Have you ever made a bad hire and wondered how it happened? The resume looked good, the candidate seemed to interview well — he or she said all the right things — yet after you made the hire you realized you made a big mistake. How could that happen? What went wrong? 

Recruiting good candidates is not an easy task for any manager. The process is complicated. Candidates often know what to say and do to get the job. And the process is going to get more difficult.

As the economy continues to improve, your current employees who were concerned about changing jobs during the recent recession are now starting to look for other opportunities. According to a recent America Online study, 58 percent of the 5,000 respondents said they may or definitely will start a job search when the economy improves. At the same time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports by the year 2010, we will be short 10 million workers in the United States alone.

So what should you do? Make recruitment the focus of everyone in the organization.

But just saying that everyone should be involved won't get it done. As with all things, when managers spotlight an issue and measure the results, good things often happen. So here are seven additional secrets to improve your overall recruitment program:

1. Look at your organization. Ask yourself, why would anyone want to work here? Why do you? What makes your organization attractive? Organizations are good at promoting themselves as part of the sales process, and you should do the same with recruitment. In recruitment, you are selling the organization to prospective employees. So take a hard look at the things that distinguish your organization and promote them. Show candidates why they should want to work for you. At the same time, if there are skeletons in your closet (e.g. recent layoffs or bad publicity) be prepared to address them in the job interview. Good candidates do their homework, and they will probably know about this.

2. Profile your ideal candidate. This sounds simple, but so often employers do not know which candidate will be successful in their organization and which one will fail. Knowing this is critical. Often we start the recruitment process without truly understanding what we are looking for. Job descriptions are helpful. They define the education, experience and tasks the new hire will perform. What they do not do is identify the traits, those qualitative factors that tell you who will fit and who will not. To do this, ask yourself these questions: What type of person is most successful in our organization? What type isn't? A good tip is to profile your most successful employees. What makes them successful? Get your employees involved in this process. They often have great insights.

3. Know where the candidates are. Successful fishermen know where and when the fish are biting. Successful recruitment requires you to do the same. Ask yourself, if I'm looking for an engineer, where would I find one? The answer could be companies similar to yours; your competitors; professional associations; engineering schools, etc. In other words, it isn't just the help-wanted pages or the Internet. Think creatively, think differently.

4. Interview right. Prepare for the interview. Formulate questions beforehand that explore ability, potential and fit. Ask behavioral-oriented questions, which are questions that require a response based on actual experience. Probe until you are sure that you have all the information you need. Listen to what the candidate says and how he says it. Ask the candidate if he or she has any questions. The questions they have will tell you a lot about them and what is important to them.

5. Resist the temptation to fill the job quickly. Don't blame mistakes on the labor pool. Don't hire until you are sure you have the right one. Trust your gut. Listen and watch for red flags — those signs that tell you something is not right here. People decisions are significant — they affect the overall morale, culture and capacity of the organization. You know the expression about the one bad apple.

6. Always check references. You learn a lot from reference checking. Listen to what is being said and how it is said.

7. Make your final evaluation. Ask yourself: Can he do the job? Will she be accepted? Will he fit? Is she interested? What is the likelihood that he will stay? Will outside factors interfere with her performance?

Utilizing these seven secrets will have a greater impact on your bottom line then most anything else you do. They are not easy to implement, but effectively using them will be your competitive advantage.

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