The Hiring Conundrum Unraveled

Doing Business: One of the most difficult challenges can be finding and hiring the best candidate for your business.

By: Margot Carmichel Lester

Growing your travel business always includes challenges. And in a job market flush with candidates, all clamoring for attention, one of the most difficult can be finding and hiring the best for your business.

Taking a strategic approach and seeking professional help can make the hiring process easier and more effective.

Finding The Person

First, start with a clearly defined, detailed job description.

“Know what you want before you interview,” advises Laurie Dea Owyang, a human resources expert with Los Angeles-based Humanasaurus. The basic format is simple: job title, reporting relationships, job summary and specific responsibilities. Also, quantify the minimum experience and qualifications that candidates would need for the job, as well as the credentials that you would prefer them to have.

Now you’re ready to start searching. The best way: target your hunt.

Place ads in trade publications and on industry-related Web sites to attract people already working in the industry or interested in it. Ask other travel professionals for referrals and attend events to scout for prospective employees.

This mix of recruitment methods allows you to create a broad pool of likely candidates.

(A reminder: As you’re narrowing the field, remember to hang onto information about people who impress or interest you. They may not be the right hire this time but, next time around, you can try to recruit them.)

The Correct Questions

Interviews allow you to evaluate the applicant’s qualifications and potential fit in the agency. And you will improve your chances of selecting the right employee if you ask the right questions.

“Go beyond questions that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ ” Owyang says. She suggests such fundamental questions as: Why do you want to work here? What can you contribute? What do you hope to learn here? Tell me about a challenge you faced at your last job and how you handled it.

“Let the applicant do most of the talking while you do most of the listening,” Owyang continues. Be sure to give the candidate an opportunity to answer fully, she said, adding, “Most people including/especially interviewers are not comfortable with silence and therefore rush to fill in the void.”

However, be aware that some questions are illegal. In general, state and federal laws bar questions about race, religion, disabilities, marital status or sexual orientation.

Nor can you approach the topic of national origin cavalierly. If you’re concerned about immigration status, routinely ask applicants if they are legally authorized to work in the country on a full-time basis. Do not ask if he or she is a native-born citizen.

To be sure you’re staying within the law, you can run questions by your attorney or seek professional help before beginning the process.

Checking Them Out

One you’ve identified a couple of solid prospects, it’s time to check them out with other people.

“Past performance is the best indicator of future success,” Owyang says. Of course, a candidate’s listed references probably won’t have anything negative to say or may be bound by company policy to do little more than verify employment.

If you obtain the proper release beforehand, your background checks may include criminal, credit and DMV records, although Owyang recommends a professional source like Infolink if you want to be thorough.

The Final Step

If your prospect checks out, it’s time to make the offer. At this point you can be as formal or informal as you like, but most attorneys and human resource experts suggest a written offer that clearly outlines the terms.

You do not need a written employment contract, though they can be used to establish such details as grounds for termination or non-compete considerations.

A word to the wise: Any time you put a deal in writing, it’s best to check with your attorney to make sure you’re not promising things you can’t deliver.

Following these steps and using your lawyer’s advice will make hiring the best and brightest easier.

Interview Tips

" Making promises you can’t keep: Don’t do it. Be as honest as possible about a job.

A court may consider inflated descriptions of job responsibilities or a promise of future advancement to be a contract and try to hold you to it. And in any event, you want to avoid the hassle and expense of court proceedings if at all possible.

" Judging an applicant unfairly: You should judge applicants only on characteristics directly related to the job. If you don’t, you may find yourself on the wrong end of a discrimination lawsuit.

" Asking about disabilities or medical conditions: Depending on what you ask and how you ask it, you could be treading on shaky ground.

The best guideline is the simplest: Ask about abilities, not disabilities.

" Getting too personal: Remember, you only need limited information, if any, about an applicant’s private life. Don’t forget that you’re conducting an interview, not a social conversation with a neighbor or friend.