Q: We're a small business, but generally become much busier during the holiday period. I've often thought about taking on extra staff during this period, but need advice on how I should approach this. Is it worthwhile outsourcing the human resources, or should I take the time to do it myself?

Max Robinson

Ace Work Gear

A: Finding people who have the abilities to perform the required tasks and the personality traits/values to fit with the values of senior management and the culture of the organization is a daunting task. It becomes particularly challenging when the holiday season brings more customers, and customers who may be short-tempered due to the hectic demands of the season. Therefore, "just get me a warm body" isn't going to work.

For a small business, I recommend a modified outsourcing approach to hiring seasonal staff. First, an analysis is necessary to determine both the tasks that will be performed by the seasonal employees and the abilities, personality traits and values they must possess to achieve success. Next, identify the selection tools, e.g., application blank, tests, role play of an important part of the job and interviews that will be used to make the hiring decisions. Finally, determine the process that will be used to recruit and screen applicants resulting in a small number of individuals (3-5) that should be interviewed by the senior management team resulting in an offer to one or more of the applicants.

These three steps may be completed by an outside vendor, such as one of the MN Workforce Centers around the state or a consulting firm that specializes in employee selection for small businesses.

The decisionmaking interviews must use the same questions for all applicants, ask about the applicants' past behavior in situations similar to the ones that will occur on the job and determine the applicants' experience in working in a culture similar to the one that exists in the company. Score applicant responses on a numerical scale. Then add the applicants' individual question scores to determine an overall score and make a decision among the applicants with the highest scores.

Mick Sheppeck is an associate professor of management at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.