One of my most challenging and delicate personnel issues involved a young man I had hired for his first professional job. Unfortunately, a number of disturbing shortcomings surfaced soon after he completed his orientation and assumed his duties. Despite his willing cooperation and our collective best efforts in seeking ways to improve, he was unable to significantly improve his customer interaction and meet most of his responsibilities. After a few intense months, he and I both realized that he was floundering in a position for which he was simply unable to perform adequately. I asked him to look for another job and assisted him in his search.
We parted amicably, knowing that despite his overall failure in meeting his responsibilities, it was also my failure for placing him in a job for which he was entirely mismatched.
Hiring the right person is always a challenge. And despite all the prep-work and precautions, you may still be surprised by the appearance of a wild card in the deck. But here’s an intentional process to eliminate some of the inherent gamble in the game to find and select that right, best person:
Determine your distinguishing culture
Your organizational culture is expressed in the collective behaviors of the people within it, and how their actions are perceived and received by others. So whenever you add people to the company, it impacts the culture by either reinforcing it or modifying it. And if you aren’t clear what your operating ethics and principles are, there’s a danger of bringing someone into your culture who not only doesn’t fit it, but could also destroy it.
A healthy culture empowers efficiency, productivity, innovation and development, while discouraging destructive behaviors. It’s modeled by extending respect, promoting diversity, communicating effectively, leading intentionally, and investing in other people- and performance-oriented strategies.
- Ascertain and model the kind of culture you want in your organization.
Define your desired employee attributes
I once interviewed an applicant for a position that I specifically explained required integrity, accountability and enforcement of regulations. As we discussed his past experience he offered how he had paid other people “under the table,” all the while apparently oblivious to how his past behavior circumvented the law and currently red-flagged his own lack of integrity. I curtailed the rest of the interview because I had already discovered he wasn’t who I needed.
Knowing the attributes you want in an employee must extend beyond mere technical skills and industry competence. They should include preferred character traits, predominant attitudes and relational abilities to be able to create the best fit for the organization. One of my more regretful terminations was a woman with a Master’s degree and superb credentials, who turned out to be arrogant, selfish, and completely disinterested in cooperating and in improving the program she was assigned to.
- Predetermine the kinds of positive behaviors, attitudes and contributions you require of those who will join your team.
Develop a detailed job description
A written job description is crucial to clarify the expectations for both you and your prospective employee, and should include 7-10 main responsibilities. It should never be based around a particular person’s gifts and interests—by fitting the job to the person—but on the particular capabilities needed to produce the required results—by fitting the person to the job. If the job is not clearly delineated with specific duties and expectations, not only are you likely to hire unwisely, you also have no objective criteria to evaluate his or her job performance, or for the employee to be accountable to—which inevitably generates dissatisfaction and conflict.
- Identify and communicate defined responsibilities, qualifications, and other aptitudes and competencies.
Direct a discerning interview process
The best interviews are conversations in which there is an earnest and mutual exchange of pertinent information. (As a contrast, the worst one-sided interview I ever experienced was with a city mayor who yawned several times while he read down a list of questions and never even looked up! I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t get that job.) Prepare by thoroughly reviewing the applicant’s qualifications and materials. Develop a list of questions and scenarios to engage in a dialog that reveals both character and competencies.
If a particular set of technical skills or proficiencies is critical to work results, administer a qualifying test to verify the claims so easily declared on a resume. Make it a point to call the applicant’s references and ask pointed questions; listen for what is also revealed in their hesitation—or their enthusiasm. The more you connect with the real person in the hot seat, the better your chances are of making a well-informed decision for both your sakes.
- Engage in an in-depth conversation about mutual needs and opportunities in an intentional interviewing, testing and verifying process.
MasterPoint: If you would know the right person for a job, know first your own essentials.