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Making the right hire

- Kelly Sharp is the owner of Heart of Iowa Market Place.

The holiday hiring season is behind retailers, but that process still goes on all year-round for many specialty retailers and it's important to know exactly what kind of employee you need and how the personality and work ethic of the person you choose fits into your business.

Get it right, and the person you choose will pay big dividends. Get it wrong, and I guarantee it will cost you more time, money and headaches than you can imagine.

I prepare myself during the hiring process with few steps.

First, I define the role of the position being offered. What tasks will the employee be completing, and what skills will be needed to complete these tasks? How will that role and the person who fills it fit into the overall company goals?

When conducting interviews, it's important to explain to candidates the objectives of the job and company and the business culture. Whatever the job title, every employee in a small retail business is a first-line employee and the face of the company; making sure the employee is the right fit for the company’s image is crucial.

So how do you find the right fit? In the words of my favorite sayings, you have to hunt where the ducks are. Local newspapers, online and local job agencies and specialty blogs or bulletin boards are a great start, but some of the best places to hunt are through networking.

Spread the word through your contacts that you are looking for someone to hire, and they will keep you in mind. Your contacts will know your business better than a job agency, and will know what candidate will be a better fit.

We all know that the interview process can be a real pain, but it's important not to settle just to get it over with. In specialty retail, two of the most important qualities I look for in a potential employee are resourcefulness and the ability to listen to the customer.

The Heart of Iowa Market Place is known for its specialty gifts. Customers will come to our store specifically looking for a gift and might need advice on what will make the perfect gift -- and that's where resourcefulness and listening come in.

Resourcefulness -- or adaptability -- helps employees recognize when they need to do something different to best meet our customers' needs. When we need to change things within our store, I need to be able to count on my employees to adapt to the changing environment.

It's good to know a job candidate's full range of skills, but I don't limit my focus there. I also rate my candidates on their potential. Skills can always be learned through training, but some characteristics such as social skills, confidence, and detailed oriented can’t be trained.

Put extra effort into your hiring process upfront and you'll be taking a big weight off your shoulders for a long time to come.

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