What could be easier than filling an entry-level job opening? You just match the skills you need, narrow the candidates down to those you click with in the interview and then go with a youngster -- someone who might stick around for years. After all, you have real work to do.
Easy, yes, but wrong on just about every count. If that's been your approach to filling entry-level positions, you might want to re-examine your assumptions. Here are three hiring guidelines I always keep in mind.
Hire for desire
We've all had to compromise on skills. Back when the job market was tight and managers couldn't find candidates with the perfect skills, we looked for applicants who could learn the job -- maybe liberal arts majors for programmer positions, or special education teachers for support desk jobs. But even if applicants are plentiful, don't immediately discount someone because his educational background isn't an exact match to the job description.
I pay special attention to cover letters. A candidate with a well-written, thoughtful acknowledgment of an obvious gap between his skills and the job posting wins in my book over a candidate who is a better match but sends a rote letter. I've found that such attention to detail in cover letters is often a sign of someone who will take extra time to review his work. And the skills we need are often easily learned; many entry-level positions require on-the-job training anyway. Sure, you end up looking at a lot more resumes, but it's worth the extra effort.
Hire with the team
Of course you want rapport with your new hire, but if you hire someone you like but he grates on members of your team, you risk turning your workplace into something resembling an episode of The Office.
Involve your team in the process, beyond asking for referrals. Have your staff join you in the interviews, while making clear that you will make the final decision. (You'll also want to brief them ahead of time so they don't ask inappropriate or illegal questions.) You'll get your staffers' input and see how they interact with candidates.
And because you won't be called on to carry on half the conversation, you can observe the candidate more easily. You might notice, for example, that a candidate tends to dominate other people.
Sharing the interview load pays off by reducing the potential for conflicts after the hire.