Few things can waste more valuable time and resources or cause more morale problems than mismatching the person and the job. As a busy manager, you want to get the most out of your people while protecting your investment in their training.
Smart hiring starts with smart interviewing. After you’ve asked the usual “resume” questions (job history, education, salary expectations, etc) you need to probe your candidate with questions that will bring out their their hopes, goals, desires and future thoughts about the job. Here are a few ideas that will help in this respect:
1. “Tell me about yourself. What makes you an interesting person?”
You learn a lot about people’s self-esteem when they answer that question. Many people reply that there’s nothing much interesting about them, or they say things that don’t really come under the heading of ‘interesting facts about me”. Listen to identify how they perceive themselves, because if they don’t have the self-worth to identify this fact about themselves, be prepared for the same sort of thought process when they are a team member.
2. “If you could wave a magic wand and create a perfect environment to work in, what would it be like?”
Suppose the potential employee answers, “I don’t like to have someone breathing down my neck. I like to be left on my own, to make up my mind how to do things.” You know immediately that this is the wrong person for a job that’s heavily supervised. (Choose someone who says, “I enjoy a lot of feedback” instead.)
Consider both the demands of the job and the working environment. If a quiet, personable individual replies, “I love working with people, but I’d like to have my own space,” be sure that’s possible. Work areas quickly become private domains, and rightly so or people wouldn’t take pride in them. But if the job requires sharing a desk with other people, your employee may not last or do the job well.
3. “Describe the best boss you ever had. What made him or her so special? Describe the worst boss.”
If the description of the worst boss sounds anything like you, you know that person won’t be happy working with you.
4. “What do you like doing in your spare time?”
There are many questions the law does not allow an employer to ask — whether a person is married for instance. But you may want to know something about a person’s private life to determine if the hours or job demands are going to stressful. For instance, if you need an employee who is bright and alert at an early hour and his hobby will keep him up late on week nights, you both may have a problem. Or if her hobby requires occasional time off to participate, the time to discuss the appropriateness of this is now.
Some Questions to Ask Yourself
Before you sit down with a potential employee, ask yourself:
5. “What am I offering this person besides money?”
What opportunities for growth, excitement, achievement, and fulfillment go along with the salary? Enthusiasm, motivation, and persistence are rarely proportional to salary. Often they are in inverse ratio. (Why else would anyone choose to be an artist, performer, teacher, or writer?) Self-motivated employees are great, but it never hurts to spotlight some incentives.
But once you’ve got the right people in the right jobs, your own job still isn’t over. Ask yourself:
6. “How do I keep my people highly motivated, productive, and eager to come to work in the morning?”
Your answers can be critical to a happy, productive, low-turnover organisation. Here are some suggestions.
Start by making the job fun whenever possible to keep employees from getting stale. Share the big picture with them, so they realise their contribution is part of an important whole. Solicit their feedback and act on it to prove to them that they are really making a difference. Then watch your people respond with hard work, loyalty, and enthusiasm.
It’s really not that difficult to find the right people when you ask the right questions at interview. Decide on the kind of person you want and make sure your processes and procedures allow you to achieve that goal.
Head of Training
Originally published: 29 October, 2012
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