Building a winning teamJune 16, 2008: 4:06 PM ET
Tips for switching from contract workers to full time help
Rebecca Fountain, Las Vegas
I have a small business I'm starting in Nevada called Slurry Recycle Solutions that specializes in the development of cost-effective and safe solutions for the construction industry. I've been using independent contractors and would like to hire a full-time staff because our business is growing. How should I approach the hiring process?
By Julie Freese, Fortune Small Business contributor
Dear Rebecca: Any manager who has hired the wrong employees knows the high cost of a bad decision. The first step to building the right team for your business is to assess what types of workers and skills you need to be successful.
Every expert we consulted agreed that rushing the hiring process is one of the biggest mistakes managers make. Whether your business succeeds or fails depends more on the quality of employees you hire and less on the product you're selling or the service you're providing, says Paul Gibson, vice president of human resources at Mattamy Homes.
Before you begin the hiring process, carry a notepad with you as your perform your daily tasks and record what you do, no matter how small or mundane, says Bill Bartmann of Bartmann Enterprises, an entrepreneur and business coach. This allows you to create a complete list of duties that need to be performed by a future employee and help you draft job descriptions.
Then gather the necessary paperwork (applications and tax documents), research background checks, and brainstorm about what type of work needs to be done and the skills required, says Jo Prabhu, CEO and president of 1800 Job Quest.
To cover your bases, hire a lawyer that specializes in employment law. The lawyer can help you draft a letter of employment outlining expectations as well as salary, which will protect you from potential lawsuits, says Gibson. A lawyer will also make sure that your hiring process is following both national and state laws. Also hire an independent contractor to set up your employee payroll.
Take time to find or create your company's hiring "wow" factor, says Tom Darrow, principal of Talent Connections. You need to advertise your company and the positions you want to fill in a unique manner in order to stand out on the job boards. Mention unique incentives that will attract potential employees, like free lunches once a month or a casual dress code, he says.
Once you are ready to format and post job descriptions and conduct interviews, talk to the independent contractors you've worked with in the past. Ask them to write a description of the job they completed, says Prabhu. It will help you identify particular tasks and skills that need to be highlighted in the job description. Don't forget to address your expectations in terms of computer skills, education and years of experience, she says.
Employee referrals are the best way to find new candidates, says Darrow. Post job listings on your company website and on any industry specific sites that will attract the right potential employees. Ask the contractors to sit in on interviews, says Gibson. They can help you identify whether or not that particular candidate is the right fit.
The interview process can be confusing - potential employees may tailor their resume or their answers to the position, not their skill set. "Resumes aren't always authentic. You need to read between the lines," says Praghu. Ask yourself if this person needs a job or wants a job. "The employer has to look for what an employer needs, not an employee."
Since you're creating a team of employees that need to work well together in order for your business to succeed, conduct a second group interview with potential employees you want to hire. This will allow you to see what the group dynamics are, says Gibson, and how they respond to each other.
Conduct background checks and check references. It is an important investment, so hire a professional to do it, says Gibson. Understand that checks take two to three days to process and will cost anywhere from $100 to $200 per employee, says Prabhu.
To determine that the salary that you are offering is fair, research your competitors, says Darrow. Ask the independent contractors you've been working with if they felt their pay was fair. And if you decide to reject an application, create and send a standardized regret letter, says Prabhu. This will send across a professional message and maintain your company's integrity.
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