Your firm is growing, and it's time to hire some new employees! First, congratulations are in order! Now comes the hard part: finding an employee that is smart, capable, and hard-working. Hiring is a stressful process, for both the employee-to-be and the employer. It can be a huge time sink and can have serious consequences if you don't choose the right candidate.
At MerusCase, we've done our fair share of hiring, and we've learned a lot along the way. We've created a very productive and close-knit team (check out Life At Merus), and part of that has been making sure we choose new team members very carefully.
We'd like to share some of the tips we've picked up for the hiring process:
1. Make an (honest) list of your must-have qualifications
The first step is to think about the skills and qualities you'd need in your new hire. Hiring managers often think about the qualities they'd like to have, and that difference can make the hiring process much more complicated. For an administrative assistant, your must-have qualifications might be experience answering phones, proficiency in Microsoft Word, and strong written and verbal communication skills.
These are 'must-have' qualifications, so if someone doesn't meet these, they don't make the cut. It's easy to blur the lines between a nice-to-have and must-have qualification, so make sure you are honest about which skills will immediately eliminate a prospective new hire.
2. Consider ramp-up time realistically
Every new hire will take some time to get up to peak efficiency. They will need to learn how the office works, who to go to with questions, and which staff you absolutely shouldn't talk to until after they get coffee. However, not all ramp-up time is equal - for example, a receptionist who has worked in a law office before will likely get up to speed faster than a receptionist from a different industry.
That same principle is true for certain skills, and that should be accounted for when comparing candidates. If a candidate hasn't processed mail before, they can pick that up relatively quickly. If a candidate has never used a computer before, that's a bigger issue. Be sure to consider how long it will take for a candidate to build the ideal skill set.
3. Always start with a phone screen
A short 15-20 minute phone interview is a good way to see if a candidate is viable. Have a quick chat with them before bringing them in for an interview - you will save a ton of time during the hiring process.
Ask the candidate about their background, their interests, and their skills. On a basic level, you're just confirming that the candidate can hold a conversation and is personable. Make sure to ask about your must-have qualifications and the candidate's desire to use those skills. The candidate's interest is an important part - your candidate may be great at answering phones and interacting with clients, but if they hate that part of the job they will be much less productive. It's essential to make sure the job is a good fit for the candidate and the employer.
4. Ask questions with real examples
The standard set of interview questions often doesn't cut it - almost every candidate has an answer ready for "What is your biggest strength?" The answer to that question won't 'make or break' an interview.
Think of a challenge that happened in your office in the past month, and ask the candidate how they would handle it. For example, print out an email from a client and ask them to think of an appropriate response. The goal is to test out their ability to apply their skill set to an actual problem they may face.
5. Talk about the reasons your workplace is great
A really great candidate will likely have a few different job offers, so this negotiation goes both ways. It's important to do a little self-promotion and talk about the reasons your staff love to work in your office. Take a moment to show off - talk about your awesome company culture, your office kitchen, or how often your team goes out for happy hour. Even if you don't hire the candidate, they walk away with a positive impression of your firm.