Pull Ahead With the Right Team

Pull Ahead With the Right Team
© 2010 Getty Images/Stockbyte Silver/John Foxx

In this tough economy, it is unusual to find a shortage of candidates for a job opening. Some workers who became unemployed when the job market nosedived still are looking for gainful employment. This situation also means lots more recruits to visits with before meeting an MVP, and this process costs the company both time and money.

Instead of just watching the resumés roll in, employers must be diligent about knowing what they need from an employee — and how to cut the candidates who don’t have it — to ensure they get the number one pick.

The right fit

O&P Career Placement Services (OPCPS), a recruiting and career placement agency specifically serving the O&P profession, works with people throughout the United States to create the best match of job candidates with companies. David Censullo, vice president of operations for OPCPS, first gathers as much information as possible about both the open positions and the potential employees. He learns about job candidates’ experiences and, most important, why they left their most recent positions. This information helps him accurately compare the needs of job candidates to the needs of employers.

“People leave for different reasons. Most of the time it’s not about the money. It’s usually benefits, hours, and really feeling appreciated,” Censullo said. “Or they have a fellow employee that is not pulling his or her weight, and they get disgusted and aggravated and they want change.”

He also said that some people, especially those who have been in the business for more than 10 years, tell him they have hit a dead end in their careers and want to move on for advancement or growth — particularly advancement into partial ownership.

David Censullo
David Censullo

Censullo likened employee placement to a baseball trade or the signing of a free agent.

“Sometimes players, or employees, just need to be in a different environment,” he said. “Change can be a new start that gets the competitive juices flowing. They want to prove to themselves and the new employers that they made the right choice in signing them.”

Placing the right employees in the right companies is not as easy as setting up interviews. Censullo works with employers and hiring managers to pinpoint candidates with the right qualifications. OPCPS, which has offices outside of Boston and in Bradenton, Fla., will fill a job position with a few different candidates, if necessary, until finding the right one.

Initially, OPCPS dabbled in temporary work but instead, Censullo said he found that the market is full of people looking for permanent positions.

Interview for skills

Employers, too, sometimes become desperate to fill vacant positions. Instead, they should spend some time considering that position, the necessary skills and what type of person would best fill it, said R. Wendell Williams, MBA, PhD, founder and managing director of Scientific Selection, a human resources consulting firm in Atlanta.

R. Wendell Williams, MBA, PhD
R. Wendell Williams

It is not enough to say that they want to hire an experienced O&P practice manager; they must also determine what specific skills an O&P practice manager would possess. The primary responsibilities of a manager, for example, are directing, coaching, counseling, developing, overseeing and providing for employees. Not everyone possesses these skills.

Also, just because a candidate held a management title in a former job, he or she will not necessarily be qualified for that role. Employers should evaluate each individual candidate for those required skills.

To determine if a candidate will be successful at a job, Williams prepares a list of questions about critical skills that make the difference between job success and failure. Employers should gather examples of the work that person has done and compare those to the type of work the person will be expected to complete in this position.

“The more that you can minimize the storytelling from an interview and actually look at the work — for example, ask people to provide an example of a problem and ask people how they resolve it — the more you can get a picture in your mind of how that person would actually work on the job, the more likely you are to actually make a good decision,” Williams said.

Evaluating a job candidate is similar to reviewing a football player’s game films, he said. And just because a player is on a winning team does not necessarily mean that he is a good player.

“You should pay more attention to how he played the game moment-to-moment-to-moment, as opposed to whether he won or not,” he said. “The minute you try to evaluate his skills based on whether he won or lost, you’re making some big assumptions about how he did it.”

Basing a decision on a candidate with consistent wins neglects other factors, such as luck and external conditions that are out of his or her control, not to mention any foul play. This is a foolish tactic, Williams said, because that luck cannot last forever.

Natural tendencies

Williams’ tactics sound logical, but our own natural tendencies often sabotage the process. First, he said, people are not mentally wired to identify critical skills; instead, they are more inclined to see only end results.

Another habit Williams has identified is our innate desire to evaluate whether the person we are talking to is safe. This need comes from early humans — if they trusted a life-threatening individual, they could be robbed of their food, or killed.

“The people who couldn’t quickly figure out whether or not they’d be safe died,” he said. “What we have is a whole bunch of folks today who have this really strong inner need, within the first few minutes, to determine if they’re safe or not. That’s good, but that doesn’t tell us anything about whether the person is skilled.”

Williams offered a way to rank potential employees by their level of qualification.

“If you have a lot of candidates lining up for the job, it just makes good sense for you to hire the most qualified one. You want the person ideally who can drop in the job and, from the first day, perform really well,” Williams said.

Under certain circumstances, employers might be willing to hire candidates who are not fully qualified to do the job. In some cases, the best person for the job might be someone who has no experience — someone straight out of school, for example — but who shows tremendous potential and a propensity to learn.

In a situation where there is a shortage of qualified candidates for the position, an employer might have to settle.

