I am no expert at hiring people and I, too, have had my share of failures, but I watch contractors repeatedly do a poor job in this area. So, I wanted to offer some tips that you may find helpful.

I am no expert at hiring people and I, too, have had my share of failures, but I watch contractors repeatedly do a poor job in this area. So, I wanted to offer some tips that you may find helpful. Understand that hiring administrative and middle management personnel is not an exact science. I suspect many of the original field employees you hired are no longer with you. Well, you also may not have the first salesperson or office manager that you employ stay with you forever. Just like hiring field people had a learning curve and you became better at it over time, you will get better at hiring administrative people too.

Do's and Don'ts

Doadvertise the position and collect résumés. Have applicants e-mail résumés to you. Cull through the applicants and formulate an “A” list. Call the people on this list and do preliminary phone screening. This will give you a chance to feel the person out, find out why they are looking for a job, etc. Such preliminary phone screening can save you and the applicants a lot of time.

Doadvertise the position electronically as well as in the newspaper. Electronic ads are a great way to find a good person who is moving into your area.

Doadvertise a pay range, particularly if you pay well - and our advice is to pay well. By advertising the pay and benefits, you may attract a qualified applicant who is looking to move up.

Don'tmerely offer the position to someone you know such as a distributor acquaintance, a friend from church, etc. You owe it to yourself to advertise the position and see what is out there. Some of the greatest hiring mistakes I see are made by people who do not go through a complete advertising and hiring process.

Docreate a job description and, more importantly, a list of attributes and skills you would like to see the person have to offer. If the job requires computer skills, advertise it as such. Consider testing people in this area. If you want someone with QuickBooks experience, for example, list that as a qualification and, if necessary, ask your accountant to help test them.

Don'thire office or administrative personnel who do not have adequate computer experience. Don’t hire salespeople who sold corporately or at a distributor level and automatically think they will make a good residential salesperson.

Don'temploy the good ol’ boy salesperson everyone likes and wonder why he didn’t work out, particularly if this person has no trade experience. Good salespeople are good listeners, not talkers. Such extroverted, “everybody’s buddy” types can be awful students and poor salespeople. Yes, they are friendly, but customers will not pay more just because they like him.

Docall references. You and I know that the employer will probably not say anything because they don’t want to be sued, but you at least want to verify they were employed. People who might have been imprisoned for embezzlement or fired from their last job might be tempted to falsify information. Also, run a background check, and, for bookkeepers, run a credit check. Know your state laws regarding credit checks and obey them, but generally you just need the person’s permission. If your people cannot control their own money, I doubt they can manage yours. You can use an online service for background checks.

Dogo through a formal interview process with predetermined questions. Your goal is to get the applicant to open up and talk. The following are some questions you can ask:

• Could you tell me a little about what you are looking for in a job? Asking a broad question like this helps you understand more about the applicant. Try to follow up with phrases such as, “Help me understand a little more about that.” Before getting into specifics, see what they have to say.

• If I called your former employer, what might they tell me? You and I know the employer will say little, but the employee doesn’t. I will never forget an incident that happened many years ago when I was interviewing a secretarial applicant and asked this question. Her response was, “Well, when my husband came to work with the gun, understand he had been off his meds.” When this lady said “husband” and “gun” in the same sentence, her employment chances with me totally disappeared.

• What was the first job you worked for which you were paid? Applicants have pre-programmed answers, and they are not expecting this question. Your goal is to find out about the person’s work ethic by exploring their employment history. If their answer is, “I started on a paper route when I was 12,” then you know they have a strong work ethic.

• What did you like most about your last job? This will help you gain insight into their work philosophies. Follow it up with, “What did you dislike most about your last job?” You can also use the same questions regarding the boss.

Another approach to take is to give examples and situations the person might face on the job and ask them how they might respond. For example, you might conduct a role-playing exercise with someone who claims to have sales experience. With an office manager, you might ask how they would handle a situation when one of the better foremen consistently fills out time cards wrong or is late. A series of such real-world examples can offer insight into how the person thinks.

Doconsider some type of personality test to learn more about the individual. Such tests need to be supplied by professionals and will cost several hundred dollars each, but can save a great deal of heartache and problems.

Don'tbe enamored with a person who does a great interview and says all the right things without further questioning and exploration. The person who sounds too good to be true may be too good to be true. People who give good interviews do not necessarily make good employees. This is why a series of questions, reference checks, etc., are important.

Dotrust your gut. If you ask a lot of questions and something does not feel right, trust your gut. Keep asking and digging.

Dobe a little picky and patient. This is an important position, and if you don’t find the applicant you are looking for, wait a week or two and start the hiring process over with a new set of advertisements.

Understand that hiring has its challenges even when done perfectly, but going through a more disciplined process can improve the odds of success. Contracting is about having good people, and hiring right is the first step in developing those people.