Full Speed Ahead

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6. Three points for showing up on time. Dugan says most entrepreneurs dread interviewing job candidates. Here are her tips for smoothing the process, from writing a classified ad to interviewing candidates:

  • Write an ad that explicitly states what qualities or skills the successful candidate must have. List five or six key points--fewer, and you're casting your net too broadly; more, and you're being too restrictive.

"Ask yourself whether people who read the ad will really see what you're looking for," Dugan says. Vague terms such as "management experience required" may not say as much as particulars like "position requires five years or more of experience supervising a staff of at least 10 people."

It's likely you'll find at least a handful of candidates who took the time to read your ad before dropping their resumes in the mail. Among those, don't even bother to read names, addresses and other irrelevant information. "Just score them for how many of your top five skills they have," Dugan says. If too many people survive this round, trim your list of traits to the top three and see how many candidates are still in the running.

"If the resumes you get [aren't from] the kind of people you want, look back at your ad and decide whether you need to rewrite it," Dugan says.

  • Before you start interviewing, make a list of 10 or so questions that will help you evaluate candidates. Be specific, and applicants' answers are likely to be specific, too. Ask everyone the same questions, and score their responses as your gut feelings dictate.
  • Above all, Dugan says, remember that the interview is about finding out about the candidate, not publicizing your business. "What often happens when small-business owners interview is they get nervous about asking questions, so they spend 45 minutes talking about themselves," she says. They pay for it later when they discover they didn't hear much about the candidates and have little to go on when making a decision.

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This article was originally published in the October 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Full Speed Ahead.

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