A recent study by Ernst and Young says that recruiting and retaining key personnel is the single largest concern of the 400 fastest growing companies in the country. You probably have the same problem. To have the best shot at getting and keeping quality employees, do some serious thinking about the first 30 days of your relationship with your employees.

* Recruitment: Know the position inside and out. Prepare a detailed and specific job description so you can identify the right person and so that person will have a good idea of what the job will be.

* Evaluation: Try to ensure that the applicant and the position are compatible. Applications, tests and interviews can help evaluate an applicant's knowledge of the job or willingness to learn it.

* References: Only people you know and trust are truly reliable references, and even then perceptions and personalities can skew the reference's reliability.

After you've made the hire, don't forget the employee. Establish training procedures; perhaps create a mentor situation with an established employee; do performance evaluations on a regular basis, especially within the first three months of employment; create the kind of atmosphere that encourages employees to ask questions or make suggestions.