Finding Mr./Ms. Right
Staff, Rather Than Location, Will Build or Break Your Business
No. Location, Location, Location are not the three most important factors in retailing success. Instead, they are Staff, Staff, Staff.
The smaller your tire dealership, the more important each person becomes. Just one bad apple in a staff of, say, three can spoil your business barrel in a variety of ways from boosting costs to depressing sales.
On the other hand, a staff of 50 safely dilutes anyone’s negative influence, unless the individual happens to be a big time embezzler or a manic-depressive salesperson.
But before you leap into the task and opportunity of hiring someone for your shop, be warned that it’s all hardball in this – and any other employee relationship – with the courts, judge and jury serving as the umpires. Consider that the number of employment discrimination lawsuits has risen by 2,200% in the last 20 years, and plaintiffs win 70% of such jury trials.
Who do you turn to when looking for a new salesperson, technician or any other position in you dealership? Choices include: supplier or customer referrals, newspaper ads, private and public employment agencies, recruiting or placement agencies at schools, and recommendations by colleagues or even competitors. The best method for your recruiting will depend on the job to be filled and type of candidate sought.
One swift search path is to go directly to colleague, competitor, customer or supplier. Just put out the word that you are hiring. A big advantage here is that someone proposing a candidate will have at least a few words about qualifications or credentials. Unlike having to check on references of an applicant (which too many business owners fail to do), the reference or referral comes ahead of the candidate.
Turning to an Agency
Perhaps the most professional approach to recruiting comes with an agency. This may be the state employment service bureau, listed in phone directories under Employment Security Agency or Public Employment or Unemployment Bureau.
A private agency may provide a higher level of candidates, but then you run into the problem of who should pay the agency’s fee. You are better able to afford the fee. However, job-hopping will be discouraged when the candidate has to pay it. Usual practice is for the employer to pay at least part of the agency expense, but sometimes only after the hiree has completed a trial period.
How about an ad in the newspaper? Here are some tips for drafting a Help Wanted ad: Avoid any language that even hints at discrimination by sex, race or age. Never use the words "young", "mature" or "retired," all of which have been ruled discriminatory by the courts. If you want a young candidate but fear listing that as a requirement, better to advertise for someone who is "attuned to the interests of young people."
Gender discrimination may sneak up on you, as well. In very few cases do government regulatory agencies acknowledge that some jobs are best for men and others for women. Never advertise jobs as having light or heavy duties with the intention of filling the light ones with just women and the heavy ones with men.
The Tough Part: Selecting
Now comes the really tough part. From a group of applicants, you must find and hire the best of the bunch. Personnel experts contend that hiring wrong is the main cause of employee turnover and profit loss from absenteeism or poor productivity.
First step is drafting an application form and formalizing the interview procedure. Easiest route to an excellent application form is to buy one at the local stationery store and adapt it for your dealership’s needs. You can also find standard applications forms online.
Include in the form a release giving you the right to check an individual’s background, conduct a test for use of illegal drugs, and for previous employers to disclose personnel files.
Like the interview process itself, the application form must strictly conform to equal employment opportunity provisions and other worker protection laws. If you have any questions, pick up the phone and dial the state employment service bureau or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The application form and the interview process must not include any of the following: questions about applicant’s date of birth; marital status; names of household members; number of children or their ages; how children will be cared for during business hours; where a spouse or parent resides or works; ownership of residence; and history of arrests or wage garnishment. Also dangerous is the question: Do you have a car? This could be perceived as discriminatory against low-income people.
Interview questions to be avoided plus other tips in hiring can be found in the Federal Employment 4 Law Handbook. The book is free to NFIB members (1-800-552-6342) or non-members may access free through www.nfib.com/legal.
Not Always the Best
After recruiting, application form and testing are completed, move to the most crucial part of the hiring process – the interview itself. If you are personally doing the interviewing (and certainly you should at least participate in the process), you may not be good at it. What made you a good business manager does not necessarily translate into being a judge of people.
Ask open-ended questions rather than one that can be answered with a simple "Yes" or "No." Open-ended ones often start with "What" as in "What would you like about working here?"; or "How" as in "How did you happen to get into this field or apply here?" Usually people like to talk about themselves and a few questions can get them started.
Finally, absolutely do conduct a background check, contacting the references listed on the application or given during an interview. Of course, previous employers are as leery of job discrimination lawsuits as you are. They probably will not go into detail about qualifications, but you can probably get answers on dates of employment (some applicants fudge these to cover up long layoff time) and perhaps even reasons for leaving, whether terminated or resigned.
Because of ever tightening labor law, checking references can be like walking on eggs – one misstep and you have a disaster. Courts are extending new privacy rights to employees, limiting what you can ask and what a former employer can reveal. You might want to refer to a recently updated publication of the Society for Human Resource Management: "Reference Checking Handbook" (37 pages, $20 plus shipping, 1-800-444-5006).
Turning to a Private Eye: $300
You can turn to detective agencies, many of which do background checks. The ones we talked with quoted an average $300 minimum for a non-executive candidate check, including arrest record, education and job history. That sum, no doubt, is negotiable.
If you hire a driver without checking his driving record, anyone he injures may sue you for negligence. Ditto if you fail to check a criminal-conviction record of a new hiree who then later turns violent with a customer or staffer. So, be thorough and keep a paper trail of your procedure, including questions and answers during interviews to establish that you were diligent in screening new hires.
After the Hiring
Once your selection is made (and don’t be so slow that good candidates turn elsewhere), notify all the others interviewed that the job has been filled. They are entitled to know that. This may be in form of a letter or even a phone call, but never get specific on why a candidate was not hired. Safest explanation is simply that you found someone better suited for the job
Hopefully you have hired an excellent candidate to work in your shop. But the best laid recruiting/hiring plans go astray at times. Then firing may become necessary, but that’s another story.
There’s a big difference between hiring and firing. You should hire slowly but you may have to fire swiftly. Remember: the better you hire, the less you have to fire.