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Hiring the Right Person: Getting Started

This post is the second in MRSC's series on the hiring process: Hiring the Right Person.

As a manager in a city government, you are having a very busy week (and really, what week isn’t busy?).  You begin to think you are getting things under control--and then one of your employees gives you her resignation. Suddenly your week feels much busier and much less under control.

Vacancies often occur with little notice and at a bad time.  As busy as you are, you lack time and energy to devote to an unexpected, time-consuming recruitment and selection process. You need to refill this job as soon as possible. But, as busy as you are, a wise manager will spend a little time thinking about the vacant position and the process requirements before rushing to hire a new employee.

If you have a human resource professional available within your organization, your smartest first step is to meet with HR to map out your strategy and process.  The points below can help you organize your thoughts before meeting with HR.  If you don’t have HR staff available, some key areas to consider:

  • Reviewing the job description;

  • Pinpointing the most critical skills/experience for an ideal candidate;

  • Ascertaining process requirements for the recruitment and selection;

  • Identifying any key stakeholders for involvement in the hiring process.

Job Description

When was the last time you looked at the job description for the position?  Often the answer is ‘not recently’.  Take a minute to review the description and be sure it is up-to-date.  Have new tasks been added? Have tasks been removed? Are there any certificate/license requirements it would be useful to add or eliminate? Are there changes in reporting relationships? If the job has changed, this is a good time to revise the description so that it matches the organization’s current needs.

Ideal Candidate

If you could design the perfect employee for this job, what combination of technical skills, people skills and critical thinking skills would he or she possess? Focusing on the description, which aspects of the job are most critical for this new hire?  What relevant skills are most essential for successful performance? What experience is most germane? Giving some quality thought to an “ideal candidate” can help target the recruitment and selection process to find and secure the best new employee.

Process Requirements

Most organizations have minimum requirements for selection processes.  What required steps apply to your hiring process? Are you required to do an internal recruitment? Is there a posting requirement? A minimum or maximum recruitment period? Should the job be advertised? Do you need the approval of the city manager or other individuals prior to proceeding with the process? What is human resources’ role in the process?  
Knowing the process requirements from the outset will allow you to meet the requirements in the most efficient manner and can avoid big headaches down the road caused by failing to follow a key step.


The most successful hiring processes involve a diversity of interests and perspectives.  Including stakeholders in the process can also be helpful to create buy-in and investment in the success of the new employee.
Are there important stakeholders you would be wise to include in this process? Depending on the job, these stakeholders could include city residents, specific external customers, other city managers, peers in other departments or co-workers within your department.  Identifying these individuals now will allow you to incorporate them, as appropriate, throughout the process. You may even realize it would be helpful to consult some people prior to formally beginning your process.

As overwhelmed as you may feel when you receive that resignation letter, resist the temptation to rush out and hire the first qualified person you can find.  Instead, take a short period of time to accurately assess your needs and to understand the important process steps.  When you are welcoming your new employee who is a great fit for the job, you will be glad you did.

Stay tuned for future posts in our Hiring the Right Person series where we will explore the basic components of a recruitment and selection process, including a few ideas about how to make your processes more successful and more creative. Are there specific questions you’d like answered or topics you’d like to see covered about the hiring process? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of Alan Cleaver.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Marci Wright

Marci Wright writes for MRSC as a guest author.

Marci Wright retired in 2014 after over 16 years as the City of Shoreline’s first Human Resources Director. Previously, she worked for Thurston County as Director of Employee and Administrative Services (1987 - 1997) and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney (1980 - 1987). Currently volunteering for MRSC she continues to be interested in the full range of human resource issues, especially training, facilitation and problem resolution.

The views expressed in guest author columns represent the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MRSC.