How to Hire Administrative Support Staff

Hiring administrative support staff takes patience, foresight, and careful planning. Knowing beforehand what functions you want each person to fulfill, what you're willing to pay, and how you're going to manage the staff are important first steps.

Clearly, knowing what needs to get done is critical before hiring administrative support staff. Having a personnel policy on hand is important, too. And don't forget about compensation — you'll need to figure out how much you're willing to pay for people's work. Here are some quick tips for recruiting and hiring an administrative staff you can depend on:

  • Get specific. Knowing what you want and who will do the job before you hire will save you time, not to mention your sanity. "Playing it by ear" or "winging it" is a dangerous practice when it comes to hiring. Even if you begin by hiring someone who's tasked to perform a multitude of functions — distribute the mail, make copies, answer phones, and other duties — know in your mind first exactly how those jobs will be accomplished. Assign each duty the number of hours per week it will require and then go from there. Take care to avoid shortchanging yourself and the person(s) you hire. You may discover, for example, that you need not one person but two or three.
  • Prepare for the interview process. Unless you know exactly what to ask (and what not to ask), you'll need to develop an interview process that will help you find the best people and keep you out of legal trouble. (Be sure to read Tips for Conducting Successful Interviews.) You'll need to know, for instance, what topics you must avoid. Federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, pregnancy, age, citizenship status, disability, military status, and union membership. If you have any doubts about your interview process, consult a lawyer who specializes in employment law. The investment could mean the difference between a relatively smooth hiring process and one that risks a potential discrimination claim.
  • Make a plan. The process for hiring administrative help will be much easier if you have a plan to work from. A plan should include job titles and functions as well as projections for your future needs. You'll also need to decide on wages and whether or not the jobs will branch out into future opportunities. The interviewees will likely want to know about the potential for job growth. Instead of scratching your head and saying you hadn't "thought that far ahead," have a plan — and a solid response — so that you can build a strong base for your growing company.
  • Create a job application. You can weed out certain prospects long before the interview process by having people complete job applications. Streamline the process even more by posting the application on your Web site. This will make it easier for people to apply for jobs outside normal business hours. Applicants who aren't serious about their job searches will be easier to identify.
  • Tap into your professional networks. Bringing strangers into the world of your business can feel threatening. Tapping into your networks for referrals is a good place to start. It may take longer to staff up, but you could save time in the long run. Hiring people who come recommended may not work out 100 percent of the time, but the more you know about an applicant, especially from sources that you can trust, the better your chances are of finding someone who's likely to be a good fit.
  • Consider a staffing company. Many firms rely on the expertise of staffing companies that will do the hiring for you. If you're too busy to manage the process on your own, then it could be a wise decision (and a good investment) to hand over the responsibilities to a professional and experienced firm, one that is committed to helping you build a strong and reliable support staff.

Be sure to read Top 10 Hiring Mistakes to make sure you don't make them when screening potential candidates.


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