Nothing you do as a manager is more important than hiring well. Nothing. You cannot afford to take shortcuts in hiring decisions. One bad hiring decision can cost you hundreds of hours trying to address the problems created by that decision.
If you are uncertain or uncomfortable about a prospective team member, trust your instincts. Do whatever is necessary to either further qualify or disqualify the candidate. Once you’ve made a job offer, your options are significantly limited. You need to be very confident you have the right person before you offer the job.
Your certainty needs to be based on hard facts, research, reference checks, testing, and whatever other tools are available to you. This is not an area where you can afford to go on intuition alone. Hiring decisions are the most important decisions you will make as a manager.
There are probably as many different hiring practices as there are companies. It would be impossible to cover all the various methods, so let’s make a couple of simple assumptions. Let’s say the human resources department does the initial screening, but you have the ultimate decision-making authority as to who comes to work in your area of responsibility.
I have selected several hiring practices to cover below but due to the fact that some of them require more attention I have decided to write individual articles for the first two. Below are the links to those articles:
Tests During the Hiring Process
With greater federal, state, and sometimes city participation in hiring procedures, your company may not do much testing of prospective employees.
There are many legal requirements to follow when testing. But testing is among the best ways to determine if candidates really have the skills they claim they do. There are many companies that pay their job candidates for their interview time because they keep them there an entire day in order to test them.
The quality of prospective employees will vary a great deal. When unemployment rates are high, you’ll have a larger number of prospects to choose from. The reverse will be true when unemployment rates are low.
There are even situations where available employees are so few that you’d consider hiring just about anyone who appeared at your desk. So, there are forces beyond your control. We’re focused here on situations you can control.
The Missing Ingredient
Almost without exception, managers say the most important ingredients in hiring a new employee are experience, qualification, or education. They rarely come up with the missing ingredient: attitude.
You can hire an employee with all the experience, education, and qualifications you could hope for, but if the person has a bad attitude, you have just hired a problem employee. On the other hand, you can hire a person with less experience, education, and qualifications, and if that person displays an outstanding attitude, in all likelihood you will have an outstanding employee. Every experienced manager will agree that attitude is the most important element in an employee.
Work and Play
The word ‘work’ has a bad image for many people. To them, work is a form of punishment. If a person is a professional athlete and plays a sport for a living, it’s work; but if a person plays the same sport for recreation, it’s play. Perhaps it comes down to a distinction between have-to and want-to situations. That is why many people who are independently wealthy still work. For them, it’s a want-to situation.
Describing the Job
In describing a job, you should include some basic information that everybody would like to have, so that they don’t have to ask. Tell them the hours, starting salary, length of probationary period, and whether successful completion of the trial period generates a salary increase. You can also include a brief overview of the benefits package. By getting this basic information out of the way, you avoid cluttering up the open-ended questions that provide the attitude clues needed to make a hiring judgment.
In talking with candidates about the job, describe it in nontechnical terms—use terms they will understand. The jargon and acronyms of your business may be commonplace to you, but they are a foreign language to new employees.
The same situation exists with job descriptions. If they are written in technical jargon, they will mean very little to prospective employees. If you’re considering several people for the job, be careful not to mislead any of the prospects. Tell them that a decision will not be made until all the prospects have been interviewed. They should appreciate the fairness of that arrangement. Tell them that they will be called as soon as a decision has been reached. See that they are phoned that day and informed of the hiring process decision.
The Attitude Talk in the Hiring Process
After the applicant is selected for the job, you should have your “attitude talk” with the person. Following is an example of a good attitude talk. You’ll develop your own style after a while, but the basic thoughts remain the same:
One of the reasons I selected you for this position is that you display the kind of attitude we want in this organization. Your application and tests indicate that you have the capacity to handle the job.
Many of the people who applied had the qualifications to do the job, but the one reason you were selected above all the others is that you display the kind of attitude we are looking for. We believe that the difference between an average employee and an outstanding one is often attitude.
Not everyone in this organization has a great attitude.
What do we mean by attitude?
The attitude we’re talking about is one where you are not worrying about whether you’re doing more than your share. It’s an attitude of pride in doing high-quality work and gaining a sense of accomplishment at day’s end. It’s personal satisfaction in a job well done. We believe you display that kind of attitude, and coupled with your ability to handle the job, you will make an outstanding addition to our organization.
Let’s analyze the reasons for some of the statements in this mini-speech:
When is an employee most likely to be receptive to ideas about the job? Likely at the start of a new position?
Do people generally try to live up to the image they think you have of them? They do. Recall the interview and the possibility that the applicant may have been displaying the attitude she/he thought you wanted. She/he now knows that attitude is exceedingly important to the company and to you as her manager. She/he now needs to display such an attitude on the job. Isn’t that a win-win situation for both her and the company?
Why advertise the fact that there are people in the company who do not have a great attitude? If you remain silent about some who may have an undesirable attitude, your words become hollow indeed when this new employee runs into one of them. Since you mentioned it, however, now when they encounter a colleague with a bad attitude, your credibility is enhanced. They may think, “He told me there are some with a bad attitude like this. I’m here to help change it.” Your credibility is fortified.
The exact timing of your attitude talk with a new employee is a matter of personal preference. Bringing the person back into the office after she/he has been notified she got the job can be an ideal time to congratulate the person and give the attitude talk. It should be reinforced the first day on the job too, but in a low-key way because there are so many things on the new employee’s mind that day. They are nervous; she/he’s concerned about how she/he’s going to like the people she/he is going to meet and if they will like her/him.
But that first day is when the new employee is most receptive to what is expected.