Wouldn't you agree that hiring staff is somewhat like buying a good bottle of wine?

You walk into a store only to find endless shelves of wine. Some have fancy labels, some simple; others have uniquely shaped bottles. Then there's the pricing, ranging from $3 to $75 or more. How do you choose the right wine to complement your veal Marsala? And what do those Wine Spectator ratings — 88, 91 — actually mean? Can you really tell the difference those three points make when sipping that glass of wine?

Hiring these days has gone from candidates trying to impress interviewers with their skills and talents to a “What will you do for me?” attitude. It seems that with the tightening job market in many areas of the country, some job candidates believe they're in the driver's seat. In some cases this might not be far from the truth.

WHAT'S THE RUSH? Because you have a business to run and need competent staff, you might rush through the hiring process just to fill the position, hoping that your chosen candidate works out.

Not too long ago, a mentor shared this simple concept with me: Hire slow, fire fast. This takes great discipline, whether you are a sole proprietor or a department manager.

So what steps can you take to find individuals who will become assets to your team? Try incorporating these ideas into your hiring protocol:

  • Don't just place ads in the classifieds of your local newspaper. Set up an account with an online career service, such as Monster. com or CareerBuilder.com. Not only will you receive résumés for the position you need to fill, but you can also do word searches to view résumés in their databases, then make contact with candidates.
  • Follow the basics: Is the candidate on time? Is he or she prepared? Note the candidate's dress and eye contact.
  • Ask the candidate to complete an application even if he or she has a résumé. And have a prepared list of questions. Go beyond the simple, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Instead ask, “What skills would you bring to this position?” and “How would you handle...?”
  • Confirm the information on the résumé by contacting previous employers and references. Ask the candidate if you can perform a simple background check. You can find companies online that conduct job, criminal, and driving record checks for a nominal fee.
  • Use personality profiling. These easy-to-use tests will help you understand more about the candidate and determine whether the person's natural behavior is right for the position. It will take much of the guesswork out of the hiring process.
  • Conduct a multistep interview. Ask the candidate to return for a second interview with you and another key person in the company. Not only will you be able to see how the candidate interacts with someone else in your company, but you will have a second opinion about the potential hire.
  • Consult your attorney to be sure you are following all laws concerning hiring employees.

I know what you're thinking: “This sounds like a lot of work.” You might believe that if the candidate dresses right and hands you a sparkling résumé, that's all you need to know. But consider what happens when you hire the wrong person.

Next time you go to the wine store, buy two bottles, one rated 88, the other 91. Experience what a difference three points can actually make. It can be the difference between good and great.

—Matthew Ostrowski is president of Creative Enclosures, a Norwich, Conn., company specializing in sunrooms and conservatories. You can reach him at [email protected].