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Hiring the right person without an HR department

Hiring the right person without a human resources department is a daunting task, especially for busy mom-and-pop businesses with little free time and no money to outsource the task.

“One of the greatest causes of employee morale and retention problems is a lack of person-job fit,” said Hattiesburg psychologist Beverly Smallwood, Ph.D., CEO of Magnetic Workplaces. “You can train skills, but if a really great person in a job doesn’t have the motivation and personality, he or she will be dissatisfied and not do very well. Productivity will go down and the situation will create a detriment to the rest of the team, who will have to pull the load.”

Ken Barlow, president of The DelKen Group, a human resources firm in Ridgeland, said employers must start the job search with a well-defined job description. “It’s virtually impossible to hire someone unless you know exactly what you want and need done,” he said.

Their tips for a successful job search:

• Look in the right place for the right people. “Think through prior advertising to determine the best source of getting the word out,” said Barlow. “There’s a tendency with newspaper ads to garner an overwhelming response and to then try to hurriedly hire someone to get the nightmare off your back.”

• Spell out mandated qualifications for the job. “If you include enough essential job functions, such as licenses, certifications, and degrees, you are going to capture the experience you need for the job,” said Barlow.

• Only hire employees from applications. “It’s OK to attach a résumé but completing an application helps you understand if they can spell and make sentences correctly, and it gives you a balanced playing field when you’re making a decision,” said Barlow. “Some people have access to fancy resumes and others don’t.”

• Be wary of impressive résumés. “Padding or punching up résumés has become endemic,” said Barlow. “There are so many professional services using such sophisticated software to create official-looking resumes that may not reflect the real ability of the individual. People make a living from beefing up résumés, and can make a filling station attendant sound like a mechanical engineer.”

• Interview applicants to fit the job, and don’t try to force them to fit the job because of their personality or the way they present themselves. “We’re naturally attracted to people like us because we have a narcissistic way of thinking that our way is the right way,” said Smallwood, “but very often we need to hire those not like us to cover areas in which we’re not the strongest.”

• When checking references, ask questions that require statements rather than yes-or-no answers. “You may be told that all they can verify is dates of employment,” said Barlow. “If you ask whether they would rehire the applicant and are told no, ask if it’s standard company policy not to automatically rehire. If not, that’s a red flag that should not be ignored.”

• Make job offers contingent on good reference and criminal record checks. “Then if you find a problem, you’re not obligated to hire them,” said Barlow.

Appreciate the differences

Creating a job portfolio is especially important for mom-and-pops, said Smallwood. “If you’re in a large organization, the impact of one employee not performing up to speed is not nearly as critical as it is in a very small business,” she said. “That person will typically be in a very pivotal situation for everyone involved, inside and outside the company.”

Smallwood urged small business owners to recognize and capitalize on personality differences. “People who start small businesses are quite entrepreneurial and we think we can do everything,” she said, with a laugh. “True, you have to do everything when you’re first getting started, but you need to have the ability to relinquish that control in order to grow, and to realize people who have different personalities from you are exactly what you need. For example, my assistant is very analytical, organized and detail-oriented, unlike me. She keeps me out of a lot of trouble because she’s attending to details.”

The key to capitalizing on these differences is to appreciate and not judge them, and to work on communication skills. In my case, I talk about the big vision while my assistant takes care of the details so it may actually come to pass.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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