4 Steps to Finding the Right Employee for Your Water Lab

When it comes to daily operations, lab managers understandably focus on ensuring that the quality of the products and services their lab delivers are top-notch. But none of that is possible without a capable, knowledgable staff to get the job done.

After all, like any organization, your lab is only as good as the employees who work there, so understanding how to hire great employees is critical to your lab's success. Moreover, given the cost of training an employee — in terms of time, resources, and productivity — bad hires can wind up being very expensive.

Here are four best practices to employ when searching for your next standout team member.

1. Cast a Wide Net

It's no longer enough to simply post an open position on your company's website and expect good candidates to come running. To find competent and committed employees, the best approach is to scour for them in every corner of the water testing industry — from networking events, such as industry conferences, to local training events and beyond.

At the same time, you should utilize advertising opportunities and job board sites like Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn. For entry-level positions, recruit from local colleges and universities. And don't rule out other options, like referrals from current employees, local professional societies, and professional recruiters: These connections could help you find prime candidates who might not have been actively looking for employment.

2. Consider Your Current Team Composition

The process of cultivating a strong sense of community amongst your employees starts with recruiting and hiring people who bring value to the team. As you explore a broad a range of outlets for viable candidates, make sure to look for an equally broad range of candidate characteristics.

Experience and technical capabilities should be at the top of the list, but keep in mind that a candidate's resume is really only the beginning of hiring considerations — not necessarily the deciding factor. To that end, Lab Manager explains that hiring heads should look for a range of intangible characteristics in candidates, such as maturity, personal accountability, intrinsic motivation, safety consciousness, and a willingness to work as part of a team.

The ideal candidate will offer a balance of talent and point of view within your staff's composition. That's why it's important to provide opportunities to candidates from different backgrounds and to promote diversity. In fact, greater diversity across your team promotes greater collective knowledge and productivity, according to a study by an MIT researcher.

3. Ask Valuable Questions

When it comes to interviewing, consider asking behavior-based questions, such as, "Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a coworker, and how you resolved it," and, "Tell me about a time you made a consequential mistake, and how you communicated it." These scenario questions will help you better understand how the candidate might handle similar situations in your lab, and their answers will illustrate their ability to solve problems and collaborate.

It's also important to gauge if they really want this job. Consider the interview as a chance to inform them about what working for your lab is really like. Maya Murshak, chief executive officer at Merit Laboratories Inc., suggests using a pros and cons method — and being as honest as possible — when describing the job and your company to candidates. "I try not to hold back," she said, in an interview for Lab Manager. Also figure out what they're looking for in this job and what their larger career goals are. If you and the candidate seem to be on the same page, it's a good idea to introduce them to the staff they'd be working with. Your staff's feedback can help you decide whether or not to extend an offer.

By opening up the interview process for questions on both sides, your candidate will feel like their time is valued, and you're more likely to make the right hiring decision.

4. Provide and Solicit Feedback

Of course, hiring a new team member is only the beginning. You won't know they're the perfect fit until they're officially a part of the team. Throughout the training process, make sure your new hire feels comfortable with both their new responsibilities and new colleagues. As a manager, don't let them fend for themselves — extend an open line of communication and ensure they feel empowered to ask questions as they arise.

It's crucial that you provide feedback during this period as often as possible and welcome any suggestions for improvement from your new employee. Sometimes a fresh perspective is just what your lab needs to reevaluate stale practices. Talking openly at this stage will also help you determine if your new employee is really right for the role and make any necessary adjustments.

Staffing your lab with these hiring practices in mind will help your team be more productive and, ultimately, make your organization a better place to work.

Interview Tips:

Try these effective interview questions next time you're meeting with a candidate:

  • Explain a situation where you were involved in making a process change for your company that led to improvements.
  • How do you ensure you pay attention to detail when working in the lab?
  • What do you feel is the most important skill a water lab employee should possess?
  • Describe the most significant written technical report or presentation that you had to complete.

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Jeff Rowe
Writer and Editor

For the past 25 years, Jeff Rowe has worked as a writer and an editor for the nonfiction and professional markets, including researching, writing, and editing feature articles, blog posts, speeches, project reports, and magazine essays. He has published numerous articles and essays on developments in health care and health information technology, the home medical equipment market, natural resource and environmental issues, and food topics. He has also been editor and community manager for numerous industry-targeted websites, as well as author of a developing series of novels set in medieval Spain.