I have recently had the pleasure (and I use that term loosely) to meet a plethora of candidates looking to fill some open positions onThe NEWS. Let’s just say I have a new respect for all the HVAC contractors out there who continually need to fish in a rather shallow labor pool.

We were in the market for two editors since Distribution Center magazine has taken off and is in need of more attention. Also our managing editor, Kimberly Schwartz, has recently had twins and is needed more at home. I tried to explain to her that I was a more needy child than her cute 6-month-old boys — who I am told do not look alike but I can’t tell the difference when looking at any picture she shows us — but she was not buying what I was selling.

Hiring Advice

There were a lot of really solid candidates, but some interviews were brutal. It was pointed out to me that the interview process is a lot like a first date. There is plenty of awkwardness, a good share of feeling each other out, canned answers, and — ultimately — rejection. The low point of the process was when I asked an applicant to tell me his favorite manager and why. He answered Sparky Anderson — not exactly the type of manager I was referencing.

So this leads me to my tips in hiring:

1. The résumé often does not show the entire picture. People spend hours — or should, at least — crafting a résumé so that menial task they were given by a previous employer sounds impressive. People who look very good on paper are sometimes less than impressive when you drill down in an interview process. Obviously, look over the résumé intently before deciding to bring someone in to interview, but do not fall in love with a candidate before they show up at your office.

2. Testing is more important than the interview. While how someone carries themselves in the interview is important, any one of us can get the wool pulled over our eyes since there is a limited time of interaction between yourself and the applicant. To continue the dating theme, even I had a tried-and-tested method of getting dates with girls who were obviously out of my league.

That is why it is important to have the applicants show you they can do the job, not just tell you that they can do the job. In my world, that means an Associated Press style test and asking them to write a story. Obviously the skills needed are different in the HVAC world, but the concept remains the same. Make sure the applicants can do all the skills they profess to have.

3. Don’t try to hire a clone. Kim was a great find for us and an exceptional managing editor. However, that does not mean that the next managing editor has to have the same exact skill set or talents as Kim. A new person brings new, different skills that can be just as beneficial to your organization. Don’t send good talent away by looking for a clone of someone who recently had the job.

4. Do not have the same interview with each applicant. Many people make the mistake of printing off a list of questions and asking each applicant the same 20 questions. This takes listening out of the interview process. I fell into this trap early in my career when my voice was hoarse from doing a few days’ worth of interviews. That is when my boss asked me why I was talking so much during the interviews. He had a solid point. Listening properly and asking follow-up questions that are not on your list is much more productive.

5. Silence is productive. This is one of my favorite tips I have been given. Don’t feel awkward about silence. When they finish the answer, stay quiet for a few seconds of silence. Many times the applicant will feel awkward and start talking just to fill up dead air. That is when you can learn things about them they were hoping not to share.

As you are reading this, I am probably right in the middle of the awkwardness that is negotiating a salary for the applicants we have chosen. While I feel I have some skills to find talent and put together an impressive team, salary negotiations is not where I shine. There will not be a follow-up column on that topic … you are on your own.

However, be on the lookout to meet some new faces in the upcoming pages of The NEWS.

Publication date: 12/10/2012