Contractor Tip Of The Month: Hiring the Right People: Do You Like Them? Or, Do You Love Them?

Words: Damian Lang

"Hiring the Right People: Do You Like Them? Or, Do You Love Them?

Damian Lang

Studies show that training a new employee costs a company an amount equal to the cost of their annual salary. With such a sizable and important investment at stake, you better love your candidate before making that offer. Let that sink in for a moment. Paying someone actually to contribute to your bottom line makes sense, right? But basically frontloading their salary for a year while not knowing for sure if they’ll be around long-term sounds kind of crazy. Again, you better love your candidate before hiring him. In the early years of growing my business, when I found someone I liked, I would hire the person in haste, without making sure the candidate could perform the job I was hiring him to do. Invariably, two years later I would have to go through the agony of letting him go. In hindsight, I wasted TWO YEARS (of time and budget) training him to do what I needed him to do. I now see how stupid I was back then. One time, without studying their background, we hired two bricklayers and two laborers. All four said they were capable of doing the work required to install firebrick, so we put them on a job where we were working a shut-down rebuilding furnaces in a plant. The job required us to work around the clock in 12-hour shifts. These four guys were assigned the weekend midnight shift with some of our other employees. Their first shift began Friday at midnight. We quickly learned during their first shift that they were not the quality workers they claimed to be. It was pretty apparent, but it gets worse. Saturday evening, I learn before their shift begins that they are drunk in their hotel room, so I knew we couldn’t let them work the midnight shift intoxicated. Guess who had to pull his rusty trowel out and work from midnight Saturday night until noon Sunday? You guessed it. Unable to get emergency help at the last minute on a Saturday evening, a team, consisting of me, my project manager, his son, and one of our foremen, rolled up its sleeves and worked the graveyard shift to avoid costly delays. Another lesson I learned the hard way... These days, we follow the rule, hire slowly and fire quickly. When hiring, we make sure we have done all of the legwork and research up front. And if we just like the person we are interviewing (instead of loving them), we move on and interview more people. I have a saying on my office wall that I obtained from the book, Someday It’ll All Be…Who’s?: The Lighter side of the Family Business by Leon Danco and Donald J. Jonovic. It goes: Dad, I know I was only supposed to hire someone to take orders, but after I hired Mary Jo, I discovered she couldn’t type. So I hired Sue. But neither of them understands electronics, so I had to hire Stan to keep the product line straight. Now, it turns out all three of them are so disorganized we’re losing orders. That’s why we need a general manager. This underscores the need to make the right hire every time. Trying to fit square pegs into round holes when hiring doesn’t work and ends up costing your company big time. Have you ever invested in something you weren’t sure of and then later regretted it? If you have, you understand how important it is to go the extra mile and make sure you get the right product - or to my point in this article - the right person, the first time. Managers often worry about what the rest of the staff will think of bringing in a top notch candidate among their current staff, and therefore they don’t make the right hire. It’s a major mistake! Instead of worrying about what the rest of the staff will think, always give the position to the person you believe is most qualified and best suited for the job. So what can we learn from all of this? During the hiring process you should collect as much information as you can about each person being considered for the position. Unfortunately, you won’t always make the right hire, even if you have done the correct amount of research. One way of knowing if you have made a mistake or not is to carefully observe the new person to see if he is doing exactly what you hired him to do. If he takes his work to someone else to do - or even worse – brings it back to you, you will know right off the bat that he isn’t the right person for the job. This is when you should consider firing quickly, and replacing the new hire with someone better suited for the job. Because if he can’t do the work, why would you want to keep him on your payroll? What I’ve found is that most managers keep them on because they like them. They don’t love them, but they do like them. But in my experience, to build the best team you can, you need to make sure you only hire and keep people that you love. Trust me, your job will become much easier if you hire slowly and fire quickly!
Damian Lang owns and operates several companies in Ohio. He is the inventor of the Grout Hog-Grout Delivery System, Mud Hog mortar mixers, Hog Leg wall-bracing system, and several other labor-saving devices used in the construction industry. His latest venture is Malta Dynamics Safety Company that focuses on bringing quality safety products to construction customers at the best possible prices. He writes for Masonry Magazine each month and consults with many of the leading contractors in the country.
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