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Hiring: wasting time and getting great results

Hiring“It’s the time you have wasted on your rose that makes your rose so important.” The Little Prince

It is true of most good things in life. It’s not the investment of vast amounts of money or formal processes, but often the ‘wasted time’: odd discussions here, an unplanned stop for a cup of coffee there. Ask your children what they treasure most from their childhood and, more often than not, it will be the unplanned moments spent together rather than the high-cost holidays or expensive events. It won’t be the planned trips but the unexpected stop for a milkshake on the way—‘time wasters’ that are worth their weight in gold.

In business, too, it is often the time ‘wasted’ in investigation, research and preparation that pays for itself over and over again.

During a recent workshop on hiring we discussed preparation for recruitment. Done correctly, preparation takes precious time. It means thinking about the job rather than simply replacing the person who has left. Is there a better way to do the work? Is there a more effective way to organise the department? Do you merely want to clone the previous incumbent or do you want a different skill set?

Labour legislation, lethargy and resistance to change make it difficult to modify or restructure processes and procedures. A vacancy provides the ideal opportunity to make even radical adjustments with minimum fuss or disruption. But such changes will not happen without time to reflect and to analyse the job and the work that is done.

When we recruit, more often than not, we are under time pressure—we want the incumbent to train the replacement before leaving. Grab the previous advert, adjust a few details and send it to the usual media. Dust off the questions from last time, book a couple of hours for a few interviews and plough through the list. We’ve done this so often, it’s routine.

Early in my HR career I was impressed by a senior financial manager who was looking for a new secretary. He had prepared questions, and he asked me to look at them and suggest any changes. I was used to managers rushing into interviews with the unjustified belief that, since they had done so many, preparation was unnecessary. Here was a seasoned manager recognising that the decisions involved in recruiting were at least as important as the financial decisions he made on a daily basis. And the secretary we found as a result stayed with him for the next dozen years or so while the secretaries of other managers came and went.

What do you need in the new recruit and how will you test for it? What questions will you ask in the interview to ensure you know what you are getting? It takes time to prepare for recruitment. But the time ‘wasted’ on preparation will be rewarded tenfold when you are able to put the right person into the right job, even if it takes a couple of weeks longer than initially planned. Those weeks are nothing compared with the cost of a poor recruitment decision, which various studies show to be more than three times the employee’s annual salary. The costs arise from things like poor productivity, lower morale and another round of recruitment.

Wasted time? If you don’t ‘waste’ time in preparation, you will waste far more cleaning up the mess and repeating the process.

What are your experiences of hiring? Share your story in the comments below.

Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people, people-management consulting and writing and editing.

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