I graduated college two years ago and I've been having a great time in my first job at an ad agency. They just made me supervisor of a smallish account and the new grads in our department are already assigned. I get to hire a new person - exciting but scary! Any tips for me?
How cool for you! This is a great event for your development, for your employer and its clients, and for the person the universe ends up sending over to work with you. Try not to stress! Here are a few tips to make your first-hire-as-a-manager experience less daunting and more fun.
The first thing to remember is that although you will dream up the picture-perfect, rainbows-and-unicorns new employee in your head, that person is unlikely to actually walk into an interview with you. Real people are imperfect and lumpy and bumpy in various ways, but they are awesome. You're better off with a real, imperfect person than with your dreamed-up fantasy new hire, anyway, so don't sweat if the smartest and ablest job applicants don't match the mental picture you've created for your new teammate.
Think of the people you know in business and your friends from college and high school. Who among those friends feels like the kind of person you'd want in this job? (Not that you're actually going to hire the person you're thinking of....we're talking about archetypes.) Getting clear about the sort of person you envision in the role will help you zero in on the best-fit candidates, both in the resume-sorting phase and during live job interviews. Is this person the jack-or-jill-of-all-trades go-getter sometimes known as Radar O'Reilly, after the character on the beloved TV show MASH? Is this person the White House chief of protocol whose kid-glove handling of clients is his or her calling card? Forget about tasks and skills - what's the role about?
Imagine that you were calling the agents of famous Hollywood stars, trying to sell those agents on having their clients read for the role. What would you tell them is especially awesome about this part? it might be "What's cool is that we get to go to tons of industry events, but it's also work - we network like crazy and build relationships everywhere we go."
If networking is fundamental to the job, a painfully shy wallflower might really struggle. When we focus on tasks and skills, we can lose sight of the bigger picture - what is this role FOR, and what must this person love to do (if s/he loves to do it, s/he'll be good at it) to succeed?
Your HR department will help you assign a job title for the new person. Push back if they want you to require the job candidates to have qualifications you know they don't need, like a particular major in college. If the person can write and think and is spunky and has a sense of him- or herself, does it really matter which major s/he chose? Probably not. Say No to bureaucracy, Melanie!
(You may as well speak your managerial truth at the very first opportunity, and this new-hire project is a perfect one. Just because you're a new manager doesn't mean you're anybody's doormat.)
Let's write the job description/job ad next. Don't jump into listing Skills and Tasks and Duties for your job ad. That stuff is boring and disconnected from life on the ground. Tell a story about a day in the life of this new person instead, using your own experience as a guide. That kind of narrative in a job ad will bring in better people than the boilerplate yada-yada in a typical job ad.
In your ad, tell the job-seeking audience why this role is important to the company and its clients. Give the applicants something specific to do if they're interested in learning more - something intellectually stimulating and creative, not "throw a resume into our company's career portal a/k/a Black Hole." For instance, ask them to look at a recent web marketing campaign your company ran for a client and send back their own thoughts on it. In those letters or email messages you'll get to assess writing skills, thinking skills, judgment, argumentation - why on earth would anyone want to do keyword searching of resumes when such powerful, simple ways exist to separate job-applicant wheat from chaff?
On to the job interview! Your goal is to dig in to see how each interviewee thinks, and how he or she views his or life so far and this role. Ask open-ended questions like "Given what you've heard about this job so far, what do you imagine will be the biggest learning curve to climb?" Don't script a bunch of dull or goofy questions like What's your favorite cartoon character? You're an adult and Ms. or Mr. Thing walking in the door is an adult, too. You guys can figure out in an hour whether you should be working together. If you're shy about diving into the interviewing moshpit alone, ask an HR pal or a fellow supervisor to sit in the interviews with you.
You're going to do brilliantly, Melanie. Avoid the two Worst Interview Questions Ever ("Of all the candidates, why should we hire you?" and "What's your greatest weakness?"), stay human throughout the process, and you'll be fine. Your hiring instincts will get better and better over time. For now, treat this hiring thing as a huge learning experience, take a deep breath and dive in.
Hurrah for you!
p.s. I almost forgot -- send a beautiful, brief email message to everyone who sends in a resume, and send a handwritten thank-you to everyone who interviews with you. If you prefer, call them on the phone to say "No thanks, but it was wonderful to meet you." Don't listen to anyone who tells you these pleasantries are no longer necessary or expected. Your gut knows better. Your brand is at stake, Melanie. You're finding your voice at work, and insisting on a human level of care for the very human job-seekers in your hiring pipeline is the world's best way to use it.
Here's a sample No Thanks letter that you could mass-send (bcc!) to all the non-interviewed applicants:
Please forgive this form-type email message; I wanted to write and thank you for sending in a response to our ad for an Advertising Assistant at Acme Explosives. We have hired a person for the job, and/but I am grateful for your response and wish you huge success in your job search and career. Thanks for taking the time to reach out, and have a great rest of the week [or weekend]. Yours,