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Hiring Good Managers

Assembling a core management team can determine your business success.

As your business evolves and grows"?whether this growth is slow, steady, or rapid"?your success will depend largely upon the quality of the management team that surrounds you. After all, you can't do everything yourself; plus, you'll find that if you are able to put quality individuals in key positions at your company, you won't have to. The company will benefit from a varying combination of your skills and ideas combined with your team's, and the company will thrive as a result.

Assembling that core management group, however, can be one of your most challenging tasks. Plus, once you have put together your "dream team," how do you go about training and retaining it? This month, I'll focus on the hiring aspect (in a future column I'll tackle training and retaining)"?how do you get quality managerial prospects to your shop in the first place?

Initial steps
Begin by deciding exactly what type of individual you would like to hire. When advertising for your management position, list the qualifications that you're seeking as well as the salary range that you expect to pay. Listing these factors up front can save you from getting too many resumes from either underqualified or over-qualified candidates.

Next, decide where to search for your new manager. Years ago, your primary and sometimes only option was using the local newspapers. Not any more. While that remains an excellent resource, other alternatives are available. One logical place to post the position is on your own website. Once people notice that you advertise for employment positions on your website, you'll be amazed at how many will respond to your site"?and it's free.

In addition to your own site, multiple websites are dedicated specifically to recruiting and placing personnel, such as Monster. com, Careers.org, Jobs.com, and Craigslist.org. The good ones are usually subscription-based for the employer doing the searching. Don't be a tightwad"?not everything is free on the Internet. The top management candidates out there are using these websites, too, so it can be money well spent.

Recruiting firms"?a.k.a. executive-search firms, placement firms, or "headhunters"?can also be helpful when trying to find a specific fit. These can be expensive"?sometimes up to 25% to 33% of the employee's first year salary, payable as a onetime fee (by the employer, not the employee). In spite of the expense, some employers prefer recruiters because they can save valuable time by doing a lot of the searching and screening.

Some firms do specialize in graphic-arts placement: Print- Link (www.printlink.com), PrintStaff (www.printstaff.com), and PrintQuest (www.printquest.com) are just three examples. You can find more of these listed on the Graphic Arts Information Network website (GAIN, www.gain.net), which also has its own Job Bank.

One more thing: Make sure you also post the job opening internally. Regardless of whether or not you believe that anyone internally is qualified, allowing your current employees to apply for management positions is good business practice. Even though they may not get the job, the opportunity to apply and to be considered can keep good employees interested in remaining with your company.

The screen
Now the word is out, and the resumes begin pouring in. There isn't really any magic to reading resumes, it just takes time and perhaps a little luck. We all know that some applicants overstate themselves on their resumes (perhaps the majority) while others may understate their experience and qualifications. When attempting to filter through the resumes, I recommend the following approach:

  • Have at least two people go through them and classify each as either A, B, or C candidates.
  • If you don't find what you want after interviewing the As, evaluate the Bs to see if perhaps there is a sleeper there and begin interviewing some of them.
  • Ignore the Cs"?your original hunch when reading their resume was probably right.

When determining who gets an interview, give people the benefit of the doubt. In other words, over-schedule the amount of candidates that you believe may be qualified. Bring in some candidates whose applications may not be that strong, but have some of the qualifications you are looking for. Again, you may find a sleeper.

The interview
If you follow my advice and over-schedule the number of candidates, you will now have a seemingly overwhelming amount of interviews to conduct. Not to worry: Your first round of interviews should be considered just that"?an "exploratory" interview, not an in-depth one.

Schedule each of these 15 or 20 minutes apart. You know from experience that within the first 5 minutes or so, you will typically recognize whether or not the applicant has a chance. Since you control the interview, you control the time. If they don't qualify, be polite but don't waste time with them. Get them out of your office, put them in the "No" pile, and move on. Note: As a matter of courtesy, you should let the candidates know in advance how much time they should anticipate spending in these early-round interviews.

When you find someone that may qualify, spend a few extra minutes, then reschedule them to come back for a second, more thorough, interview. This procedure will help you move through a lot of potential candidates quickly and narrow your search to the few candidates with the most potential. Once you have winnowed the field to the few best candidates, then spend quality time with each. Take them on a tour of your shop. Have different people in your organization interview them and give you their feedback.

You should also get them out of the formal interview process, and find out what they are really like outside of work. Take them to lunch or invite them and their spouse or partner to dinner. Sell them on your business. Share with them your ideas about what you expect and ask them in turn what they expect out of the job. Be deliberate at this stage of the process, and don't feel badly about spending what seems to be too much time with any one candidate. It's an important decision for your company, and you want to make the right choice. But don't move too slowly"?the good managers may get away.

Hiring good managers is a tricky business. Even if you decide to follow my suggested steps, there is still no guarantee. Sometimes, we just get it wrong"?it's that way with any personnel decision. But if you go about the hiring process the best way, your chances of landing the best person on your management team will improve significantly.

Marty McGhie (marty@ferraricolor.com) is VP finance/ operations of Ferrari Color, a digital-imaging center with Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Sacramento locations.

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