Science Matters: Making the Good Hire

In the new job landscape, I’m afraid we might be leaving hiring managers in the dust. After all, as the job market continues to evolve, those looking for work need as much direction as possible— and career experts know this.

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In the new job landscape, I’m afraid we might be leaving hiring managers in the dust.

After all, as the job market continues to evolve, those looking for work need as much direction as possible— and career experts know this.

How do you write the perfect résumé? What interview questions will be asked? How should you answer? And just because you need a job, should you take the first one offered? Google any of these and you’ll get good advice.

Guidance on how to make the best hire, however, remains difficult to find, despite the stakes being just as high for the hiring manager in the employment process.

Tweak the questions above, and those high stakes become apparent: As a hiring manager, how do you read between the lines of the perfect résumé? What interview questions should you ask? How do you interpret the answers? And, just because you need to fill a position quickly, should you hire the first qualified candidate who comes along?

Making the best hire is a difficult task, but making the wrong one is easy and can end up costing much more in time and resources down the line. That’s why every hiring manager needs to understand how to make the process a success. This skill is critical in the sciences, where hiring decisions can be particularly complex. That brings me back to this “new job landscape”—one in which people are increasingly being hired on a temporary or contingent basis, budgets continue to constrict, and practically every industry is expected to do more with less.

From an HR standpoint, it means the days of the long-term strategic hire, when a company had the luxury of molding the perfect employee over time, are gone. The right experience— and a hiring manager’s ability to spot it—is perhaps the most important component of the hiring process today to ensure an employee will hit the ground running.

Managers with the biggest hiring challenges, however, often make the mistakes of allowing themselves to be lured in by rhetoric and miscalculating the importance of work history. Candidates typically tell you what you want to hear, but remember that raw experience will almost always bear out. Your job is to look beyond the résumé and know which candidate’s experience best translates into on-the-job success. This includes knowing a candidate’s track record for adapting to new situations and relating to colleagues too. These so-called soft skills contribute to a candidate’s overall ability and can have an equally important impact on job performance.

The time element of making a hire can also challenge the process. Managers don’t typically spend months looking for the right candidate anymore. If they need someone, they need him or her now, especially for special projects where contingent workers can provide so much value.

So instead of hiring the right person, hiring managers often settle because of a time crunch. And if the person hired turns out to be a bad fit, you might not find out until weeks or months later. By then, you’ve invested time and money in the wrong employee, and starting the hiring process over will cost even more. Know that spending more time at the beginning of the process will almost always prevent problems later.

Now consider the powerful tool of networking—traditionally considered the holy grail of job seekers. But have you ever thought how powerful your network can be when you’re looking for the perfect employee?

If you’re thinking you don’t have time to constantly manage a professional network, remember the key to effective networking: quality trumps quantity. You might have as few as 20 colleagues you can call on, but if they’ve got the right connections, the odds of them knowing someone who is the right fit for the job are in your favor. The same goes for getting to know a reputable recruiter who understands the scientific industry and can be relied upon to send strong candidates your way.

Don’t get left in the dust! Job seekers are assuming more responsibility than ever before in the employment process, and you have to do your homework too if you want the best employees. Take the time to improve your own hiring processes, and watch the quality of your candidates grow.

Published In

Communicating Science Magazine Issue Cover
Communicating Science

Published: November 1, 2011

Cover Story

Communicating Science

The scientific community has historically taken a dim view of communications with nonscientific publics. No thanks, said scientists. What an imposition! Why bother? What good could possibly come from interrupting research, sticking our necks out and dumbing it down for non-scientific dunderheads, only to see them mismanage our findings?