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Ask a human resources expert: Three critical questions to pose before filling a role

 

When it comes to HR, Susan Rogers, President at thesholdHR, has seen it all.

Big, small and in between, she’s been helping businesses make hard HR decisions as both a corporate executive and a consultant.

One of the biggest HR decisions any manager has to make is how to fill an open role in the organization.  “A headcount is a precious thing,” says Susan. Finding the right person at the right time can make or break your company, department or project.

Rogers says that every day a role goes unfilled is costing you money, whether due to the tasks of the role being left uncompleted, lost productivity as the search continues, or simply the general cost of recruiting.

That’s worrisome, especially when you consider the average length of time from interview to hiring keeps getting longer.

While speed in recruiting is important, it is just as critical to find the right person. Rogers has found that asking yourself these three questions before you begin a candidate search will not only accelerate the process, but ensure you get the right hire:

“What exactly is it that I want this person to do?”

The word of the day is: specific.

“The key to any successful recruiting is to know what the person is going to do, specifically,” Rogers says.

That starts with a solid, specific job description.

“It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare, but it must be very clear and describe what kind of experience and skills a candidate will need to be able to do that job.”

If you need someone in accounts payable, it’s not enough to simply list the title and function. What are the actual day-to-day duties and tasks you need this person to complete?

There are all kinds of roles and duties within accounts payable, and you’ll never find a candidate with the right skills if you don’t know exactly what you need from them.

“What can we afford and what can we not afford?”

Once you’ve got your job description together, you need to consider what it will cost to hire the right person.

Rushing to fill the role just because it’s open might seem prudent, but what if you waited one more quarter?

“It’s about making sure you understand the costs of filling the role and not filling the role,” she says. If waiting means you’ll be able to hire the skills and experience you really want, it could be worth it, “as long as you don’t burn out the people that are around you” in the process.

On the other hand, some smaller companies may only have a certain amount they can afford to pay, and the cost of not filling the role is too high. That’s when it becomes important to let go of that “O” word.

“Overqualified is in the eyes of the candidate,” Susan says. “You lay out what the job is, and they decide if they want to do it or not.”

Just because they have more experience than your job description requires doesn’t mean you have to pay them more. “If they have a PhD and apply to be a broom pusher, you pay them like a broom pusher.”

Figuring out what you can afford upfront and being transparent about that with candidates will save time and stress, for both you and applicants.

And as Susan says, hiring the right candidate means hiring the best skills. “I always recommend hiring the very best skills and experience you can afford.”

“Should we reorganize and hire something completely different?”

“Every time there’s an opening, there’s an opportunity to reorganize, especially with higher level or managerial positions,” Rogers notes.

She says that reorganizing is not always the right answer, but it’s always a legitimate question.

Rather than spending time on a lengthy job search, you might already have the perfect candidate inside your office. Perhaps it makes more sense to elevate someone internally, even if it means shuffling things around.

You’ll never know if you don’t ask the question.

Finding the right candidate

“You ideally want to fill each position only once,” she says. “It takes a lot of time and energy to go through the recruiting process.”

Turnover is expensive. Research shows that turnover can cost companies more than 1.5 times the salary of the position.

The best way to avoid turnover is to hire the right person in the first place. As Rogers notes, “We often spend more time picking out refrigerators than we do the people we’ll be working eight to ten hours a day with.”

It’s easy to become enamored with someone you get along with, but is that really the best person for the job?

“Chemistry is a good thing, but you can’t just count on chemistry when you get down to the nitty gritty of getting stuff done,” Susan says.

Finding the right fit means stepping back to ask yourself important questions, and ensure you’re being honest with your answers. You might get along great with a candidate, but if their background is in regimented, policy-heavy workplaces, and you’re hiring for a flex-hours startup, it probably isn’t going to work out.

Taking the time to ask these questions will save you and your hiring team time, resources and aggravation. Sounds like a smart approach to us.

Susan Rogers is President and Founder of thesholdHR.

 

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