The Process of Hiring the Right Candidate

March 27, 2007
Written by Stephen Head
Your success depends on the quality and effectiveness of the people you hire.
A survey conducted in the U.S. of the landscape industry about three years ago cited that nearly 50 per cent of landscape contractors said that “lack of labour” was the limiting factor to their company’s growth. This concern is echoed throughout the nursery industry in Canada and is not getting any better.
22Your success depends on the quality and effectiveness of the people you hire.

A survey conducted in the U.S. of the landscape industry about three years ago cited that nearly 50 per cent of landscape contractors said that “lack of labour” was the limiting factor to their company’s growth. This concern is echoed throughout the nursery industry in Canada and is not getting any better.

Chief among complaints are a shortage of skilled labour, attracting new entry employees, an attrition of labour to other industries and retailers. It is as important now as ever to hire effectively, and to attain a high retention rate among employees.
 
‘Hiring right’
Before starting the hiring process, it is worthwhile to undertake a “job analysis” to ensure you, the employer, have a full understanding of the job you are about to post and its purpose. 

A typical job analysis should contain:
 
•    An evaluation of your business needs that justify the position
•    A description of the position’s functions, duties, and responsibilities
•    An assessment of the qualities a person would need to be successful in this position
•    A job analysis can also aid in the development of a job description and candidate specification.

A candidate specification will help determine how and where the job is advertised, attain a higher level of qualified responses, and help when reviewing applications. A candidate specification might include:
•    Educational and experience requirements
•    Required skills, knowledge and expertise
•    Necessary behavioural characteristics.

A job description sets out the duties and responsibilities of a particular position for employees, once hired, and can also be developed from the job analysis.

Creating an Interview Plan
With a job analysis and candidate specifications prepared, it is now a good time to develop an interview plan, which includes: how and where you will conduct the interview, sets out some prepared questions, as well as a format for the interview. Some things to consider are:
 
•    Write out the questions you are going to ask to ensure you cover the main points in the interview.
•    Formulate open-ended questions that will encourage a candidate to give a descriptive answer .
•    Asking each candidate the same set of questions can make analyzing the results much easier.
•    Focus on factors related specifically to the job.
•    Do not be afraid to include situational questions in which you describe a scenario and ask the
    candidate to explain how they would react in a similar circumstance.

Finding Qualified Candidates
Advertising is perhaps the most widely used method, but do not make this your only method. Word of mouth is a powerful tool of recruitment. Many staff are hired as a result of knowing someone who knows somebody else, and it is not unheard of for customers to become employees either.

Specialized employment agencies, such as the B.C. Agriculture Labour Pool,  can help in the search for skilled labour, they charge a fee for this service, but will often do some of the screening for you based on the candidate specification you provide. Ask everyone you know for contacts, for people who might be interested in your job and have the required skills.

The internet is another avenue, as well as job search sites. Another option is to have an employment section built into your own website where you list vacancies. Perhaps include an online application form.

 Job fairs at colleges, or community organized, can give you access to a focused group of job seekers with specific skill sets. In a bit of a role reversal, one garden centre in B.C. held their own job fair at the garden centre, inviting the colleges and the general public to look around, fill in applications, and have a preliminary interview.

The Interview
There are many ways of conducting an interview, and each interviewer has his or her own preference.

The telephone interview is a useful aid when there are a number of candidates and you want to whittle it down to a manageable number. A team interview consists of  a team of interviewers, individuals who have a vested interest in the position, such as department heads or managers.
 The main objectives in a first interview are to determine if the candidate can successfully do the job and make certain they are qualified and interested in the job. Welcoming the candidate, engaging in light relevant conversation, and explaining the process can help establish a rapport and put them at ease before the interview begins.

During the interview, do not do all the talking, allow moments of silence, give the candidate time to think of an answer. Listen carefully to the answers and acknowledge that you have heard them.
Good listeners spend 70 per cent of the time listening and just 30 per cent of the time speaking
Interviewing a potential employee is not all that different from making a sales pitch. The interviewer also has to sell the candidate on the idea of working for you. Work is not always about money, for many employees it is also working environment: is this a nice place to spend my work day, will I enjoy it?

During an interview, treat the candidate with courtesy and respect, ensure you have adequate room for making notes, but only write down the most important points. Taking too many notes can distract your focus. Avoid interruptions and distractions, set aside a block of time for the interview, select an appropriate location and make sure the area is dry and warm. Keep the interview to a reasonable time and close by answering the candidate’s questions. Finally tell the candidate when and how you will follow-up and keep to it.

When You Find Them, Keep Them
 Share your business vision and corporate values with your employees, offer them a sense of belonging, help them set specific, achievable goals. Regular reviews and positive constructive feedback are not only beneficial to you the employer, they also help the employee develop as one of the team. Make it fun, fun need not be unproductive but a pleasant place to go to work each day.
 These are just some ideas you might like to try out. Don’t forget the legalities. If you are not sure about any of the legal issues involved in the interview or hiring process, check with your legal advisor and/or employment standards office.

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