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The strategy and tactics of hiring; Tips to find the best candidate for the job.

No matter how diligent the selection process, hiring a new employee is always a crapshoot. Candidates that look good on paper may not work out in the shop, and a person who has an unimpressive personality in an interview may be a whiz at a machine. Making the right selection means following some basic guidelines.

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An open position means an announcement in a publication, screening resumes, and interviewing candidates. At the end of the process, the best person available is hired and--with any luck--it's back to business as usual.

But, all too often, there are snags along the way and the person doing the hiring can wonder whether the process was done efficiently and with the best results possible. Where is the best place to find possible employees? What qualifications are on the best resumes? What questions should be asked during the interview to separate the good candidates from the bad?

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Hiring an employee is never easy, but there are some best practices to follow.

Finding Someone is Half the Battle

One of the most important parts of the hiring process is finding qualified candidates, something becoming harder and harder in the manufacturing world. Knowing where to look cuts down on time sorting through unqualified prospects.

Networking is an untapped, often misused, source of finding potential employees. Melanie Szlucha, career coach for JobTarget, New London, CT, said it is the best medium for the task because of the personal connection. It is better to have a recommendation from a trusted source, as is done in many other big decisions in life.

"It's always better to get a personal referral from somebody who knows someone, or knows somebody who's working," she said.

However, the way to network right, according to Szlucha, is to tell friends, family, and acquaintances, that there is an opening, and what qualities and background is sought. This way, people can offer candidates that fit; otherwise it's a lost cause.

Another networking strategy is to ask current employees for recommendations. Recruit candidates from their current job by offering more benefits or a better wage package.

This is how Edwin Stanley, vice president of operations at the Gas House, Fort Payne, AL, finds workers.

"I think the best people are already working," he said. "The best people aren't the ones out there looking for a job, they already have one."

The Wide Reach of the Internet

Another way to find potential employees is through the Internet. There are a lot of job boards that will limit the search to specific industries, such as manufacturing, so placing an ad will tap a more-focused applicant pool. The Modern Applications News website has a job board link. Other examples include the FMA--Fabricators and Manufacturers Association--website and the Tooling and Manufacturing Association job board.

But, Szlucha said that it is not only where an ad is placed, but how it is written that determines the type of people who will respond.

"Technically every company is competing for candidates' attention against every other company," she said. "If another job sounds sexier, or has a better description, guess where a job seeker is going to apply?"

She recommends reading ads on the job boards and modeling ads to match those. Most importantly, be descriptive about the specific job duties and requirements.

"You're not going to entice a superstar with a vague ad or something that makes no sense," she said.

Other avenues to finding qualified employees are forming relationships with career centers and job placement agencies because they are in constant contact with job seekers.

Surprisingly, placing a notice in the "want ads" of a newspaper is a dying trend.

"Newspaper ads were very unsuccessful for us," Vivek Gupta, manager of Texas ProFab in Dallas, said. "We got almost no response; the Internet has definitely become more effective for our hiring."

With the Internet being more focused and timely, it is understandable that it is replacing newspaper's limited reach.

The Resume as a Screening Process

Before the resumes come in, Szlucha said to look at the workers already on the payroll and note the skills the superstars have that make them great employees. With this list in mind, it should be easier to screen through the resumes, finding candidates that possess some of the same qualifications.

Besides education--how much depends on the job being filled--and longevity in past jobs, one of the most important things on the resume is relevant experience.

"If they're going to work on our shop floor," Gupta said, "We look for those who already have the necessary experience. As far as press brake operators or laser operators, they need to have worked in a job shop environment and have operated our type of equipment."

Having specific experience, such as working with precision manufacturing, is important. especially if the shop has a specialty, he said.

The Interview: The Real Decision-maker

Although the resume can be a good screening process, the interview tells more about a candidate, according to Gupta.

Before interviewing anyone, keep in mind the qualities of the best employees. Then, formulate questions to find if the person to be interviewed is a good fit for the job and the company, Szlucha said.

Some questions to help steer toward the best hires include those that focus on experience, technical knowledge, and problem-solving abilities.

The best type of questions are behavioral questions that address how a candidate solved a problem in the past, Szlucha said.

"Past behavior is the best predictor of future success," she said.

Both Gupta and Stanley said that they ask questions that will lead to specifics and plumb the depths of a candidate's technical knowledge.

"I ask for specific examples so that I can kind of get a read on a person's technical ability," Stanley said.

"If a guy says he restored an old car, I'll ask what he did. I want to find out if he did it himself or if he paid someone else to do it," he said. "If he can't answer specific questions then he probably didn't do it."

Gupta said he goes as far as technical testing of job applicants, such as a welding test for a welder. If the job requires certain skills, it is important that the candidates can perform.

