Sponsored by the U. S. Small Business Administration
The Madison County Chamber of Commerce


How to Hire and Keep the Best Employees

Hiring the best person is a process that begins with a precise definition of the job and the qualities of the person you want. The more detailed the description, the easier it will be to compare candidates. Your list of the qualifications you are looking for should include not only education, training, special skills and years of experience, but also intangibles such as ability to function as part of a team or the ability to work independently and without supervision. They should be written and clearly understood by all to which they apply. Document each interview.

The interview is at the heart of the hiring process. An atmosphere in which the candidate feels comfortable and important is most likely to elicit honest responses to your questions. The questions you ask should not suggest the answer you want to hear but should give the applicant a chance to draw an accurate picture of his or her strengths and weaknesses. Examples:

There are some questions you can't ask. It's illegal to ask an applicant's age, marital status, ethnic background, disabilities, sexual preference, religion, and arrest record (you can ask if he or she has ever been convicted of a crime).

If applicable, it's a good idea to interview serious applicants more than once, introducing them to various people in the company to get their opinions.


Some people are expert interviewees, offering articulate descriptions of themselves and answers that seem to fit the employer perfectly. Protect yourself by following up on the most promising applicants, checking the accuracy of their resumes and talking to references. Some employers even administer aptitude and skills tests to ensure the person can do what a resume claims. Professional recruiters say that 15% of the resumes they check contain false information.

Remember when talking to references that they may be reluctant to volunteer negative information because they fear lawsuits. Listen not only to what references say, but also to what they do not say. For instance, someone who comments that an employee comes to work exactly at nine in the morning and leaves at five may be suggesting the applicant is a clock-watcher and not willing to make extra effort when needed. Delicately probe for explanations and fuller descriptions. For instance, you might ask for an example of the applicant's level of commitment and enthusiasm for a particular task.

Once you have selected a new employee, review the job requirements and give them a copy of the written requirements. Document this review. Follow-up with them frequently until it is apparent that they are comfortable with the requirements of the job and are doing things as you want them done. If, after repeated attempts to get them to conform to your requirements you are not successful it is time to consider if they should be discharged.

I've never met anyone who took pleasure in firing someone. I know I didn't look for ways to fire people. Never the less, it is sometimes necessary. It is here that the written list of requirements and expectations come in handy. If you have kept a record of the times you reviewed the requirements, great. If not, start now. Review the requirements once again and put the employee on probation. Document this interview. Make it clear that if performance doesn't come up to expectations within a specified period of time (usually 30 to 60 days) that the employee will be terminated.

This can be tough if you know the person well and know the situation they may be in. Remember, you didn't cause them to get in the position they find themselves. Their problems are not yours except as they affect their performance.

Review their performance every week or two until the end of the probation period. Document your reviews. If they don't meet your requirements, you will need to proceed with termination. If, after repeated warnings, they don't meet expectations, it's unlikely they ever will.

Why all the documentation you ask? In this world where no one wants to accept responsibility for what they do or fail to do, some discharged employees will try to obtain legal reasons why you should reinstate them or pay major bucks because they were treated unfairly. If you have the documentation suggested, you stand a good chance of having your judgement and final decision upheld in whatever venue a disgruntled employee may choose.

Contact us by calling The Madison County Chamber of Commerce at (765) 642-0264 or write to:

Union Bldg, Suite 211
1106 Merdian Street
Anderson, IN 46016

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