Before you begin recruiting to fill your open positions, you should first develop a “profile” of the ideal employees for each position. There are several methods presented here, and even though it is tempting to skip this step, please don’t. After all, you’re in a hurry and already know everything you need to know about your jobs, right?

Wrong. If you skip this step, you might make one of these common hiring mistakes.

Mistake number one
The first mistake is assuming a level of education, experience or skill that is not really necessary to perform the job. That will limit your applicant pool and cause your hiring process to be too long, expensive and frustrating.

For example, say you are going to fill the position of an entry-level bookkeeping clerk. You might assume that in order to operate a personal computer, enter receivables and payables into the accounting system and run some routine monthly reports, candidates must be high school or even college graduates.

But if you think about the skill levels required, you will realize the position does not necessarily demand a specific diploma. What it does require is good math and data entry skills, and attention to detail. It requires a basic understanding of the differences between a debit and a credit. And it requires skill in using PC-based spreadsheet programmes. There are many people who have all these skills, but may not have a high school diploma or college degree.

Take time to think carefully about the skill, knowledge and experience requirements of the job. Consider how much time and effort you can spend training someone. Ask yourself if anyone has ever done the job successfully without the skills you are requiring? Look at the backgrounds of other successful employees in that position. Consider the pay level and your community’s job market. Be realistic about the job, and you can save yourself time, money and frustration.

Mistake number two
The second major mistake is trying to hire someone just like you.

Josh Taylor is a master machinist who started his own company several years ago. As his reputation and the business grew, he hired other machinists to help with the workload. During the past two years, he has had an average of six employees at any given time.
Josh gained his skill by a combination of education and experience. He completed a two-year technical degree programme right out of high school, then apprenticed for six years in another shop before opening his own business. Since that is the way he learned the craft, Josh assumed others would learn that way as well. He had insisted that his employees had either finished the two-year tech programme, or were enrolled at the time they started to work for him. He expected they would be willing to work several years as apprentices before moving on or demanding more pay.

During the last two years, however, Josh hired a total of seventeen apprentice machinists, for a turnover rate of two hundred eighty-three percent (283%). Every person he hired with the two-year degree left within six months, in spite of competitive wages. The four he hired who were enrolled in the tech programme left within a few months after finishing the degree. The only employees who stayed a full year were those who did not finish the programme for one reason or another.

On the basis of this track record, it may be a mistake for Josh to continue hiring machinists with that two-year technical school degree. As soon as they finish their school, they move on. Josh needs to realize the market has changed and adjust his hiring criteria accordingly.

Profile the job first
There are two major reasons for profiling each job. First, if you have more than fifteen employees, your company is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act and you are required to document the physical requirements of a job before you start recruiting to fill that position. The techniques you are about to learn will fulfil that requirement.

More important, completing a job profile, such as the one illustrated, will help you focus on the job in a specific way so you can find just the right person. You will think about what you need in terms of primary job duties, performance standards, skills, knowledge, experience, training, licences and certifications. You will also think about working conditions and the physical requirements of the job. When you have completed a job profile, you will know everything you need to know about the job.

List the primary tasks
First, list the primary job tasks and duties—the reason the job exists. Avoid using terms like “responsible for…” Leave out information about what skills and knowledge are required; those will come later. What is it the job actually does? What do you see people doing? What are the expected outcomes of the job? The more specific you can be, the easier recruiting will be.

In short, when you list the primary duties of a job, think in terms of what, rather than how or why. Use action verbs like writes, plans, sells, cuts, lays out, operates, drives, designs, types, balances, counts, edits, proofreads, contacts, negotiates, paints, cleans. For each function you list, show what percentage of time the person will spend doing that particular function. The percentages should total close to one hundred percent (100%).
Next, list on the job profile any secondary functions of the job. These are things that might be a routine part of the job but are not the reason the job exists, and could also be done by someone else. For example, most job profiles include the phrase, “Other duties as required or assigned.” That gives you the freedom to do cross training so that someone can back up another position.

Performance standards
Performance  standards list the minimum acceptable performance for employees who are fully trained in all aspects of the job. In addition to helping you zero in on the job, performance standards will also be used to screen applicants during the interviewing process, and to train new employees once they have been hired. Think in terms of how you will evaluate the employee’s performance and be as specific as possible.

Knowledge, skills, attitudes
For the general labour position, the only education or experience required would be basic reading and math skills so the employee can read the schedule, pick up the supplies needed, perform the inventory tasks and keep the truck maintenance records. And for the press operator, you will want to require reading and math skills and previous work experience on a web press.

The key words in this section are necessary, new person, and minimum requirements. In other words, think of the amount of training you are willing to do, and start from there.

Personal qualities
Now list the personal qualities you will be looking for that will help you determine whether a candidate will do the job and is a fit for your environment. You might think of this as the “personality” or “attitude” section. For example, if your job includes a requirement for meeting a daily deadline, then list that. If your administrative position requires doing work for several people and dealing with conflicting priorities, you might list those things.

Physical requirements
Finally, list everything you can think of that requires physical or mental ability. For example, even the most sedentary office jobs might require standing to file, vision to use the computer, the ability to speak clearly and be understood over the telephone, and manual dexterity to handle paperwork and keyboarding. And remember that even people who are handicapped or disabled in some way may be able to do more than you think; don’t eliminate candidates from consideration because of an obvious disability. Instead, after you have listed all the physical requirements of the job during an interview, ask the candidates “Will you be able to perform all the requirements of the job?” To make sure you’re not in violation of any laws, ask the same question of all candidates.