How to find the right employee

Raelynn Frazier Lee, interim director of UNLV Career Services, at UNLV on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014.

“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” So goes the oft-cited proverb.

Similarly, keeping your business running smoothly depends in large part on qualified employees.

This can put pressure on your company’s recruiters, managers and human resources department to hire the best and the brightest, particularly with the hiring outlook for 2015 looking promising, according to Raelynn Lee, director of Career Services at UNLV. “Hiring appears to be trending upward,” she said. “The incline is not steep; however, the trajectory is still positive.”

Here are some tips and strategies to help you attract superior employees in a competitive labor market.

Create a detailed job analysis

A big recruitment mistake employers often make is not creating a clear and comprehensive job analysis. If you simply work up a job description, you may not have done the right homework. The U.S. Office of Professional Management, for example, says an employer must understand the nature of a job before the right person can be found to fill it. “Job analysis provides a way to develop this understanding by examining the tasks performed in a job, the competencies required to perform those tasks, and the connection between the tasks and competencies,” the OPM website says.

Other research suggests such an analysis needs to look ahead — including performance success factors and expected outcomes. Components of a job analysis include:

• Job requirements: Summary of position, job duties, computer skills/software used/reporting structure.

• Employee requirements: Education/training, skills/aptitudes, licenses/certifications.

• Success factors: A company-specific list of goals the employee is expected to accomplish (for example, increase department revenue by 25 percent, train two new junior associates and attract at least one new client per quarter).

Broaden your candidate pool

Human resources expert Susan Healthfield says companies that select new employees from the candidates who walk in their door or answer an ad are missing the best candidates, who are often working for someone else and may not even be actively looking for a new position. She offers a few suggestions for improving your candidate pool:

• Develop relationships with university placement offices, recruiters and executive search firms.

• Encourage employees to participate in trade and industry associations where they are likely to recognize and connect with potential candidates.

• Monitor online job boards.

• Utilize professional association websites and publications.

Consider in-house candidates

Recruiters and managers often grapple with the choice between promoting from within or looking externally to tap undiscovered talent. Deborah Sweeney, CEO of, says there are advantages to considering in-house staff:

• It’s less expensive: “Some experts estimate that it costs as much as a half-year’s salary to recruit (and train) just one employee,” she says, whereas with an internal promotion there is little cost.

• Proven loyalty: Current employees have demonstrated loyalty to your company’s cause and mission. Show your loyalty by offering internal promotions and employee development.

• Seamless transitions: It can be time-consuming to bring a new hire up to speed, whereas existing employees are familiar with company goals and tasks that lead to success.

• Good fit for team culture: It can take months to get a group of employees successfully working as a team, and outside candidates can upset a smoothly running operation.

Consider boomerang employees

These are people who’ve worked for you previously, left and now might want to come back. Recruitment guru Derek Irvine writes: “Recognize this! Sometimes, the best employee for the job is ‘the one that got away.’ ” The top candidates in your recruiting pool, Irvine explains, are people who are familiar with your industry and business, who have extensive experience, and who are a cultural fit with your company. “Some people call these candidates ‘purple squirrels’ — highly desirable, perfect in every way, and therefore hard to find,” he says. In pursuing — yes, pursuing — alumni, he offers three tips:

• Remind alumni of their previous successes and contributions to your organization.

• Address reasons why they might have left — lack of a challenge, no clear career path, difficult relationship with a manager — and honestly address the resolutions to those concerns.

• Prepare a clear path for their return and re-integration, and prepare teammates.

Ask the unexpected

In addition to traditional interview questions, managers and recruiters can throw candidates a curveball with unconventional inquiries. The use of quirky, open-ended questions not only humanizes the process, but also creates a platform for dialogue, and may help steer the applicant away from rehearsed responses. In its annual list of the top oddball interview questions, Glassdoor demonstrates that when it comes to keeping candidates on their toes, anything goes. Consider some of the unorthodox questions that made the cut — and the companies asking them:

• If you were a box of cereal, what would you be and why? (Bed Bath & Beyond)

• You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why? (Urban Outfitters)

• Why is a tennis ball fuzzy? (Xerox)

• If you were a pizza delivery person, how would you benefit from scissors? (Apple)

• If you could throw a parade of any caliber through the Zappos office, what type of parade would it be? (Zappos)

• Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer? (Dell)

• Do you believe in Bigfoot? (Norwegian Cruise Line)