From Forbes: How to get the right people

I was going to start this post with advice about reading cover letters and resumes. Then I remembered that nobody who currently works at the Lois Geller Marketing Group ever actually sent a cover letter or a resume. In fact, none of them even applied for a job.

I found each of them almost by accident. More about that in a moment. Back to resumes.

I’ve headed up more than a few large direct marketing agencies so I’ve seen a lot of resumes, thousands of them when I worked in New York. The point of reading resumes is to get an idea about who’s worth interviewing.

And you have to read them yourself because, like most entrepreneurs, you probably don’t have an HR department, can’t afford a headhunter and don’t have a lot of time. You need a shortcut. Here’s one approach. First, make the time – hiring the wrong person can be a disaster – then:

Start with a book

There are a lot of terrific books about hiring the right people. Just look aroundamazon.com and bn.com and read the descriptions, sample pages, publisher’s note and reviews. You’ll find a book that covers what you need to know. A good book will also tell you a lot about the legal and insurance issues of hiring. Pay very close attention to those.

You’ll probably develop a rough plan

Write out your plan, at least in bullet points. You’ll need it later. It will include what the job entails and the qualifications of the kind of person who can best do it. This is a big step because it’ll help you visualize the person actually doing the job.

Then you need applicants

If you advertise, be very clear about what the job is and the kind of person you’re looking for. Set a deadline for applications, say three weeks.

But before you advertise, think about major resources you might overlook, including people you know.

It’s entirely possible that you’ve already met the perfect hire. Someone in your network of contacts might know the perfect hire. Clients, local colleges (recent grads), retiree groups (an older person might be ideal), friends and family might know the perfect hire. Social media sites – LinkedIn, for instance – can help, too. Look around. This approach has worked extremely well for our agency.

Turn on your baloney-detector and read them carefully. I used to pay more attention to the cover letter. It can tell you a lot about the person who wrote it. The best cover letter I ever saw came from a woman who wrote about all the things she could do to help grow my business and that she’d work like a field hand. I hired her.

Resumes have to be short. People will tell you that a resume should be no longer than a page, maybe two. That’s not what I mean by short; to me, a resume should be no longer than it has to be to convey all the relevant information. Just a page or two is the norm but longer isn’t necessarily a disqualification.

Before the interviews

You’re going to narrow the potential hires down to 10 or fewer. Before you ask them to come in for meetings, check everything they’ve told you in their resumes. It might be a good idea to hire a pro for this but, if you do, you have to tell the applicants in advance.

Then go back to your rough plan and compare each applicant’s potential and qualification to the requirements of the job. I’m amazed at how many people forget to do this.

The Interview

In one of his books, David Ogilvy wrote that he used to visit potential hires at home to see how they lived, what books they read and what music they listened to. I doubt that you can go that far these days but it might be a good idea to conduct the interview away from the office in a coffee shop, a restaurant, a park or just walking down the street.

You want to know more than qualifications and experience. You’re going to be working with and relying on this person. Will he be a disruptive force? Does she have a giant ego? Does he work better on his own? Is she the kind of person who “plays well with others”? That kind of thing.

Minor issues can be worked around for the right person. A single mother who’d be great in the job but has to leave every day at 5 p.m. might be a better hire than a less qualified person who can hang around till midnight.

Attitude is important. Pleasant, but not a pushover. Smart but not a know-it-all. Positive, upbeat, and wants to work, especially wants to work with you and your company.

Is this person flexible – willing to try new things, stretch a comfort zone? And is he/she promotable? I’ll never forget when I was heading an agency in Canada and asked a junior account executive to learn how to make a speech. She froze, which is natural; public speaking is the greatest fear in the world, number two is dying. I sent her to The Dale Carnegie Course, and she became a great speaker. In Toronto a few months ago, I saw her  present to a huge group, and she was humorous, relaxed and confident. She had, indeed, been promotable.

I like people who worry, care, chew their nails off until a program is great. You can learn that about people if you just talk to them.

I hope this helps whether you’re hiring or looking to get hired. Either way, please let me know. And I’ll appreciate your comments below.

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