by Eva Del Rio
Simply having a qualified candidate is not enough to ensure a successful fit for the job. Each position in your organization has unique requirements—for not only qualifications, but for aptitude and work styles. Hiring the wrong person can be costly in terms of time and money, as well as in customer relations, productivity and employee morale.
Taking time to figure out which characteristics you are looking for and being well prepared for the interview will make it more likely you’ll hire the right person. Jim Collins’ Good to Great looks at the concept of thinking of your business as a bus. This metaphor includes steering in the direction you want to drive the business, having clear knowledge of people you need on the bus, and which seat they need to occupy to succeed. Collins explains that some employees don’t work out because they are in the wrong seat, and that by moving them into the right seat, they can become successful. Other employees don’t belong on the bus at all—either because they lack the skills or personal aptitudes needed—and you must have the courage to get them off the bus.
Most organizations could benefit from thinking about their workforce from this perspective when making hiring decisions. So where do you start if you want to apply this concept to your hires? First, you must have very close knowledge about those seats in your bus and those who occupy them.
1. Define your needs. Your first step in hiring is to determine what characteristics make someone successful in a given position. Let’s say you have a lot of turnover in your sales force and find yourself constantly hiring new sales reps, but there are two or three successful reps who have been around a long time. Make it your business to know why.
Do they have a certain set of skills? A certain type of work style or personality that helps them cope with stress, or enables them to easily form relationships with customers? Perhaps that business degree that you prefer is not a “success factor” and something else—like being an extrovert—could be more important. Perhaps your interviewing and selection process should focus on something else.
Let’s say you determined that your most long-tenured, successful reps had excellent organizational and communication skills, are self-directed and have a high tolerance for stress and risk-taking. Now you know what it takes to thrive in that position, and are better prepared to find well-suited candidates.
2. Prepare for a successful interview. After you’ve narrowed your search to a few candidates, your next step it to plan carefully for the interview. Think about what’s important for you to know about an applicant, and think about which questions will elicit that information.
In our example, you’d want to ask about stress tolerance. Avoid clueing the applicant to give you the expected answer. For example, if you ask, “Are you able to handle stress?,” the applicant is predictably going to say, “Yes, I am,” which is useless. If instead you ask, “Give me an example of a stressful situation you’ve had on the job, and how you handled it,” the response will be much more useful.
You can ascertain what the applicant considers stressful, and you can assess not just how they managed it, but also—by paying attention to their choice of words—you might tell how they felt about it, thus giving you further insight or a chance to follow up with more questions. Continuing with our example, we also would want to ask about self-direction. Again, simply asking, “Would you say you are self-directed?” is not as effective as if you asked, “Tell me about a time when the next step wasn’t clear, there was no one to give you direction and you had to figure out what to do on your own.” See the difference?
3. After the hire. Once you have invested the time and care to interview and select the right employee, don’t let it all go to waste by neglecting to conduct the third step: orientation and “on-boarding.” The first few days after hire are crucial to establishing a healthy employee-employer relationship built on mutual trust and respect. This period is often neglected and employees quickly become disillusioned. Some studies have found that 22 percent of staff turnover occurs in first 45 days and that a well-designed on-boarding program can make employees 58 percent more likely to stay with an organization beyond five years.
In all my years working with employee performance problems, I have found that there are very few “bad apples” out there. Many of the employee we might normally think of as “bad” employees are simply in the wrong job—be it the wrong seat or the wrong bus. Almost all employees can do well with a proper job fit.
Eva Del Rio, SPHR, M Ed, is president and founder of HR Pro on Demand, LLC and creator of HR in a Box, available at www.evadelrio.com. Eva is a past president and board member of the North Central Florida Chapter of The Society for Human Resources