From the January 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

When your employees need training and you don't have the expertise, it's time to bring in an outside trainer. But how do you know you'll get what you need--and what you pay for?

"Although your relationship with an independent trainer is brief compared to your relationship with your employees, you need to be as thorough in screening and selecting a trainer as you are in hiring [employees]," says Ed Campbell, president of The Global Leadership Institute, a comprehensive business training and consulting company in Altamonte Springs, Florida. He offers these tips:

  • Determine exactly what you need before you begin your search, and be specific from the outset as to what you expect.
  • Always examine the trainer's credentials, and be sure they match your needs. "With critical training issues, rarely does one size fit all," says Campbell. "Be sure the prospective trainer has a working knowledge of your business or the specific things you need taught."
  • Ask for written proposals. When something is in writing, there's no question about who will do what or for how much. You'll be able to determine whether the trainer truly understands the scope of the project and whether he or she has the resources to meet your needs.
  • Check references. Find out what type of projects the trainer has done in the past, and contact both current and former clients. Ask if previous clients have provided a performance review, such as evaluation forms or other summaries describing the quality of the trainer's work.
  • Ask to see work samples. If you need a trainer to create manuals or other types of training aids, look at the items he or she has produced in the past. Remember, confidentiality agreements may restrict the trainer from showing you everything he or she has done. If the samples aren't what you have in mind, find out if the trainer has the capability to handle something different than that to which he or she is accustomed.
  • Ask for a demonstration. "Invite the prospective trainer to give a 15- or 20-minute sample presentation
    or ask to sit in on one of his or her sessions held elsewhere," Campbell advises. "If neither option is available, ask for a videotape."
  • Develop a project timeline. Put all your deadlines in writing, and make them part of your contract.

To find a trainer, ask colleagues for referrals. You can also check your local Yellow Pages under "Consultants" for a particular subject matter or look under "Speakers" or "Training." For more information, contact the National Speakers Association at (602) 968-2552 or visit http://www.nsaspeaker.org

Too Much Information

What to do when job applicants tell you more than you need to know.

You know certain questions are taboo when interviewing prospective employees, such as asking about marital status, childbearing plans, or racial and religious issues. But what do you do when a candidate volunteers this information?

Begin with a thorough understanding of the ground rules, says Margaret Carroll Alli, an employment attorney with Clark Hill PLC in Detroit. "It's not illegal for applicants to [provide you with such information]," explains Alli, "but it is illegal for you to improperly use it." The safest strategy is to avoid dialog that may give the impression you're using illegal criteria as part of your screening process.

So what do you do if an applicant begins telling you about their upcoming wedding plans? Maintain control of the discussion, and steer it back to the job. "Just say something like `I need to explore with you the job at hand and what it is you would bring to the company,' " says Alli.

And if the applicant tells you they have a disability that's not otherwise obvious? "You can say `Are you asking me for any accommodation in this interview?' If they say no," Alli says, "then be direct and say `Let's take the conversation back to the job.' " Even if an employee has a disability that might legally affect your hiring decision, you can't use medical criteria to screen people out until after you've extended a firm offer.

Alli believes most candid applicants aren't trying to put business owners in an awkward position. "Sometimes people don't realize they're telling you things you don't want to know," she says. That's why you need to control the interview, keep the discussion politely but firmly focused on the job, and take thorough notes immediately after the meeting so you can justify whatever hiring decision you make . . . just in case.

Contact Sources

Barone Commercial Resources Inc., 718 Union Ave., #4, Brielle, NJ 08730, (732) 528-1500

Clark Hill PLC, malli@clarkhill.com, http://www.clarkhill.com

The Global Leadership Institute, 1052 Montgomery Rd., #124, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, (888) 453-2346

Storm Technology Inc., billkrause@stormtech.com