Happy Hired Help


You may reluctantly place an ad in the local newspaper, wade through dozens of resumes with misspellings and food stains only to realize that you have no idea what you’re looking for on paper.

Before slapping on the martyr hat and deciding to tackle all jobs yourself, take a moment to evaluate how you’re finding your applicants. Online resources such as Craig’s List (www.craigslist.com), Monster (www.monster.com) and any of numerous local Web sites in your area may offer free, or inexpensive ways to find posted resumes. Use available search tools to narrow down listed resumes to “signs” or “graphic design” headings if the candidate needs to have specific skills related to the industry.

Posting an open position on your own Web site is also an option. Because the job seeker has found the listing on your site, they have shown an interest in the commercial graphics or sign industry. They are also able to familiarize themselves with your company. Potential customers who are on your Web site and see the “Positions Available” posting will also see that your company is contributing to the local work force and possibly growing.

In our shop, if we are not hiring when a promising applicant comes into our company, we tell them we will keep their resume on file; and then when we need somebody, we go through those resumes first. One of our current employees had turned in a resume that sat in our “Resume Folder” for six months before we called him. He’s worked for us for nearly four years and has been one of the best employees we’ve ever had.

Posting an ad in the local newspaper is also an obvious way to advertise your position. Be specific when listing the position’s requirements. If the applicant needs to have computer experience, list that requirement. Weed out as many “time wasters” as possible.

Ask your employees to encourage friends who are reliable, hard workers to apply. Check with your local vendors and supplier reps. They know the industry and the people in it. Larger companies should consider promoting from within as a first option. The opportunity to move up in a company is an important draw. Choosing someone who is already with the company also means they are already familiar with your company’s policies and philosophies.

I should briefly note here that while generic application forms are fine to keep on file for a new hire, it is helpful to require a resume. Requiring a resume means the person has taken the time to organize their information and type it up. A resume should look professional and organized with no crazy fonts or clipart. We look for two things in a resume – work experience and spelling errors. The work experience is obvious as we evaluate whether or not to interview the individual. The existence of typos or handwritten corrections on a resume tells me the person doesn’t pay attention to details and/or is too lazy to run the spell check and print a new resume if their information needs updating.

As applications come in, sort them by potential. Experience in the sign industry isn’t the only skill to look for. Customer service experience, computer skills and manual labor experience typically catch my eye. Production skills in the graphics and sign industry can be taught; look for work experience that might be a good foundation on which to build. A candidate with no prior sign experience also eliminates the concern for any bad habits that might be difficult to break.

Choose a two-person team to conduct initial interviews. Make sure they are prepared with good questions and an agreed-upon rating system to streamline this process. All applicants should be asked the same list of questions. Their answers are rated by circling a number from one to five. Your interviewers can jot down a quick note or two in the margin for later discussion.

Take time to properly prepare your list of questions. This is a very important step. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles complaints of discrimination in the workplace. According to the EEOC job interview questions should not reference the following seven topics: race, skin color, sex, religion, national origin, birthplace and age. Taking the time to carefully phrase interview questions and making sure they relate to the job position and can not be construed in a discriminating manner is essential. Take the time to read online resources regarding acceptable questions to ask during the interview process.

Ask questions of the candidate, but also inform them of the details of the position. Be sure they know what they are interviewing for. Don’t wait until they are hired to find out they didn’t know they needed to be able to operate a computer or work with the public. Also be clear on salary, benefits and future room for advancement.

Candidates with good potential should be asked back for a second interview. This time bring in a manager or coworkers from the department you are hiring for and include them in the interview process. Often they will see a positive or negative attribute that you may have missed. Employees become invested in the candidate and this builds a team approach from the start.

If necessary conduct a third interview. Ask a few new questions to help narrow down and finalize your decision. Follow up on references. It’s easy to overlook this, but a lot can be learned from previous employers or character references. It is good etiquette to call back previous interviewees, thank them for their time and let them know the position has been filled. If they were a good candidate, offer to keep their resume on file and ask for permission to contact them in the future if another position becomes available.

