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What are some “must do’s” to ensure the right candidate is chosen to fill a position?

Answered by Debra Thompson, President, TG & Associates

To read Part 1 of this Q&A series about effectively hiring new employees, click here.

You recently answered a question about hiring graphic designers in which you discussed your approach for testing and evaluating candidates. What are the other must do's to ensure the right person is selected for any position? We are beginning to see a resurgence in our business activity and will soon need to bring on some new people. I want to make sure that we don't waste our energy by bringing in the wrong person.

A few years ago when businesses began approaching me to help them find top performers, I defined eleven steps that must be followed to achieve successful hiring of a top performer. If you skip a step or lower the standards in any step, you will end up with a bad hire and that will cost you. Various governmental agencies have estimated that cost to be between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 times the individual's annual salary. A disciplined hiring process appears time consuming and therefore expensive, but in fact, the proper use of proven hiring tools will save you money in many ways. For example, the avoidance of costs associated with a bad hire is combined with the added profits due to higher productivity and teamwork that results from a good hire. I have always used this process when I provide my employee placement services and can assure you it works.

Here is a brief outline of these eleven steps:

Step 1: Define the Job
This is the planning step. The nature of the job to be filled is defined and the expectations are determined. The existing job description is evaluated against the job definition to see if it still fits. If it doesn’t, make the necessary changes. If a job description does not exist, then it must be prepared so that all applicants and the hiring manager can agree on the responsibilities and duties of the job.

Step 2: Define the Person
Too often we hire for skills and fire for behaviors. It is important to define the behaviors that are expected in the position. I use a tool called the Human Job Analysis. The HJA translates the hiring manager’s expectations into behavioral characteristics that can be used to evaluate the expected personality of the individual being sought. These first steps bring together the skill requirements and the behavior requirements.

Step 3: Recruit
Clearly it is most important to get your hiring needs out to the right audience. The recruiting must be designed and executed to attract the individuals most likely to meet the defined requirements. The Internet provides many possibilities such as, and You should also use your own web site to host a job opportunities page. A short newspaper ad can state that a position is available and direct applicants to go to your website for details. My clients also use my employment opportunities page for this purpose, especially when they are seeking to replace a current employee. Use of the Internet can help with prescreening by finding out if candidates can follow instructions and are computer literate, a key skill today.

Step 4: Prescreen
Do not plan to bring in every applicant who sends you a resume. First conduct a prescreen of the resumes and then conduct quick telephone interviews. Quickly weed out the applicants who are clearly not viable candidates. Get salary expectations out in the open right away so you don’t waste your time or the applicant's time when the salary expectations and the budget clearly don't match.

Step 5: Employee Application
Use an approved format that passes the government's requirements for what you can legally ask an applicant. Always have the applicant compete the application even if they give you a resume. The form should include authorization to do reference and background checks.

Step 6: Structured Interview
Bring the candidates who pass the prescreen in for a formal interview. Be prepared and have appropriate questions. Ask all applicants the same questions and document the answers. A prepared interview sheet will help keep you on track. Do not write on the application form as it is a legal document. You can download the top 20 interview questions from my website to help you through this process.

Step 7: Test
As I said in my earlier article, testing is so very important. I recommend the Wonderlic© Personnel Test to test basic competency and I recommend personality profiling to evaluate the characteristics and compare them to the HJA prepared in step 2. Conduct other testing as needed, to evaluate specific technical skills that the position may require. I also recommend equipment testing when it is a requirement of the position. All of these testing tools are available from my company at our website,

Step 8: Reference Check
It is important to verify accuracy of the data on the resume, the application and during the interview. It is a well-known fact that applicants lie and provide false or exaggerated information on their applications. Make sure you get the names of several references that you can check. Put the responsibility on the applicant to give you business references. Don't rely on references from family and friends.

Step 9: Hiring Decision
Look at all of the data you have collected. Evaluate and select the best applicant. If multiple persons interviewed the candidate, get input from all interviewers. Compare apples to apples and don't lower the bar in this step. If none of the applicants meet the criteria you set, don't just hire a warm body. Start over.

Step 10: Make The Offer
Notify the winning applicant and make a verbal offer quickly. Prepare and send an offer letter to the applicant that clearly defines the conditions of the offer, the expected start date, benefits and a reminder that other checks will still need to be completed such as background checks, drug and medical testing. Require that the offer letter be signed and returned. Also get a written authorization to do the background check if you didn't do so already.

Step 11: Final Checks
A background investigation is prudent and necessary for liability protection. If your policies require it, also have medical and drug testing performed by competent agencies. If the results are negative, terminate the employment immediately. Also, as a courtesy, send letters to the unsuccessful applicants.

As you look at this process, you are probably wishing it could be easier. Try to remember that the effort you put into a good hire will be a lot less than the effort you’d have to put into terminating a bad hire or struggling through the emotional stress of a lawsuit by a disgruntled former employee.

Good luck and I hope that your business recovery continues and you find the top performers that will make it even stronger.

Debra Thompson is a national speaker and consultant on people management issues for the graphics industry. She is president of TG & Associates which specializes in Staffing Solutions for the Graphics Industries. She is the 2003 Recipient of the PrintImage International Industry Award of Distinction.

Visit for more information on her company, products and services and free information on the hiring process. She can also provide support to make your hire successful or do it for you. Debra can be reached at 877-842-7762 (toll free) or

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