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posted: 5/7/2012 6:00 AM

Small businesses returning to jobs marketplace

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It's been a while since many small businesses hired a new employee. A brief refresher about the process might help.

• There's a difference between hiring a new employee and hiring what Joel Goldberg defines as the 'A' player. "Anyone can put somebody into an opening," says Goldberg, CEO, Aurico Reports Inc. "What you want is to fill that space with a high performer who will do well."

• The hiring essentials, according to Goldberg and management attorney Julie Proscia, include a good job description; an ability to ask interview questions that will get the information you want; and background checks that verify the information an applicant provides and assesses her, or his, past performance.

The hiring process should begin with "a good position description, so you can match the skill set you need to the individual," says Proscia, a partner in the St. Charles office of SmithAmundsen LLC, a Chicago-based law firm that specializes in management support.

"Do your prep work in the beginning."

That prep work likely will include firming up your questions. Contrary to what many business owners believe, there are questions you can ask. "You can't ask questions that pertain to protected categories -- whether an applicant is married or if they'd need time off if they had sick children," Proscia says.

But, she continues, you can ask about an applicant's ability to perform the essentials of the job. "For example, 'Our hours are 9 to 5. Can you work those hours? And sometimes we have overtime on short notice. Will that be a problem?'"

Listen and you'll discover much of the information you want.

Proscia also suggests having two people in the interview. "You'll have two sets of eyes and ears to determine whether the applicant is a good fit for your company and its culture," she says, and you'll have a witness to the process if, for example, any discrimination charges are brought if an applicant doesn't get your job.

Aside from the information you glean directly from the applicant sitting in your office, there are two additional key parts of the hire-or-not decision: How the prospective employee has performed in previous jobs, and who the applicant is.

"Don't think you know everything there is to know about the individual you're interviewing," warns Goldberg, whose Arlington Heights-headquartered Aurico provides a range of background screens, verifications and testing. Information on resumes and applications tends to be "stretched" seven times out of 10, with "outright lies," mostly concerning salaries and degrees, occurring one-third of the time, he says.

While many businesses do little more than verify an applicant's employment dates, Aurico's people seek out an applicant's previous supervisor.

"The supervisor generally will share factual information and opinions," says Goldberg, whose interviewers probe about an applicant's actual performance.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at 2012 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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