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Lessons Learned and Key Steps in the Hiring Process

Early in my human resources management career, I interviewed Rey. He seemed to be perfect for a machine operator job, but I noticed that Rey could not look me in the eye. My instincts told me, “You can’t trust him.” Another voice in my head said, “Lack of eye contact may just be a cultural thing and this guy has all the skills I cannot find anywhere else.” I decided to listen to the second voice, and wound up hiring the poster child for workers compensation fraud. After he conned us for six-figures, I wondered if I should have trusted my gut all along.

Hector was another employee that I just did not feel right about, however, we hired him anyway because we needed a machine operator right away and he had the skills.

A couple months later I woke up with my coffee noticing a picture of Hector on the front page of the local paper...spread eagle with a cop’s gun to his head! He wound up being convicted of a violent crime.

And, then there was Harry, who seemed to be little on the hothead side. Who would have thought Harry would put six bullets into his wife while he was an employee of ours? Maybe I was a little slow catching on, but I learned through the school of hard knocks to trust my gut instincts.

However, some managers rely too much on instinct. The biggest mistake that I see with entrepreneurs is that they rush the selection process. You find a candidate who seemingly has the necessary experience you’re looking for, and because he is well-coached in the interviewing process, he seems perfect for the job, so you hire him. You later learn that while his work skills are good, his attitude and behavior are not. Slowly, after suffering great pain, you fire him or make it easy for him to leave you. How could you have avoided this pain?

The problem always begins in the interview.

You need a particular job filled, and concentrate on finding the right skill level. You do not take enough time to learn about his personality, style, behavior, attitude and values. There is an old saying that, "you hire people for 'what they know' and fire them for 'who they are.'" Learning about "who people are" will save you a lot of pain and aggravation later. Modifying your interviewing approach and investing in good assessment tools; background checks, documents and references will save time and money in the long run.

Assessments—Learn in minutes what could otherwise take you a year.

Recently, in my role as a certified professional behavioral analyst for business owners, I was concerned when I looked at the DISC profile (behavioral assessment results) of an existing employee of a new client. I have seen many cases where severe health issues such as heart attacks resulted when charts suggested that people were adapting their natural styles dramatically to try to fit in with their work environment. Therefore, without knowing anything about that client or his employee, I told the owner of this landscape firm, “According to your employee’s DISC charts, he is a heart attack waiting to happen.” The boss was floored by this comment, and responded with the news that the employee just had a heart attack while on vacation in Maui, and was scheduled for major surgery the following week!

My slogan for my assessments business is YOUR HIRE POWER because DISC assessment tools have a 90 percent validity rate in describing behavior styles, as well as providing very reliable predictors of success in terms of what motivates people. Additionally, professionals utilizing the tools can also recognize potential stress-related issues even if they cannot predict the specific health manifestations all the time! If you could find out before you hire someone what could take you a year to learn about them otherwise, why wouldn’t you do it?


Check backgrounds.

Back in the days when I was hiring, an employee candidate, Sam, told me he left his last job because of “philosophical differences” with his last boss. My background check revealed that those differences resulted in Sam going to his boss’s house and pulling him out to the front porch where he could give him a beating. I could go on all day about how much money background checks have saved us.

Check documents.

Joe, a candidate told me he had four years of sheet metal fabrication experience – exactly what I was looking for. Since I did not recognize the name of the shop he referred to, I called it and then learned that he had been making license plates! At least Joe told part of the truth just not the prison part. Researchers have said that 90 percent of resumes contain stretches of the truth or outright lies.


Interviewing to learn about their work and life skills

During a twenty-year career at Robbins & Myers, I interviewed over a thousand people and developed a process that helped us build a staff that generated $10-20 million profit (before-tax) in 10 out of the 12 last years. Managers would regularly ask me how I could find out so much more about candidates than they did in the same period of interviewing time. I would tell them to try listening first instead of talking, and then to ask the right questions. For example, I ask candidates to tell me about their favorites, one at a time, in four different categories, followed by their least favorites:

* What was your favorite place to work as far as work content goes? Why?
* Who was your favorite supervisor? Why?
* Where was the best place for you as far as co-workers go? Why?
* Where were you happiest with the compensation package? Why?
* What was your least favorite workplace as far as work content goes? Why?
* Who was your least favorite supervisor? Why?
* Where was the worse place for you as far as co-workers go? Why?
* Where were you least satisfied with the compensation package? Why?


As you explore responses to these questions, you will learn volumes about attitudes. I also pose questions and create scenarios that look for evidence of "skills of life." For example, does the candidate:

* Have clear direction and focus? If they can't stay focused in the interview, how can you expect them to be able to focus on the job?
* Take responsibility for choices? If someone has always "had a lousy boss" or "lazy co-workers," what does that tell you about them?
* Have a commitment to lifelong learning? People who keep abreast of changes and implement new ideas are worth their weight in gold.
* Invest time wisely? Candidates good at setting personal priorities will probably have the same skill at work.
* Manage emotions? Emotional IQ, known as EQ, counts for more than intelligence.
* Listen more than they talk? Written and verbal skills are important, but listening skills are twice as important in most jobs.
* Enjoy productive relationships? This is an important indicator of a person's ability to work effectively with team members.
* Have good thinking skills? You will tap into this skill every day.


Posing the questions.

Constructing questions that probe for life skills is easy. However, do not give away what you are looking for. I always try to find out if candidates have long-term relationships with past bosses, peers, teachers etc. I also concentrate on whether they actually listen to my questions. If you do all this up front and better focus your interview, you will find it easier to get a fix on "who people are" before you've wasted thousands of dollars hiring and training them, only to have to let them go. Hire for attitude and for how people handle life. You can train for skills but you can’t teach attitude and the basic skills of life.


© 2008 Ray Brun, MBA,SPHR, (Sr.Prof.HR Mgr.), CPBA (Certified Professional Behavior Analyst) Owner, facilitator of TAB East Bay North - Author of "How Small Businesses Capture Talent," 164 Strategies for Recruiting and Hiring Winners

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