Be sure to fill out the proper paperwork on new hires. The government requires that the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Form I9 be filled out. Go to www.dol.gov for additional employer and employee resources. Your payroll service or accountant may also be helpful in making sure the proper paperwork has been filled out and kept on file.

My son wants to learn to swim. He typically plays on the steps in the shallow end and as his confidence builds he will slowly venture into deeper water. New employees should be treated in the same way. Dropping a newly hired employee into the deep end and hoping they know how to swim is an unwise way to equip your new employee for success.

Start with an orientation period. Be clear on the company policies and expectations, introduce them to co-workers and create a comfortable situation. Chaotic projects are not a good way to introduce a new employee to their new position. Allow the employee to become familiar with their job before dropping them into the middle of a huge project. A new hire may be able to weed some vinyl or laminate some prints, but don’t expect them to make a major contribution the first couple of weeks.

Bring the new employee in an hour or two after the shop has been opened. Allow other employees to get their day started and organized so they can prepare projects to train the new hire.

Properly training an employee gives them a strong foundation to build on, using their inherent talents and skills. If the employee has been adequately trained, they will require less supervision and will feel empowered to grow in their position.

As an owner or supervisor, be sure to personally follow up with the new employee, ask them how they are doing and answer any questions that may have developed. This shows that you are interested in their success and that you’ve taken the time to seek them out.

Training a new employee is time consuming and often costly. It’s important to create a work environment that fosters growth and rewards hard work to minimize employee turnover and inspire them to stay for the long haul. There are a number of ways to help retain good employees that have little to do with money.

Create a sense of pride in the company by establishing an organized operation with consistent policies.

Good work flow and a clear sense of company expectations will make the employee’s job easier.

Insisting that every job is produced with quality materials will also allow for pride in craftsmanship.

Open channels of communication between the employee and supervisors will help create an atmosphere of

Employee concerns should be listened to and addressed.

Allow the employee a little creative freedom.

Create opportunities for employees to prove themselves and show that you trust their abilities.

Leading by example and being willing to do the job you expect of your employees will garner their respect. Offer your respect to them as well by valuing their opinions and creative contributions to the company. Discipline should be warranted, consistent and constructive.

Recognition may take the verbal form of a simple “good job”; the acknowledgement of good performance. A simple thank you makes a powerful impact. Extra time off, bonuses and the occasional box of donuts are simple ways to reward employees for good performance.

When our company enters a sign contest, we always include the names of employees who contributed to a project. If our entry is published, the employees take great pride in seeing their names in print. Providing business cards for every employee is another inexpensive way to recognize their importance to the company. When a customer recognizes the good work of an employee, the thank you note is posted in the break room for everyone to see.

Of course monetary compensation is always an important factor to any employee. Employees need to provide for their families. With my husband and me contributing to production and daily operations, we’re able to keep our employee costs to a minimum. Since our employees are well trained, they work efficiently, are able to stay on top of production and share in the successes of the company. We make every effort to evaluate for raises every six months. By calling our employee in for a review and raise, we eliminate putting the employee in an uncomfortable position of having to ask for the raise.

We also look for ongoing projects that our employees can do for extra money. We have a client that brokers advertising on local city buses, and our company creates and installs the graphics. Partial wraps are installed during business hours, but small ads need to be installed after 8 p.m. Two of our guys are in charge of installing and removing these ads after hours. They get paid a flat fee per installation. While my husband and I could do the work and pocket the cash, we chose to include our employees in the opportunity to make some extra money.

Although we are a smaller company, we make an effort to create desirable benefits. Basic health and dental insurance are provided for our employees. We have also created a retirement plan in which we match our employee contributions. Vacation time, holiday time off with pay and a set schedule also allow our employees to have a healthy home life.

There is always the potential that your company is just a stepping stone, or another rung on the employee’s ladder to personal success. If the employee has stayed with your company for a few years, has been a positive contributor and has maxed out the compensation resources of your company, then write a letter of recommendation and wish them the best. Take pride in your ability to be a positive influence on a person as they make their own way in life.