As a trainer, I often get calls from leaders who want me to teach them how to “fix” employees, or worse, want me to “fix” their worst employees myself.
One of the main purposes of training is to help people learn new skills. If the person needs new skills, I’m in. However, training cannot fix a bad attitude, a lack of values, poor work ethic, or a terrible personality. Unfortunately, it’s these things that employers neglect to address when hiring new employees. Instead, they focus solely on skills.
Know how to answer a phone? You’re hired.
Been a pet sitter for three years? You’re hired.
And then the employer is surprised the person they’ve hired isn’t up to the job!
Here are the three questions you should ask yourself before you hire anyone:
1. What knowledge and skills are minimally required and what am I willing/able to teach?
Most of us want to hire someone who has at least the basic skills required for the position. However, I’d rather hire someone with minimal skills who has a strong work ethic, is dedicated, and has good values, than a person with extensive skills, a broken moral compass, and a poor work ethic.
When hiring, put skills into perspective for the position you seek to fill, especially if you have the ability to teach/train the needed skills once the right person is hired.
2. What values, work ethic, and dedication are necessary for success?
Skills can be taught. Values, work ethic, and dedication are something people learn early in life. They’re not something that can generally be taught (or undone) on the job. Therefore, it’s important to assess the values, work ethic, and level of dedication a person would need to be successful in the job AND a good fit for the organization’s culture or your family.
- Can the person handle my fast-paced environment with aggressive and demanding customers? And can he or she do it with grace and tact, and still be productive?
- Does the person I hire need to be willing to work until the job is done, even if it means staying after hours?
- Why did the pet sitter become a pet sitter? Was it the money and flexible schedule, or does he or she love animals? Is the person willing to deal only with calm, clean, well-trained dogs, or something like your slobbering, untrained, 95 pound “puppy”?
- Is the contractor you’re considering hiring a person who consistently does whatever it takes to get the job done on time and within budget, or will you be waiting for your product for months beyond the date promised and will he or she be asking for more money every week for “unexpected expenses?”
3. Have I developed “customized” behavior-based interview questions that will give me a clear picture of the person I’m interviewing and whether he or she is a good fit for the job?
If you’re still using interview questions you used 10 or more years ago, or the “most common job interview questions,” you downloaded from the internet, throw them in the trash and start over. Old-school questions such as the ones below are a complete waste of your time and the applicant’s.
- How long have you been working as a ____ (buyer, contractor, pet sitter, etc.)?
- Do you have a problem with _____ (working late, working in inclement weather, slobbery dogs, etc.)?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What is your greatest strength? Weakness?
Basic questions such as the first one above are probably answered in the person’s resume or application so you don’t need to ask them. The other questions are likely to get you a “right” answer rather than a truthful one. If you can find the question on the internet, guess what? Your applicants can find the “right” answers to them as well.
Even candidates who haven’t done their homework are not going to tell you how they really feel about working late… until you actually ask them to do so. It’s then that you’ll find out he has a night job or she is taking classes every night at the local community college. The landscape assistant will tell you he loves working outside and then complain every day that it’s too hot. The pet sitter will say she loves slobbery dogs, and then quit the first time she finds a puddle of goo in the purse she left sitting on your kitchen floor.
Instead, try using behavior-based questions that will tell you more about how candidates have handled situations in the past.
- Rather than asking, “Do you have any problem with working late?” ask, “Tell me about a time when your boss asked you at the last minute to work late. What did you do?”
- Rather than saying, “Bernie slobbers a lot. That’s not a problem, is it?” say, “I know you said you’d be going straight to school after letting Bernie out in the mornings. As you know, he’s a slobbery dog. What do you do when faced with a messy dog you have to care for before going to school?”
These questions will tell you a lot about the candidate. First, you’ll know whether candidates have faced situations you’ll be asking them to face. Second, you’ll know whether they’ve handled it well or handled it poorly. If you hear, “If my boss doesn’t give me at least 5 days notice, I don’t work late,” or, “I just open the door to the house and throw in a pile of food. I can’t get dirty before school.” You’ll know these folks aren’t the best choice for you. Once you’ve addressed the questions above, you’ll be able to create a list of interview questions that will help you find the best possible person for the job.
Good luck and happy hiring!