Monday, March 10, 2014

How to Hire Hourly Team Members part 11… Ask Them What They Would Change

So… A few more questions that I find useful.

If the applicant has some work history (and this particular question is best if they are still working or were recently working) I’ll ask them this:

So let’s say that your boss (depending on where they work it could be the store manager, department manager, owner, the title isn’t important… its just important that we are talking about the person who is able to make decisions, set rules and policies, etc…) decides to run off and join the circus (I like to insert ridiculous things into the conversations to see how the applicant reacts and keep things lite).  The powers that be have been watching you work and they like what they’ve been seeing, so… they decided to put you in charge!  Yup… It’s all you.  What would you change?

For this question I pretty much demand answers.  I will not hire anyone who cannot come up with some things that they would like to change.  I feel that a person who works someplace for any time at all and yet does not see anything in either their job, or in the workplace as a whole, that they would do differently has no place on my team.  This person either does not look at the activities in their life with a critical eye, in which case they will not be a great addition to our team; or they are not willing to open up and tell me anything they would change, which again means they will not be a great addition to our team.  A great team member will look at their new role on the team, and the team as a whole with a critical eye (a new broom sweeps clean, right?) and help us to make the incremental improvements that make us great.  They must be able to speak up, tell us what they see, and ask a lot of questions.  If they cannot, thank them for coming in and move on.

If they can come up with things they would change you will have to judge their choices for yourself.  In my experience applicants who have made it this far in our questioning are not likely to be the ones who would want to do things like ‘double lunch hour’ or ‘make it OK to be late’.   If people would ask for larger discounts or more money, try to understand that most companies have no transparency (yours?), so most workers in most workplaces have no real concept of sales, margins, or profits.  In fact I’ve found that a lot of people (more than I would have guessed) believe that the company they work for makes 30% or more profit on each dollar.  So… why wouldn’t they want a little larger piece of the pie?

I almost always ask applicant what they want to be when they grow up.  Yes that’s right… what do you want to be when you grow up?  I have found that people who had a crystal clear idea of their long-term career goals when they were young are few and far between.  And… they are probably not the ones sitting there interviewing for you hourly job.  The ones that knew exactly what they wanted are probably out getting the degree or training they need.  For the majority of us it takes us into our twenties to really start to get comfortable with ourselves and start to get some realistic career goals going.

I ask this question for a variety of reasons.  First, as a leader, I feel that my goals for my team members should align with their goals for themselves.  Team members will care about your goals if they know, really know, that you are concerned about their goals.  How else would we know our team members goals other than asking them straight out?  When else are you likely to get time when both of you are sitting having a nice conversation?  This is the perfect time to really get to know and connect with the applicant (and really, at this point it’s looking more and more like your new team member).  Ask them all about these goals, timelines, and what they will need to accomplish them.  This also gives me a chance to assess a bit about how well they know themselves and the world around them.  If their goals are out of sync with their reality I have to dig deeper.  Will they be willing to accept and agree on my opinion of the reality of their job performance?

This question also gives them the opportunity to tell us about their plan to move to Cambodia next year, or whatever other plans they might have.  Are they in a band, and even though they stated they would be available for the shifts we need, do they plan on asking for every weekend night off?  Are they planning to start school next semester (which will completely change their availability)?  Talking about themselves and their plans will often allow them to open them up with us, and you’ll be surprised how much people will volunteer about their lives (the good, the bad, and the ugly).  If you want to be a good leader and really connect with your team members it helps to know a good deal about them.  And they will volunteer things that you could (and perhaps would) never ask about (and some things you might have been just as happy to not know).

I think that may be it for the specific questions I ask people applying for hourly positions.  I feel that with this list of questions, and appropriate follow up questions (which are dependent on the answers given) we can get a very high (70% or higher) probability of getting only great team members on our team.

For positions that will require the applicant to be responsible for the behavior of others we will have to add another set of questions.   
What I am providing here is only the basics.  I am finding it very tough to write down all of the nuances that make up these questions and the decisions that follow them.  There is really so much more to it…  I’ll get part 12 up as soon as I can.

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