Friday, March 7, 2014

How to Hire Hourly Team Members part 8… How to Cut Your Losses in an Interview

This is the first time that I’ve attempted to quantify and write down exactly how I’ve have achieved the hiring success that I’ve had, and it’s not as easy as I thought it might be.  As I write about one key to hiring I’ll remember some other important point.  After rereading yesterday's post some new key that can’t be left out will pop into my head.  So please bear with me and expect that we’ll have a bit of a bumpy ride as we get through this.

Here’s a bump now…

Once we break the ice and get our applicant relaxed and feeling comfortable enough to start telling us all about themselves we should decide whether or not to go on.  Wait… what?  Yes, well… sometimes the application, resume’, and even phone interview can give us a false impression.  Once we meet the applicant we can literally and figuratively see new things about them.  I’m not talking about what they look like, the color of their skin, how they dress, or the sound of their voice, as none of those things are important.  It doesn’t happen every day, and often enough, I’ll interview an applicant who is obviously a very different person than I assumed they were after reading over their application and resume’, and even after talking with them on the phone.  If I’m interviewing for team members to work on a sales floor they simply have to be gregarious enough to be able to greet and interact with customers.  Their facial expressions have to be welcoming, and they must be able to communicate effectively with someone they just met.  I can effectively teach many things, and I have yet to be able to change a person's basic personality traits.

After a few minutes of talking I can tell whether or not our applicant will be able to fulfill that part of the job.  If they find it difficult to make eye contact with me, speak so softly I can barely hear them, and/or are not able to engage in simple fun conversation, they will most likely not be a great addition to our sales floor team.  This does not mean they cannot fill some other role and be great.  I saw something in their application and resume’ that made me bring them in for an interview, so I will usually continue to talk with them for a bit.  Try to find out how and why, if in fact they were, successful in their other roles.  If they lack some mandatory skills for the job I had in mind, they may have some other very valuable skills we can use.  If so I will tell them why I don’t think they are a great fit for this job, and ask if I can call them if I have an opening in the future for which I feel they will be a better fit. 

I find it best to be honest with pretty much everyone, and I see no reason not to tell the applicant why I don’t feel they are a good fit for the job.  I find that honesty has a way of opening up a new conversation between us.  In our example above (and I have had real life examples of this exact situation), no one had ever told the applicants that they were not a great fit for customer service roles.  Even previous bosses had not been honest with them.

It’s a pretty small investment in time on my part, and yet can have a very large impact on the applicant’s future.  I will take some time to talk with them about the skills and qualities they have, and help them come up with some jobs for which they might be better suited.  I have had people come back into the store and search me out just to thank me for helping them get a job where they didn’t have to work so hard to be successful.  You might not think you have time for this, and I would encourage you to try it.  Not only are we unable to tell what consequences these acts of kindness might have in store for us in the future, but I’ve also found that just doing something good for someone will add positive energy to my day.  I feel better about my work life, and that’s never a bad thing. After talking to my peers about this extra time I spend, I’ve found that I’m pretty much the only one doing it.  And that’s OK… I’d still encourage you to try it and see how it makes you feel.

This is also a good time, before we invest too much energy, to go over the mandatory skills and other qualifications for this job.  Does the job require lifting?  Standing on your feet for 32 hours straight?  Is vertical leap important for this job?  Do you have your own set of knives?  Are there any licenses or certifications required?  Yes I’ve driven a forklift!  Are they available for all of the shifts/times/holidays/ we will need them?  

This is the time to ask those “tell me about a time…” questions if you feel the need.  Just be sure you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater (yes I know it’s an old expression, and it fits).  That is, remember that there are plenty of arrogant bosses out there, as well as poor working conditions, and really poor communication that leaves team members with little or no direction.  Take the negatives you might hear about other employers with a pinch of salt.  If everything about them is negative that’s one thing, and some problem or issue at another employer is pretty normal. 

As Leaders/managers/bosses I think it’s easy for us to get a bit arrogant and not want to hear one negative thing in an interview… one strike and you’re out.  And, if we are honest, really honest, we’ll know that relatively often we ourselves will complain to someone about something that’s going on at our work!  So lighten up…

And now back to our story…

So… at this point it’s probably been 15 to 20 minutes, maybe longer, as it takes a bit of time to get the applicant relaxed and talking.  If we’ve decided at this point to continue talking with them, we’ve found something they take pride in; we know how they react when things go sideways; we know how emotionally intelligent they are; and we know that they own their emotions.  I think it’s OK to have something of a checklist when you first start interviewing (or start interviewing this way) to make sure you hit all of the bases.  There will almost certainly be qualities that either I left out, or you find you need in addition to the ones I talk about.

Since our applicant has passed this many hurdles many hiring managers would be happy and go ahead and hire them.  After all, who’s got time to sit around for what… another 30 or 40 minutes talking?  You do!  Remember, this decision will affect you for a long time.  There is no good excuse for not getting it right.  It’s not a race.  Hire slow, fire fast!

Uh oh… I did it again.  OK… I’ll try to get back quickly this time so we can get on with the questions.

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