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Finding the Right Kind of People for Your Workplace

How four companies put their new employees in the best position to succeed.

More business owners are looking to hire. While the economy has yet to regain its former strength, the number of U.S. job openings has risen by nearly 26 percent from June 2009 to June 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. How many leaders will successfully fill these positions? Not as many as you would expect, and not as many as those at great workplaces.

Finding and hiring the right candidate is a challenging and costly task for any business. It may involve advertising, sifting through resumes, and numerous interviews, all of which eat up a staff's limited time. Some experts estimate the costs of filling a position can range from 8 percent to 20 percent of the position's annual salary for the first year. As the economic recovery sputters along, the hiring challenge has not eased. Nearly 15 million job seekers are looking for work, and many companies are facing a flood of applicants for each opening. This volume has not always translated into an abundance of talented candidates. Most companies continue to experience a high failure rate with new hires. Even during the recession, one in four new hires is terminated or leaves the organization voluntarily within the first year, according to a 2008 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey.

In contrast, leaders of the best workplaces enjoy greater success. At these organizations, 92 percent of employees believe their management hires people who fit in well. This percentage falls to 82 percent for their peer companies.

How do they create this level of success? These leaders make the hiring and interview process as much about the match between the organization's culture and a candidate's personality, as about finding the right technical skills and experience for a position. Driven by recruiting philosophies like "hire for attitude, train for skill" and "hire our type of people", the best workplaces invest in extended interview processes, personality assessments, and internal trainings to ensure candidates are given a clear view of the culture and are thoroughly vetted on how they would fit in.

Applicants are given a transparent look inside how the company works to ensure he or she is making the right choice for them. Often times, this insider perspective comes from the cross-section of employees involved in candidates' multiple interviews. Other companies take an even more candid and open approach. For example, during the interview process at Heinfeld, Meech & Co., P.C., a certified public accounting firm, canidates are told, "If you have a chip on your shoulder and want to wield a big stick like accountants and auditors in other firms, then H&M is not the place for you."

Applicants considering Atlassian Inc., a maker of software development and collaboration tools, are also given an unvarnished view inside the company's culture. Visiting the company's website, potential hires can read through employee blogs, view employee-created videos about the culture and learn more about the company's unique values, such as "Open company," "no bullsh*t" and "Don't #@!% the customer."

As candidates learn about the company's culture, these workplaces work diligently to learn about the candidate's values. One example comes from McMurry Inc., a marketing communications company. The firm utilizes personality and work-style assessments to help search for "8s," its term for star candidates that exemplify the company's eight values. McMurry has invested in external experts to build these web-based assessments, which include custom internal benchmarking of applicants' characteristics against traits that have proven to be successful at the company.

Several other best companies have invested in internal training programs to ensure interviews are consistently and effectively conducted. For example, "Selecting the Best" is a training class available to employees at SnagAJob.com, a large hourly jobs site. The workshop trains "Snaggers" on a number of interviewing skills, including behavioral interviewing, active listening and providing objective assessments of candidates. This training session helps Snaggers engage in the important conversations that happen after a candidate's interviews conclude.

The recruitment and selection process can offer a significant opportunity to maximize the investment in a new hire. Attending to a person's cultural fit avoids substantially negative results, such as newcomers showing poor attitudes, negative behaviors, and high levels of unmet expectations. Leaders who start investing in culture early can shorten new hires' productivity curves and strengthen their commitment to stay.  

Marcus Erb is a senior research partner and senior consultant with the Great Place to Work® Institute. He focuses on the financial services, manufacturing and health care industries.
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