What to Bring Up and What to Let Lie

There are other key things to remember when preparing for interviewing a candidate to be sure not to waste time on those who are uninterested and to avoid legal mistakes.

"Be honest with the candidate about what is going on at the company and tell them the requirements right off the top," Szlucha said.

A good tactic is to find out what is causing a problem with the people you hire--either those who leave or those who need to be terminated--and bring up those areas with the candidates.

Admitting, for example, that it is a fast-paced environment and people with energy who can keep up are needed, is a good idea, according to Szlucha, so candidates know what to expect.

Also, there are some questions that cannot be asked during the interview, so be sure to avoid them.

"Stay away from questions that are not pertinent to the job," Szlucha said. You cannot discriminate against people because of race, religion, ethnicity, marital status, or family life, among other things. Just because a person has a child does not mean they can't fulfill the job duties, she said.

"You cannot make assumptions, so you need to keep the questions to exactly what the requirements are for the position."

Warning Signs

During the interview there are several warning signs that should trip alarms that show that a person won't be a good employee.

Tardiness, disinterest, and defensive body language would be clues to give someone a pass, but others include avoiding or not answering questions or giving examples based on what a group did, not what the candidate personally did.

"One of the biggest warning signs is if someone spends a good portion of the interview complaining about their previous job or their previous managers," Gupta said. "It shows negative sentiments in an applicant."

These are the Superstars

On the flipside, there are also behaviors that highlight a good employee: being on time, alert, prepared, and giving intelligent answers shows the candidate meets minimum qualifications.

"Good candidates have done their homework and will pitch themselves to the type of business," Stanley said. If they don't know an answer they admit it, which shows a willingness to learn.

Gupta said that a good candidate focuses on what they can bring to the organization.

"Once a company gets a rock-solid employee, it takes care of them," he said. "When someone pitches what they can do for our company that's a really good sign."

Another way to winnow the good candidates from the bad is to get references from their current or former managers, Szlucha said. Someone who has super-vised them will be able to attest to how they perform in different situations.

Let's Talk About Money

The trickiest part of the interview process is discussing wages.

"Candidates get all squirrelly when they start to apply for jobs and the hiring manager brings up salary too soon," Szlucha said.

"And, the hiring manager can get themselves into hot water when they're talking to a candidate that they really like but the candidate's salary expectations are completely out of line with what the employer is willing to pay."

Szlucha said that the salary should be brought up in the second in-person interview, or at the end of the first interview if there is only one.

But, make sure it is a dialog and not a deal-ending conversation, she said. Explain the budget range.

Gupta said discussing wages is a tricky balance, but he brings it up throughout the process.

"When they fill out an application they give us a general idea of a wage they're expecting. Then we discuss it at the interview a little bit," he said. "Our company keeps in touch with the industry wage surveys for positions in our area. We try to be competitive but conservative at the same time."

Decision Making Help

If a company has a human resources department it will help find the best candidate.

But, if a shop has no dedicated HR person, all the responsibility falls on the manager doing the hiring. There are places to turn to for help, such as companies that do HR outsourcing on an ad hoc basis.

The Society of Human Resources Managers has a website that is a good resource to find these companies or for helpful articles, Szlucha said.

Protect Yourself and Set Expectations

Ninety-day probationary periods are standard for new employees--make sure that this is part of the hiring practice. Not only does it protect a firm from lawsuits if the employee doesn't work out, it provides a structured evaluating period, detailing how an employee must perform.

"It sets expectations for the employee and lets them know what they're expected to accomplish within a timeframe, and that they're expected to live up to those expectations," Szlucha said.

But, having a probationary period just for the sake of having one is pointless, she said. It must be done right.

"Tell a new hire what is expected of them in the first 30 days, such as what they must learn to do. Then let them know that within the next 60 days they will be given additional responsibilities they must perform." she said. "That really gives the candidate structure."

The hiring process can be daunting, but it can be painless when the rules are followed.

RELATED ARTICLE: HELPFUL HIRING WEBSITES

In an effort to help job seekers find employment in the manufacturing world, MAN has posted a job board link on its website, as well as in its monthly enewsletter.

Other helpful websites include:

* Fabricators and Manufacturers Association job board

www.fmanet.org/JobBoard

* Tooling & Manufacturing Association job board

www.jobtarget.com/home/index.cfm?site_id=645

* The Society of Human Resources Managers

www.shrm.org

* ManufacturingJobs.com

www.manufacturingjobs.com

* JobsInManufacturing.com

www.jobsinmanufacturing.com

Stacia Golem Associate Editor
COPYRIGHT 2008 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 
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Title Annotation:SHOP MANAGEMENT
Author:Golem, Stacia
Publication:Modern Applications News
Date:May 1, 2008
Words:2022
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