Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How to Hire Hourly Team Members part 6… Finding the Right Attitude

So… It’s time to start talking to our applicant.

Before we start I wanted to add a link to an article I just read.  It supports what I've learned... do what you can to hire the best, take all the time you need.  And... if you find you've made a mistake, correct it immediately!  We do a disservice to a person by allowing them to stay in a role for which they are unfit.


Some of you might have trained to ask questions like "tell me about a time when you were mad at your supervisor", or "tell me about a time you were asked to do something you didn't want to do/thought was wrong"... In my humble opinion, there are way too many people out there who know exactly what we want to hear to make these questions very useful.  At best, these questions are used by weak, micromanaging leaders to see if the applicant will do as they are told, and not question authority.  Do you really want a team of people who will do what you tell them to do, and only what you tell them to do?  That team will NOT achieve greatness!

We are really looking for attitudes and personalities.  It can get a bit confusing, since some of the qualities we need to uncover can look different for different socioeconomic groups.  People who had the benefit of parental coaching will walk in the door looking and acting much more promising than those who did not, however that does not necessarily mean they will be great team members.

Let’s start our interview by trying to get an idea of how our applicant sees the world, and where they fit.

Is the world a place where bad things happen, and it’s best to stay low and off the radar?  For many applicants rent is a problem, and so where they can afford to live the world just might be a dangerous place!
Is the world full of Unicorns and rainbows, with streets paved with gold?

Most likely somewhere in between, however just where is important.  We need team members who have a somewhat realistic view of the world (we’ll talk about the workplace soon).  But how to determine the worldview of someone we just met?    We talk to them about things that don’t seem related to our interview.  Try to get them talking about themselves just like you would if you were stuck seated next to them at a party.  Make conversation and ask specific questions about where they grew up; what do they do with their time?  What would they ‘rather be doing’?  What would they do if they were rich?  Their answers will tell you what they really want to do; if the applicant wants to get away from their life; if they like to help people; if they feel constrained by laws and rules in their life; if they feel weak and taken advantage of; or if they take advantage of others…  However we can only get honest answers if the applicant feels comfortable.

There are a few questions I will always ask because they tell me a lot about the applicant.  One goes like this:
Let’s pretend for a minute…  Let’s pretend that every job in the world pays exactly the same pay (I find that I have to repeat this part of the question since no one thinks this is a possibility).  Yup… every job, from Abstract painter to Zoo Keeper, from The President of The United States to the cashier at Target… they all get paid the same staring today!  And… now that we’re in the 21st century, you can get trained to do ANY job in just 2 weeks!  The government will even pay for the training!  It gets beamed right into your head.  Two weeks from now you can have any job you desire, and you’ll make just as much as anyone else on the planet!  What job would you choose?

The answer to this question gives me an idea of what role they would play in the world if they got the chance.  Would they choose a positive role, a ‘negative’ one, or become a recluse?  This is important to understand, because there are plenty of people out there who can be ‘clone worthy’ if they are only trained, trusted, encouraged, and given a chance!  By hiring the right team members, AND being good leaders by creating the right culture on our teams, we can achieve incredible things!

It would be pretty arrogant of me to think there was any one “right” answer to this question!  However there are some answers that would either raise a red flag, or lead me to thank the applicant for coming and move on.  I have had applicants describe wanting a particular job in order to have power over others; to impose their will on others; to judge and punish others; thank them for coming in and move on.  For the others, ask them what the dream job would allow them to do…  You’ll get a very wide range of answers.  I like applicants who would help others; who would teach others what they’ve learned; or who would just be able to pursue their art/music or other hobby.  Most of us have some interest that we’d love to spend much more time doing, so I think these are OK answers.

If our applicant cannot get past a harsh or bitter view of the world, or will not open up enough to talk about a job they would choose, thank them for coming in and move on.

Some questions we can and should ask outright…

In their view should hard work be rewarded?  (We are hoping for a yes here, and I have worked several places where hard work was not rewarded, so I might follow up with “if you were in charge”…) If your work place is not a meritocracy you should probably fix that before hiring anyone else!  Depending on the applicant’s work history they may feel that doing the minimum expected is good enough.  They might feel that the person with the most time (as opposed to the person who works hardest/gets the most done) should get the promotion.  Either way, thank them for coming in and move on!

I might also add in here to ask how the applicant would define a “good job”?  In my experience for hourly employees, the minimum definition for doing a good job means doing what your boss wants or expects you to do.  Working hard is great!  And if you are working hard AND not doing what your boss wants you to do, you will not be seen as doing a good job!  Any new hire of ours MUST understand this!  If they cannot wrap their mind around this, thank them for coming in and move on.  

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