“In that case, you have to decide which of the people who did apply have the fewest deficiencies,” Williams told O&P Business News. “You just compromise, knowing ahead of time that you’re not going to get what you’re looking for and will have to develop it on the job.”

The ideal situation is hiring the perfect candidate, who meets the highest standards for the job. If that person is not available, employers can feel safe with someone who possesses the right kind of skills that would lead to that perfection. If all else fails, and the position must be filled immediately, then employers must select the best candidate of those who have applied.

Hiring process

OPCPS provides forms on its Web site for job candidates and employers, which request pertinent information regarding work experience and salary requirements, and job and company information, respectively, as well as individual preferences for both.

Censullo reviews this information and assembles a potential match for a one-on-one phone interview where the candidate and employer share this information. If both sides agree to move to the next step, Censullo recommends that the job candidate work for a day or two if possible at the employer’s facility — alongside the facility’s other employees, under the employer’s instruction. This trial period is important to see if the pairing is a good one.

The number one quality Censullo looks for when wading through job candidates is longevity. He said he finds that candidates who have switched job positions every couple of years are not conducive to a solid placement.

He also looks for specialties that make employees more marketable to potential employers, whether they have experience in pediatrics or geriatrics, upper extremity or lower extremity prosthetics.

Employers must make decisions not only about which skill sets the ideal candidate would have, but which skill sets are most important to their business and that they cannot live without.

“And which you can compromise,” Williams said. “You always have a job to do. The ideal situation is that you get along with the people, and they’re all really good at what they do. That’s occupational utopia.”

Current economy

In today’s economy, employers have the benefit of more of a choice in employees than ever before, Williams said, but they should tread carefully.

“At the same time, unemployed people have more incentive than ever before, survival incentive, to get a job at any cost, or say or do anything to get that job,” he said. “It’s really an employer’s market, if the employer is willing to take the time, energy and effort to hand-pick the best employees.”

Censullo has found the opposite in some areas of the country, and has several available positions that he is unable to fill. Before the dip in the economy, people were not as quick to agree to relocation, Censullo said. Now, however, those who are unable to wait for a job in their location must be willing to move where the jobs are available.

On the other hand, it is not easy to relocate these days either. He noted that, while his business is booming for placements in the Northeast and Texas, which he said is unusual, there has been tremendous decline in placing people in Florida. He believes the current real estate market is the reason for this change.

“It’s difficult right now to sell your home and get the money that you need out of it to make the big move and go to a different part of the country,” he said. “The homes are probably the biggest setback right now for relocating. Most of these people make decent money, but don’t own their homes free and clear.”

Follow up

Follow up is critical in preventing recurrent hiring mistakes, and in determining if the employee met the goals set forth for him or her. Williams emphasized the need to be as specific with the employee assessment process as with the employee interview process.

“If you didn’t define your goal early on then follow up is only going to say if the person failed or didn’t fail,” he said. “If you know specifically that interpersonal skills are really important, and you thought they had the interpersonal skills when they were hired, and you find out months, weeks later that they don’t have interpersonal skills, then you have to ask yourself a couple of questions.”

For one, he said, did this person have the skills on the outset, or did he or she fake it? Along the same lines, was the system for measuring these skills faulty, or was the hiring manager swayed by some other factor? Another possibility is that the employee changed over this short period of time and developed bad habits or a bad attitude. Answering these questions provides information about what went wrong, as well as about how to prevent it from happening again.

Censullo offers employers a 30-day assessment period. After that amount of time, all parties involved in the placement are able to tell if the situation will be a permanent one. If the applicant resigns or is terminated within that time period, OPCPS does not collect a finder’s fee.

He said that he has only had one placement that did not work out. After a 30-day period with an orthotist placement, the employer contacted OPCPS to say the new employee was not serious about the job — taking time off and refusing to correct some unprofessional habits. Censullo gave the employer the option of refunding the fee or setting up another placement, free of charge.

Cost of a bad hire

Employers should be aware of the cost of a bad hire, based on how much they pay this employee versus time wasted and revenue lost on mistakes, problems, rework, slow productivity, or having to pay two people to do one person’s job. For someone filling the position of a manager or a highly skilled employee, employers can lose up to 50% of base payroll every year; approximately 30% for a semi-skilled employee; and 10-20% for an unskilled employee.

The ability to hire quality employees who are able to complete the job, with little turnover, is more critical for small business owners than for large business owners.

“With a small company, I don’t know how you can afford not to be critical about who you hire, because you can’t afford any low-performing employees,” Williams said.

A larger company, however, usually employs a mix of both skilled and unskilled employees, and the skilled employees can make up for the shortfalls of the unskilled.

All employers tend to hire a candidate they like, as opposed to a skilled candidate, Williams said. That is where the problem lies, and he warned employers against defaulting to this hiring practice.

“Unless you focus on the critical job skills, and measure them accurately, then the best you can ever get in the way of employee success is about 50-50,” he said. —Stephanie Z. Pavlou, ELS

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