Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How to Hire Hourly Team Members part 12.5… Finding Hidden Issues

 So… I need to plug in some thoughts as I remember them.  I apologize for not having them in a decent order, and I don’t want to go back and insert them into already published posts.  So here they are in all their glory.  There will likely be more…  just sayin’…

When interviewing applicants on the phone, we want to weed out as many poor hires as we can.  To that end I like to ask something like “when I call your last boss, how will he or she (I will have looked at the application and have either a name or at least a pronoun) describe you”?  Use the word ‘when’ to let the applicant know we WILL be calling, and using the name (if you can read it on the application) or the pronoun lets them know you are serious about it.  That gives the applicant a little more impetus to answer as closely as they can to what their last supervisor might actually say… closer to the truth of how they were in the last job.  Some applicants might give some vague or general descriptive words so don’t be afraid to push them with additional questions.  Things like ‘how many times will they tell me you were late or called out’?  Or ‘What will they tell me is the one thing about you they would change if they could’?  Or ‘Will they say they were sorry to see you go, or happy to see you go’?  Listen carefully to their answers and you will know pretty quickly if we should raise a red flag, or if the applicant is far from a great hire. 

It’s also worth your time to call for references.  Many companies have policies that restrict what can be said when someone calls for a reference.  And… if you had a great team member who had to leave for some reason, you would probably want to help them.  What are the chances of you giving some kind of positive reference for your best team members without saying anything to specifically break the rules?  Pretty good I’d bet.  If, on the other hand, someone called for a reference on someone mediocre or poor, you would likely either say nothing or sneak in some obvious negatives.  Reading (hearing in this case) between the lines can tell us a lot.  Perhaps not always enough to make our decision for us, and certainly giving us valuable information.

The next question that can be asked over the phone is:  “Why did you leave your last job”?  We ask this to get an idea of what their last boss thought of them.  When we have a great team member we will do whatever we can to keep them.  We are much more likely to bend some rules to get them through a rough patch.  We do whatever is in our power to get them enough money to keep them from leaving for that reason.  I’ve rearranged schedules for great team members with short-term transportation issues.  What would you do for your best team members?  For not so great team members… I’m less willing to bend rules, and certainly won’t extend myself financially.  So… the answer the applicant gives to this questions can give us clues as to whether the boss would have liked them to stay, or whether the boss held the door open for them as they were leaving. 

I have spoken to countless applicants who look me in the eye and state that they left their last job because they weren’t making enough money.  So… let me get this straight… you left a job where you were making some money, and now you are making NO money, is that right?  Well it’s been nice talking to you.  I’d be OK with them keeping that job, and looking to find a higher paying job, but leaving?
You will most likely encounter applicants who will tell you that they weren’t getting enough hours at their other/past job.  What does this tell us?  Hmmm?  It tells us very clearly that they are not great workers!  Do you cut the hours of your best workers?  For long enough that they would need to find other work?  Unless that business is going under, I think not.  I would advise you to run, not walk, away from these applicants.

We should probably talk for a minute about what to look for on an application/resume’… I don’t think I’ve mentioned that at all.  It’s a bit of a departure from what we’ve been talking about, and I don’t know how to determine the ‘qualities’ we are looking for by looking at an application or resume’.  So we’ll have to do the best we can with what we have, mmkay?

Applications will vary from workplace to workplace, and they generally require the same information.  Work history is probably the most relevant to our purposes, however some companies ask additional questions, and answers to those can also be very telling.  We would love to see that our applicant worked for several years at each job, with a progression from team member, to perhaps supervisor or equivalent, with appropriate pay increases.  We would love to see that.  Did I mention how much we’d love to see that?  More and more however, we see our applicants moving from job to job with increasing frequency.  A few months here, perhaps a year there, then nothing, then 13 months over there…  I don’t know if it will serve us to have hard and fast rules with this generation, and I still judge applicants with too many jobs in too short a time frame harshly.  Very short times in a job, weeks or a couple of months, stands out like a sore thumb, and I will generally pass on those applicants.

That said, I listened to an episode of the Freakonomics podcast about quitting.  Quit early and often was pretty much what I got out of it... don’t be afraid to quit.  We generally know right away if a choice was not a great choice, and yet many of us were raised to believe that quitting was not OK.  Stick it out.  Don’t quit.  Quitters never win and winners never quit, right?  Maybe not.  Looking back at all of the crappy jobs (and crappy bosses) I had when I was younger I find myself thinking perhaps I should have quit them and found something better.  I don’t pretend to know the better choice, and I am having a more difficult time thinking ill of people who will not put up with poor working conditions or a bad boss.

I will also look at whether applicant lives to see how long a commute they would have if we hired them.  Remember, we are hiring for our hourly job.  These people will be making between minimum wage and what, low teens for very experience workers?  It’s tough to live on wages that low, never mind traveling an hour or more each way.  In my experience, when we have a long commute, we find it easier to make the decision to leave a job when we experience some hardship.  A long commute might not be a deal breaker, and it is a possible red flag, and worth looking into.  How long was the commute to their previous jobs?  Why did they leave there again?

I think that’s all for today…

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