Creating a thorough hiring plan can help weed out weak applicants.

Any small business depends heavily on the quality of its employees. The best way for retail bakeries to put the right people in the right positions is to develop and maintain a hiring process that ensures owners and managers the most direct path to the right hire.

While no hiring process provides a foolproof plan, the following suggestions give guidance and a starting point for creating a process unique to your bakery and its specific needs.

  • Define key objectives of the position. Make a prioritized list of five key objectives, then determine the skills and experience needed successfully meet them.

  • Create a thorough job description. Or, create an outline of the functions and expectations of this position. Thinking this through helps refine the description and firms up priorities in the hiring decision.

  • Use a broad base of sources to find a sufficient number of prospective candidates. Asking employees, vendors, colleagues, trade associations, educational and alumni groups, and advertising in traditional and non-traditional places helps you cast the broadest net. Give yourself plenty of choices to screen, so that you can narrow down the best.

  • Utilize the screening process. Take advantage of the screening process to gain valuable data on competitive salaries, intelligence and best practices. Call in only those who pass the first few hurdles when evaluated against your key objectives and skills-required screen.

  • Maintain structure throughout the process. For example: screen, inquire and investigate each prospective candidate in that order.

  • Ask all applicants a core of the same questions, then some custom questions created for their particular experience. During the interviews, ask specific experience and accomplishment-related questions and ask for examples. Try to avoid hypothetical questions as most candidates know the right things to say. Asking for specific examples gives a better read on what they did and will do in the future.

  • Check references, verify degrees and steer clear of people who have too many ready excuses. Unfortunately in today's litigious employment climate employers must practice "defensive hiring." Be cautious of people who look too good to be true because they often are.

  • After the hire, create a thorough orientation for the new employee. Getting the right person off to the best start takes only a little more extra effort and can reap big rewards. Give progress reports and feedback in the first few days, weeks and months.