Thursday, February 27, 2014

How to Hire Hourly Team Members part 5… Starting the Interview

I find that I think a lot differently than most people hiring for hourly workers.  As we’ve already talked about, most hiring managers like to concentrate on task experience, or experience in a job title.  I do not find those things to be very good predictors of success in the jobs we are hiring for.   The definition of successful differs so much from company to company; and I’ve hired team members with years of experience at another company who were terrible workers.  Remember our ‘clone worthy’ team members?  It's not about tasks.  We're hiring the whole person, and they bring all of themselves to work.  So let’s get down to business…

We can start with the resume’ or application you are looking at.  A poorly filled out application can mean a poor team member, or it can mean our educational system failed this person who will end up being your team member of the year.  Unless the job you are hiring for demands wonderful spelling and English skills, I suggest you don’t make decisions based on those things.

So… we might just be ready to meet the applicant.  From now on everything the applicant does can carry some weight in the decision making process.  How much weight is up to you.  I’ll tell you my concerns and leave it to you to decide how you will act in your interviews. 

You will be meeting applicants who may have never worked before.  In fact, you might be their very first interview!  What kind of expectations should we have?  Should those expectations be the same as for someone with 10 years of working experience?  I have actually made an applicant shake my hand a second and third time… until he shook my hand properly!  Granted, he was 17 and I was indeed his first interview.  I would not do that with a 24 year old.  So… how do we weigh a handshake?  Again, I remember being taught how to shake hands at home.  Did everyone receive this training?  If they didn’t, does that really mean they won’t or can’t be a great worker?

I would say no, it does not mean they can’t be a great worker.  I would however make a small note to myself… a red flag if you will.  One red flag won’t keep me from hiring you, and too many will certainly reduce your chances of getting hired.

How did the applicant dress?  This is an important topic… style of dress, tattoos and piercings may make the applicant seem a lot like you, or very VERY different from you.  It is imperative that we not focus on hiring people who are like us.  Diversity is generally a good thing!  People with different backgrounds are likely to see things a bit differently than you, and so can see fixes, ways of accomplishing a task, and possibilities that you might never see.  The point is to surround ourselves with great people!  What they look like, what accent they have, or how they dress or adorn their bodies has nothing to do with their ability to help our team achieve greatness!  That said, clothing should be clean, and should show some effort was made.

Introduce yourself and your apprentices to the applicant.  It’s your show… you are the team leader, so it’s your job to guide the process and expect the applicant to follow your lead.  It would be great if the applicant pulled out copies of a resume’ for everyone present and proceeded to outline key areas on which they wanted to focus.  It is much more likely however for your applicant to show up nervous, unprepared, and empty handed.  It’s perhaps as likely in this economy that the applicant will show up disheartened or even a bit sour by yet another interview, after so many that seemed to go well (from their perspective) and where they were told they’d get a phone call (that never came) and they are doing their best to be hopeful and put on a happy face.  All of these things are well within the bounds of normal, so let’s move on with the process of deciding whether or not this person can be a great team member on our team.

So here we are, siting at a desk or table, with our applicant and hopefully one or two of our apprentices.  We’ve greeted the applicant and introduced ourselves.  The purpose of this process is to get to know the applicant.  To really get to know them!  And… we have a pretty limited amount of time.

Let’s take a side step and talk about how much time should be spent on an interview.  Ask yourself a few questions before answering…  And actually answer the questions. 

How important is hiring the right people?  Not really?  Most important?
Is there a position/role/job in your place of business that is not important to your overall success?  Where having the poor team member won’t make any difference?
How important is it for the person you hire to get along with the rest of the team? 
How costly is it when we end up with the wrong people on the team?
Does hiring the wrong person negatively affect the morale of the team?
How long does it take, and how much time and energy does it cost to repair that morale?  How much money does it cost?

I’ll answer these questions later on.   For now, if you were honest with yourself in answering them, you’ll probably agree that it’s not a good idea to put arbitrary rules about time limits for interviews in place.  This is arguably the most important thing you do!  Is it really a good idea to say each interview will be 30 minutes and no longer?  45 minutes?  It’s absurd to put arbitrary lime limits on this process!  Take as long as you need to be really confident that you are hiring someone who will be a great addition to your team!

Now back to our discussion.

We want our applicant to volunteer all of the information we need to get to know them.  It’s imperative that we know how they really are in their day-to-day life.  Anyone can show up for an interview and put on a show for us.  If you have been hiring hourly team members for any length of time you know that there are many applicants who know how to tell us what we want to hear.  I’ve interviewed so many people over the last 30 years who talked a great game in the interview, and then after they were hired turned out to be terrible team members.  After enough of those mistakes I decided to drop the ‘how to interview’ lessons I had been taught by others and come up with my own method of hiring.

The key to this method is getting beyond any ‘script’ the applicant has, and in addition get past fears and nervousness.  We can and will talk about some of their experiences at past jobs (if they have a work history), however we need to get past their guard, and to do that we need to make them comfortable.

So… the interview should NOT be a scary thing.  It should NOT be adversarial.  It is NOT the place to show the applicant who is boss.  In fact, if you disagree with these last three sentences I would urge you to purchase or borrow a copy of How to Win Friends & Influence People ; Developing the Leader Within You ; or listen to the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast.  Work should not be a scary place; it should not be adversarial; and if you are in fact trying to be a Leader, there is very little need to show anyone ‘who is boss’.  Sorry… off the soapbox.

So… we need to put the applicant at ease.  We want to have a fun and friendly talk about the applicant’s life and that simply will not happen if the applicant is feeling intimidated in any way.  This is where your ability to empathize comes in.  If you had a friend over to your place how would you want them to feel?  I bet you would have no trouble deciding if they were feeling uncomfortable.  It’s the same way in an interview.  We can’t get to know the truth about someone unless we make him or her feel comfortable with us.  Remember, every great team member does not need to be an extrovert.  Nor do they need to bold and fearless in an interview.  It’s up to us to put them at ease.

Uh oh… we’re out of space and still not sure what we’re even looking for.  I guess that’s a good reason to come back, huh?

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