Work on Your Hiring Process

Aug 03, 1998

Every single firm we deal with at Zweig White & Associates, Inc. could benefit from working on their hiring process. Everyone in the A/E/P and environmental business agrees that it’s hard to hire. Well here are few things that you can do to make it easier: Don’t waste time interviewing someone you think you wouldn’t hire based on his or her resume. I can’t believe how much time is wasted and how many bad hiring decisions are made because people do not heed this advice. Those involved with hiring routinely invite people in who don’t meet the qualifications for education or experience, have red flags all over their background such as making too many job changes, or who have never done anything even remotely close to the job the firm is trying to fill. Why? Because the candidate is persistent, or calls and sells their way into an interview. Know everything about the job candidate’s current compensation. You can’t make an intelligent offer unless you know what the job candidate is earning, in detail. That means you must know whether or not he or she gets paid overtime (and at what rate), how much overtime pay was earned last year, what the 401(k) matching provision is, what their company car is worth per month, whether or not they pay any health insurance costs, and so on. All of this is in addition to knowing the candidate’s exact base pay and bonus history for the last couple years. And don’t forget to ask when the next pay review is scheduled. You don’t want to make an offer and hear that the person “just got a raise that week.” Make an offer that should be accepted. About 75% to 90% of the employment offers you make should be accepted. And for that to happen, you’ll need to offer a minimum 10% pay increase for a local move (or preferably more), and 15-20% for relocation. Load in overtime payment to the base pay and then multiply by this factor if the candidate is paid for overtime and you don’t pay it. Obviously, offers like this can cause problems with the rest of your people. My suggestion there is don’t let them set a pay cap for a new person, if the new person has skills or background that makes him or her more valuable than the rest of them. On the other hand, don’t disregard what your current staffers make, either. You don’t want to bring someone in from outside who doesn’t have better credentials than theirs and pay a premium to do it— that’s just bad business. And if you do have to do this to get a job filled, consider using signing bonuses, giving out a few raises to the existing staffers, or holding up raises for the new person and letting the others catch up as quickly as you can. Don’t tolerate negotiations and stalling tactics. I don’t negotiate offers unless some new information comes out after I make the offer, and the revelation was the result of our own inability to gather all the facts beforehand. There’s just no reason to negotiate offers. Worse, it establishes an precedent for negotiations in the future over raises, promotions, and so on. Also, no one really needs more than a few days to make a decision to join the firm or not. The longer you give the candidate to decide, the greater the likelihood that they will turn you down. I feel the same way about protracted start dates. A month or more to show up for your first day is too much to ask. Two to three weeks should be sufficient. Allowing someone too long before they start often results in someone who accepts your offer and then never shows. Their present employer has time to work on them and make them feel guilty about leaving and/or prepare a counteroffer for them. Get some people doing the interviewing who know how to sell your company. If the person or persons who interview future staff members can’t sell, you’ve got a problem. The best people need to be sold on why they should come to work for you. They have all kinds of other employment opportunities. Your folks better be able to talk specifically about why your firm is better than the other companies who would likely want to hire this person. Deal with the barriers to hiring in your firm. If just one person owns you, perhaps it’s time to start selling some stock to others. If you have too many relatives in key roles, maybe now is the time to get someone who isn’t a family member in there in a top job. If you have a policy that allows for one week of vacation until an employee has worked there for five years, maybe that ought to be changed. If you don’t have a computer on every desk, maybe it’s time to do that. I could go on and on. The bottom line is, get rid of the crazy policies and make the minor investments that you need to make so the company doesn’t have to beg (or buy off) people to get them to come to work there. Use new ways to find candidates. How many resumes are sitting around in file cabinets? Gather them up and start making phone calls to people whom you might have spoken with years ago. You never know— they may be ripe for a change. Use the Internet. Talk with employees who just came from somewhere else. Begin an “exchange program” with a cooperating firm (so you can share candidates.) Start a coop program. Hold a job fair/open house. Use radio advertising. There is always something you can do to find candidates other than just throwing an ad in the paper and rounding up the usual suspects (the same folks who respond to every ad you run.) Originally published 8/03/1998

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.