At the Helm: The right hire

Liz Walz

Liz Walz, Editor-in-Chief
March 1, 2012
Filed under Columns

It was early in my career, and I was working to fill an open position on our team. This person would report directly to me, would be my right hand, and I was excited to start interviewing.

I imagined someone smart, dedicated and driven to succeed, someone who would work by my side to take our products and our company to the next level. I had high hopes for what we could accomplish together.

But when the sole qualified candidate who applied for the job came in for an interview, he lacked that sense of drive and passion. He arrived at the interview in corduroys, a shirt with no collar and a beret. He was middle-aged, still lived with his parents, and had spent much of his career freelancing here and there for a few trade publications. The only reason he was seeking full-time work, he confided in me, was for the health insurance benefits needed to pay for some upcoming surgery.

Needless to say, this person did not fit my vision for the position. But back then, the economy was healthy, and there just weren’t a lot of qualified people looking for work. Ultimately, my boss told me to hire him.

Looking in the rearview mirror, it was the wrong decision. When it comes to hiring, we’ve all made them. But maybe it has been a while since your company has been in hiring mode. With any luck, that may soon change.

The Labor Department recently reported that nonfarm payrolls rose by 243,000 in January, the biggest gain since April 2011. In addition, the jobless rate fell to 8.3 percent, the lowest level since February 2009.

That kind of economic good news can take a while to impact our industry, but it seems there are already positive signs for the boating business. For instance, Brooks Marine Group recently hired two new recruiters in response to a “large increase in open positions across the industry.”

If now is the right time for your marine business to start hiring again, don’t repeat the same mistakes so many of us have made before. As eager as you are to reduce the number of hats you and your staff are wearing, take the time to outline exactly what you’re looking for in the position, create a process to ensure you reach the prospective candidates you’re seeking and be sure to extract information from them that will help you make the best decision for your business.

If you need an incentive, consider this: the cost to replace an employee can run as high as 250 times that person’s salary, according to some experts’ estimates. Then, think about the impact hiring the wrong person can have on the job satisfaction and loyalty of that person’s co-workers. If those aren’t good reasons to slow down and hire right the first time, I don’t know what are.

For me, it comes back to the notion that businesses are only as successful as the people they employ.

As Honeywell executive Larry Bossidy once said, “I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies.”

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