email promising candidates. Ask why they want the job, what their primary skills and strengths are and the salary range they’re looking for. Only candidates who are truly interested will bother to respond. Follow up with those who reply by asking a few more questions. If their answers satisfy you, offer a telephone interview.

6. Ask each candidate to complete the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality inventory. I do this before conducting any phone interviews. The Myers-Briggs helps show whether a candidate’s personality type will fit the job, our company culture and the personalities of my current staff. For a sales or office manager job, for instance, I’m looking for an extrovert, but introverted architects and bookkeepers do fine working in the office on their own.

7. Pinpoint critical skills during the phone interview. Your goal: Learn if the candidate has the critical skills needed for the specific job. I ask carpenters about their tools. I press bookkeepers about how well they know construction accounting.

8. Invite the most impressive candidates for face-to-face interviews. I begin interviews with a 15-minute, one-on-one conversation between the candidate and me. During this quick conversation, I ask applicants about their experience and why they chose their career paths, schools and prior jobs. If that goes well, we move on to the next step.

9. Ask a couple of staff members to join in. This five-minute conversation can generate more evidence of either a good or poor fit. At this point, I might thank the candidate and say good-bye. But for those I really like, the interview continues.

10. Leave the applicant alone with the staff members. The candidate can ask would-be colleagues about the company, the work, me—whatever comes up. Em­­ployees can question the applicant. This is an important part of my hiring process. Interviewees tend to relax a little more with peers than with the boss, so they reveal things that they would never say during an interview with me.

11. Finally, talk more specifically about money—but only with candidates you’re quite sure you would like to hire. Then, I make a single job offer, contingent on the results of a drug test and background check. I don’t let the new hire start work until I see those results.


Jeb Breithaupt is a third-generation designer, remodeler and builder, and the owner of JEB Design/Build in Shreve­­­­port, La., and a blogger for Builder and Remodel­­ing magazines. Contact him at (318) 865-4914.

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