This is a guest blog post written by Dr. Stephen Laser. Dr. Laser is the Founder and Managing Director of Stephen A. Laser Associates, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in individual assessments for corporate, municipal, and public safety clients. The firm’s clients include Fortune 500 companies, international corporations, and over eighty municipal fire and police departments. For more information, please visit www.laserassociates.net.
One of the most challenging tasks for any first time manager is the hiring of qualified talent. As anyone can attest, making a bad hire can be very costly. The direct costs involve recruiting expenses, plus salary and benefits. Indirect costs can involve lost productivity and unwanted turnover due to personality conflicts and clashes. While there is no fool-proof method for avoiding mistakes, let me offer a few hints to make the process more likely to succeed.
First, have a good understanding of the job and what it demands in terms of realistic levels of education, relevant training, and prior experience. Second, make sure that to take the time to review the resumes submitted for the job, and don’t be swayed by big name schools or fancy credentials, especially when there isn’t a fit with the person’s previous job experience. Third, if certain talents are called for by the job try to use objective, skills-based testing to measure them, such as writing ability or computer programming skills. Finally, take the time to interview carefully. No adequate hiring decisions can be made on the basis of a 15 to 20 minute talk with a candidate.
When interviewing people, in order to be consistent have a standard set of questions for every candidate, and of course, it is important to listen carefully to what people are telling you. Don’t let phrases or terms go unquestioned. For example, candidates often use expressions, like ‘office politics,’ challenging work,’ or ‘micromanagement’ to describe their likes and dislikes. You need clarity from candidates on they define such terms, because it could make the difference between a good hiring fit and a poor one. Also, trust your instincts. If there is something about the person that bothers you, don’t discount your gut feeling.
Furthermore, when you ask candidates’ to describe their strengths and weaknesses, caution them that these statements will be checked against their references. Perhaps most importantly, job candidates are on their best behavior during the hiring interview, so if a person is acting inappropriately during the interview (e.g., sarcastic remarks, disrespectful comments, etc.) it’s only going to get worse when that individual is on the job.
In closing, check your observations and findings against others. If the person will be part of a team, make sure the other members of the group have a chance to talk to the person, and then pool all of your observations before arriving at a final decision. If one or two people have key concerns, it is important to acknowledge them. Finally, review all of your screening information from cover letters and resumes to writing samples and test results, and then compare that data against your interview findings for maximum success.