The Hiring Process (Without an Agency)

Our bottom line advice for finding staff on your own is this: If you have the time and expertise available in your own organization, you can certainly complete the search on your own. However, if the burden of time or learning the ins-and-outs of the hiring process create more difficulties, then hire an expert to assist. For the DIY route, here's the "How to."

Most successful endeavors begin with a clearly defined plan, and so should the hiring process. Set specific goals for all the factors of the hire including time frames for each step of the process and the desired outcome at each stage. Many business authors would note “If you fail to plan, plan to fail.” It can certainly apply here. Also, be very honest with yourself and don’t make unrealistic goals that set you up for failure. You may get very lucky with the first applicant on the first day or you may have to go through fifty candidates over several months to find just the right fit. Either way, a plan with realistic time frames can make finding great staff as simple as 1-2-3.

The more details in a job description, the easier it is to find a matching candidate. Spend a great amount of effort making a list of every specific function you will expect of the employee and all associated factors. This is the critical foundation for the rest of the search, and as you will see, can save time in other steps. There are a tremendous number of items involved with a proper job description. Many corporate jobs, even at the most basic level may need a five or more page description of all the relevant tasks and qualifications. A private service position can be even more complex with the variations and importance of personality matching, so take great care in preparing this information. It will also be helpful in creating an Employment Agreement and a household or employee manual later on. As indicated earlier, the simplest indicator of long term success is how well the expectations of both employer and employee are communicated from the start. A sample questionnaire form is available through our agency to help with the definition step. Call us if you would like a fillable PDF version emailed to you free.

Reach Out
Once you know what you are looking for it is time to reach all the potential sources you can. The best way to find employees, without question, is by referral. Look to your friends, family, and peers for recommendations of former or current staff who may be looking for a new position. Let those who you can trust know your specific search criteria so they can rattle their brains and be “on the lookout” for possible sources. Second, try to target specific advertising areas for the type of employee you seek. Using classified ads is a good way to see a large selection of resumes, and even better is an industry specific job site like Wherever you decide to advertise, be specific with requirements that are not negotiable. For example, if you want a trained Chef, state it in the ad. The same goes for any unchangeable part of the job and items you will not waiver on. We also highly recommend stating a legitimate salary range and what it is based on. For example, you don’t want replies from a $150k per year Estate Manager for a $60k per year House Manager role. Another important detail is to never list a phone number in an ad, just a fax number or email address for resumes. A professional job site or classified listing should allow a way to post anonymously with all responses being directed to your email via a proxy service automatically. and both do this. This will allow you to control whom to speak with once you know a bit about their qualifications, and will avoid random, inquisitive calls about the position.

Legal Note: Pay attention to advertising laws for employment in your state and particular household organization. The wrong language in an ad can lead to complaints, fines, and at the least, turn off some potentially great employees.

At this point you should already have the job description and a picture in your mind of what the perfect employee will be. Now, after hopefully receiving a “stack” of resumes from your advertising, you can begin matching the candidates’ skills and background with your ideals. There are many technical factors you can use to judge the applicants, but your first concern should be the job history of the candidate. Look for any significant positions that sound similar to the one you are trying to fill, and consider those first. The best match for your position will be the candidate that has proven him or herself in a job with the same duties you will be asking them to do. Just this simple matching should produce the top candidates for your job, even though you will consider several other elements of the person’s history. Evaluation of candidates’ resumes is another topic worthy of its own book, so for our purposes we’ll continue with the next step assuming you have identified the strongest applicants.

Once you have selected two or three potential candidates from the resume screening you can begin the preliminary interviews. The first step is to make contact by telephone and set up a time for an in-depth discussion. (Hint: It is great to catch an applicant a bit off-guard and hit them with a few quick interview questions when you call to arrange the formal time. This will give a candid glimpse into how they handle on-the-spot pressure and attitude. As an agent I often disqualify people on how they answer my calls from different numbers or caller ID’s. ) Set times with all the candidates you want to speak with in this way and you might be able to eliminate one or two based on their phone manner. Now you have a few appointments and a bit of time to prepare. As a courtesy to the applicants you are sure you will not interview further you can either make a quick phone call to let them know the position is filled, send them a letter, or send an email indicating the same. This may be a bit overwhelming depending on the number of resumes you receive, but it is a very nice surprise for job seekers to hear back from an employer even with a rejection. Keep all the resumes with good notes about the source of the candidate for future reference or a new job opening.

