By Michael Cruz
Your new employee is starting Monday. You think, “I hope they work out well.” The worst thing that can happen to you is that you have to start searching all over again. Not, really the worst thing. The real worst thing is that they do not work out—and they stay on your payroll.
This can be avoided. The big mistake we make is to focus on their skill. Can they perform the tasks well? Let’s modify the question to what you should be thinking? Can they perform their tasks well, here? We often interview for skills. Why not, skills are often easier to measure. Yet the key question is whether they have the right soft skills to fit into your company’s culture.
Most people struggle to define ‘soft’ skills. Yet, those traits have more to do with our success than anything else. Does your company focus on getting results? Is it okay to be a free wheeler or do you need to follow specific structure? Do the people you work with give specific direction? Or do you expect others to figure it out? Answering these questions helps you hire better. This allows us to change the way we get to know candidates. Take the time to figure this out.
Then it is time to meet them and conduct an interview. First, I want to know how a candidate thinks. I want to see the evolution of their job history. I start an interview with asking about their first job. Most people start with the current job. That clouds my judgment of career progression. Through this level of detail, I usually find job gaps, or other critical information. If I am to make a large investment in someone, I want to know that person. After getting through the chronology, I want to ask about successes, team contributions and other relevant skill related issues.
You also need to understand how they work in different environments. When asking about accomplishments, you often get ‘we did’ this. I often follow up that answer by asking what ‘their individual contribution’ was to the success. Whether they can articulate a clear answer tells you a lot about what they really do. Likewise, if you work in a fast and fluid environment, you probably do not always give clear directions when handing out tasks. So, to that, I say to the candidate “Tell me about a time that you were given an assignment and you felt you did not have all the information necessary to complete it. What did you do?” This gives a better idea of how they accomplish tasks in my culture.
Push for depth. Peel back answers. And reject the all too common answers that begin with “usually.” Listen to the answer and gently explain that you want to understand about a specific project or event. This will allow you to assess their behavior. We do what we have always done!
I know that it takes time. And time is a valuable commodity. So are dollars. And you are about to commit a lot of your money to a new hire. Make sure it is well spent.
By Michael Cruz