Finding quality help

Hiring right is time consuming, but it makes your job a lot easier over time. An employee that fails to do the job adequately, or doesn’t work well within your staff, can disrupt your entire organization. An employee who can successfully tackle all aspects of the job and also interact effectively with superiors, other staff members, field users and the general public is priceless.

Gary Vikesland, a licensed psychologist and certified employee assistance professional (CEAP), addresses hiring, as well as other human resource issues, on the Web site he founded: He points out the importance of making the right hiring decisions, stating, “Most of us would not get married after the first date, so why do so many managers hire employees with little knowledge of who they are hiring? Hiring a new employee is really no different than getting married to them, for better or worse. In most hiring situations, you are forming a relationship with the employee that can involve a long and painful divorce if you later decide to terminate their employment.”

With today’s limited budgets and ever-increasing workloads, making the right choice the first time is more important than ever.

Define the position

Know what you need. Work with ­­­your staff (if necessary) to develop a list of skill sets needed to do the job effectively. Develop a job description that covers those skill sets and defines any education and experience requirements. Use these as the basis to formulate the questions you’ll want to ask applicants during the interview process.

Review the résumé

Armed with the written job description and the interview questions you’ve developed, review the résumés you’ve received from potential applicants. It should be relatively easy to weed out those who don’t fit your basic requirements. Review the remaining résumés more closely to determine which applicants you wish to interview.

Conduct the interviews

Conduct all interviews for the same position in the same setting, following the same format and asking the same questions. Keep your interview style consistent from one candidate to the next.

Know what you can and cannot ask. Heathfield notes, “Illegal interview questions include any that are related to a candidate’s age; race, ethnicity or color; gender or sex; country of national origin or birthplace; religion; disability; marital or family status; or pregnancy.”

Avoiding asking questions about these off-limits areas is relatively simple, but you also need to guard against touching on such information during the interview process. Heathfield says, “During an interview, you must take care to keep your interview questions focused on the behaviors, skills and experience needed to perform the job. If you find your discussion straying off course or eliciting information you don’t want about potential job discrimination topics, bring the discussion quickly back on topic by asking another job-related interview question.”

Most human resource professionals recommend at least a two-step interview process. Vikesland suggests the first interview focus on the technical aspects. In this interview, the interviewer explains the job requirements and provides the applicant with a copy of the job description. Questions should relate to the basic qualifications as outlined, and the technical skills needed to perform the essential functions of the job. The applicants that meet those requirements, and state that they are interested in the position and are able to handle the essential functions of the job, qualify for the second interview.

Vikesland suggests this interview center on the behavioral characteristics of the applicant, what he terms as their “social and emotional intelligence.” As he states, “Just because an applicant can complete the work successfully does not mean that individual is going to be a successful employee.” Sports field management is a team effort, but every team has its own unique operational characteristics. Your employees must be able to function effectively within your team structure.

The questions in this interview should be open-ended and impossible to answer adequately with a simple yes or no, so the assessment of the answers will be more subjective. Vikesland suggests that two interviewers jointly conduct the second interview, that way both participants have the opportunity to evaluate the applicant’s behavior while answering the questions as well as the answers they give.

You’ll want to include a few job-specific questions, asking the applicant what he would do in a specific situation. Include some of the traditional interview questions, too, asking the applicant for their self-assessment of their strengths and weaknesses and why they would like to have the job.

If you stick to the game plan of asking the same questions of all those interviewed, it will be easier to compare the responses during the post-interview evaluations.

To tour or not

Many sports field managers include a tour of the facilities as part of the interview process. This gives the applicant an overview of what is involved, and allows them to observe some of the actual working conditions and some of the equipment used on the job. It also gives the applicant an opportunity to ask job-related questions that may not have come up in the interview.

The tour does require additional time, which may not fit into the schedule for the potential employer or the applicant. Also, a tour during working hours could be awkward for an applicant currently employed at another facility who may not wish to let others know they are seeking the position.

Verify details

Once you have determined that any applicant that took part in the interview process will not be hired, send them a rejection letter. Vikesland recommends keeping that letter simple and straightforward. He notes, “Do not state why the applicant was not hired, only that another applicant was ‘more appropriate’ for the job.” Remember that the interview process has required a commitment from the applicant, too, so do include a thank-you for their time within the rejection letter.

When you’ve narrowed the numbers down to five or fewer potential candidates for the position, invest the time to check out their background information. Vikesland notes that human resource industry studies have shown that 25 percent of job applicants misrepresent their education and credentials.

Contact schools to verify educational credentials. Contact previous employers, too. Be aware that to avoid potential liability issues, many former employers will only verify the dates of employment and supply no information on job performance or why the individual is no longer employed there. Only a few will answer the question, “Would you hire this individual again?”

Do respect an applicant’s request that you not contact his or her current employer.

Do contact the personal references given. Obviously, the applicants will not supply the contact information for someone that will give them an unfavorable recommendation, but you may gain some insight about an applicant from the responses of their references.

Following these steps will help you hire right, but no one is 100 percent accurate, so include a probation period as part of the agreement when you extend the job offer. Industry experts generally recommend a three-month period, which should be long enough to assess basic job performance and how well the new employee fits in with your existing staff.

The author is a contributing editor for SportsField Management. To contact her, e-mail