The appointment time has arrived and the first formal interview is about to begin. Are you ready? Do you know how to get the most meaningful information from a candidate? Will you give enough of the right details for the candidate to confirm their interest? This stage is the most important of the entire process without question and many people get caught up in conversation that is misleading or irrelevant to the success of the match. Make sure you know how to interview properly! The next section of the book discusses guidelines that are very helpful for getting the most out of your interviews with a clear understanding of whether or not you are bringing the right person into your home. Putting in the extra time to interview well will pay off later on. You might also consider some modern tech tools for your interview process. The popularity of web cameras, smart phones, and matching services like Skype and FaceTime can help get an overall impression of candidates through a video interview. Many clients prefer the face-to-face interaction, even if it is initially on a video screen.

Final Interviews
The last step with potential candidates is the in-person interview. Even if there was a phone meeting, there are many reasons to interview again in person, and specific techniques to get the most out of the session. The details of effective personal interviewing are beyond the scope of this guide, but the notes on basic interview procedures will apply nicely. Just remember to take as much time as necessary to feel that you really know the person you are considering. Can you see them as part of your family’s daily surroundings? Will you be able to relate to this person comfortably for many years? These are very tough decisions and they deserve your time. Similarly, you need to give the prospect as much of a real picture as you can for them to evaluate the job. There is nothing worse that a new employee who uncovers a multitude of reasons they should not have taken the job, just because they didn’t get to see it in the interview process.

If you follow the interview guidelines in this book you will end up with lengthy notes about each candidate you spoke with and you’ll have no doubt about what was said by whom. Compare notes on each interview to make a decision on one or two final candidates. You’ll now have two of three tools for making the final hiring decision: The resume and the interview results. The third will come from the verification stage of the process. Verification of the candidate’s resume information is the final step in your decision criteria. This includes a few different processes depending on what level of checking you want to attempt. One of the important screening tools is employment reference checking, so the next section contains a detailed procedure for doing it effectively. Finding out what a former employer has to say about the candidate can be the most revealing item in the applicant’s profile. The other information worth researching is an educational claim such as college or a specialized training. Based on the results of the verification stage you can decide whom you wish to interview in person.

Finally, with all critical information in your hand and on your mind, make a decision. It is possible to over think the situation with all the factors to consider, but try to make a firm decision and follow it through. If you have done all you can to find the right person you should feel excited about the new employee coming aboard. In fact, you should feel relieved that the process is near an end. Decide who gets the offer and prepare to contact them either with a written letter or by telephone. Doing both is probably your best course so you can be personable on the phone and all business in the written form. A letter will also eliminate any chance of miscommunication over the phone. Likewise, if any negotiation is to take place, all the items will be laid out in detail in a letter that can be revised as the agreement is made.

Congratulations! You have successfully made it through the hiring of your new employee. The offer has been accepted and you have set a start date. The last step, which you should make clear to the employee, is the final background investigation phase. This is where you can run any number of additional checks on a candidate to screen for the following:
-Driving History
-Criminal History
-Past or Current Lawsuits
-Education Credentials
-Social Security Verification
-Credit History (If applicable. Check with your state laws for employment background screening.)

It should be made clear that the hiring of the employee is contingent upon any reports that you choose to run on them. This protects you from hiring someone who seemed great all the way, but may have some hidden problems in the past. For instance, if you are hiring an employee that will drive extensively you want to check for DUI’s or accidents on their record. Similarly, if the candidate will handle any finances you might want to know if they have a good credit record of their own. Choose relevant items to the situation and of course check to see if they have any criminal history. The internet can offer a number of background searches to choose from, but your best bet for a thorough job is to work with a service on referral. Some agencies are happy to run this process for you “a-la-carte,” charging fair rates to pull a complete report as if they had placed the applicant with you. Our firm offers this service upon request and can offer a variety of detail based on your needs.

You now have all the makings of a solid employment situation. It is time to welcome your new employee into your home comfortably, knowing you have done all the right checking and screening. Further considerations should include the start of a “paper trail” for the lifetime of the employer / employee relationship. Some of these items are:
-Confidentiality Agreement
-Written Employment Agreement
-I-9 Form for Identification and Tax Withholding
-Any relevant Manuals or Service Schedules
Once again, if you do not have these resources at hand or already in place, a competent agency or consultant can produce the items for you. In fact, it is not a bad idea to go over these documents before you begin your search so you’ll know what the desired end product is.
Long-term success with staff will rely heavily on the initial foundations of the relationship. The more you do here, the more you can refer to later to judge the results of your decision and the performance of the employee. Nobody can meet your needs if they don't know what your needs are! Likewise, without a clear understanding of your employee’s expectations for growth, raises, benefits, and future duties, you will not know how to successfully manage and compensate over the long term. Communication is paramount. Hopefully your hard work will pay off with staff that becomes part of your life, blending into your service style and joyfully caring for you and your family for many years to come.

Excerpt from the book, Insider's Guide to Household Staffing, 2ed. Private Staffing Secrets They DO Want You to Know. Click for more information.