Flex Your Options with Flexible Hires
By Jim Wong, CPA
Founder, Clear Focus Financial Search, Brilliant Financial Staffing and Numerate Partners, Chicago
When an employee decides it’s time to explore other career avenues, you’re left with the daunting task of filling a newly vacant position. And, undoubtedly, your first question will be, “Do I need a consultant, temporary staffing or a full-time employee?”
My advice is to take advantage of the flexibility consultants and temporary hires offer you in finding just the right person for the position at hand.
The Pros of Flex Labor
Temporary employees offer you the opportunity to “try before you buy,” which is ideal if you’re not sure whether a full-time employee is the right choice. What’s more, you can evaluate the person in question from a technical, cultural and personality perspective for an extended period of time.
Also, consultants and temporary employees offer greater cost savings than permanent hires, particularly when hiring additional staff during peak seasons or to complete short-term projects. And in situations where niche knowledge is a must, a consultant can share insight, develop best practices around a particular expertise, and then transfer that knowledge to your organization.
But if a temporary worker or consultant leaves, and the workflow transition is inadequately handled, you could risk losing time, money and, most importantly, intellectual property. Also beware of the fact that opting strictly for consultants and temporary staffing could eliminate a large pool of candidates, specifically anyone who is currently employed, but actively searching for alternative opportunities. If you consider the fact that the general unemployment rate today is approximately 10 percent, targeting temporary employees only essentially means you’re missing out on 90 percent of candidates.
The number one mistake you can make is not having a clearly defined job description and a firm idea of how that position will evolve. For manager-level positions, smart companies are strategically hiring a consultant first to do the job on an interim basis, giving them the opportunity to improve efficiency, reduce redundancy and address future needs. In other words, using flexible labor before hiring a full-time employee provides you with a better understanding of your full-time employee needs, which results in better decision-making in the hiring process.
Another big mistake: Hiring a candidate based solely on technical knowledge and experience, without considering intangibles. The best run departments and companies view personality, character and values as being as important as (if not more important than) experience, knowledge and skills. After all, you can teach technical skills, but you can’t change someone’s character.
The Interview Process
To ensure the best assessment possible of a candidate’s fit, avoid sharing any information that may influence their responses. If you begin by describing anything related to your company, or the details of the position, the candidate may shape his or her answers to meet your needs.
Instead, try incorporating the following questions into your interview before discussing your needs:
“Why did you leave your previous three positions?”
Listen for logic in a candidate’s career moves. This question also allows you to get a handle on what motivates this particular person. (Incidentally, candidates who leave positions for more money are a red flag, as are candidates with frequent personality clashes.)
“Describe your ideal role, company and manager.”
This response gives you a glimpse of the candidate’s wants and wishes. And, because you didn’t reveal your needs ahead of time, you can better determine whether the candidate’s objectives fit your job requirements.
“How do you see your career developing?”
The candidate’s future goals should align with what you can offer them.
“What would your current manager tell us is your biggest accomplishment?”
The phrasing of this question implies you’ll contact a former, which means you’ll likely get a more honest answer.
“What motivates you?”
This question allows you to evaluate how the candidate fits in with your management style and company culture.
“What is the biggest misperception people have about you?”
If you’re hiring at a supervisor, director or manager level, you’ll want a candidate who is self-aware and mature.
Simply put, you need to take a strategic approach to finding the best employee; otherwise, you may find yourself making some expensive and time-consuming mistakes.