Hire People, Not Paper
Ongoing recruiting and successful interviewing are central to achieving our company objectives as we grow our businesses. Coaching my clients on this operational process is at the top of my priority list. Why? Because as we hire and bring new people into our organizations we need to make sure that we focus on the human element and not just résumés and skill test results.
Here’s what I mean. When interviewing an employee candidate you have a choice about your approach. You can interrogate them and spend time questioning them about their knowledge and actually administer detailed and sometimes “intimidating” tests. This is not to say that testing is not important, but you can further assure if they are qualified through a positive dialog and conversation centered on them—who they are and what they like to do. By doing this we can evaluate whether or not the candidate’s personality and other—perhaps non-technical—skills are a good match for the position. We can also determine if the candidate will thrive in the corporate culture or not.
The qualities we’re looking for are discovered subjectively during the interview by genuinely determining what really excites them about their work. You have to ask about it and remain silent and listen.
We had a substantiating experience in our company when we needed to hire an executive administrator for our president, who delegated hiring for this position to our HR department. I was asked to interview the candidates along with the HR director. Several people applied and two were selected for an interview.
During the interviews, the candidates were given some standard administrative assistant tests, including one that tested typing speed.
Following the interviews, I favored the candidate who was bright, positive, outgoing, and a good conversationalist, even though she had scored lower on the typing test than the other candidate. However, the HR department decided to hire the person who scored better on these tests, despite her being an introverted quiet person who didn’t seem very engaging.
After about a month of the president being unhappy with the new hire’s inability to create a positive environment in the executive offices and being unable to represent the president well with other employees and visitors, the assistant was terminated.
From that point forward we made sure we included in our interview and hiring process a component of giving the candidates a feeling that we were interested in them, their career, and their work goals—that we viewed the “human element” as integral to the company’s success. This ultimately led to a culture of a positive place to work and very low employee turnover rate. We made sure we evaluated and considered the person, not just the paper.
What’s been your experience in this important hiring and interviewing approach strategy?
Tammie L Gibson
April 30, 2018 @ 10:21
Great article, Jay. It’s the whole person you hire, not a score on tests or a single skill set. Thank you for focusing on the ability to see the “whole” person…those who are able to bring positive attributes as a whole and inspiration to those around them. Those people build, make and inspire teams.
May 3, 2018 @ 15:22
Thanks for commenting, Tammie. The feedback is valuable. Your “whole person” comment is important and your notes on “positive attributes and inspiration” are right on the point. I’m always humbled by and appreciative of responses that let me know that some advice and consultation triggers a positive reaction.
April 30, 2018 @ 11:31
Jay, many good points here. When I was a Division Chief at the Corps of Engineers, I always hired on one thing–ATTITUDE! I told applicants that by the time they were referred to me their qualifications for the job had already been evaluated and they had been found to be capable of doing the work. What I was most interested in was their attitude. I went for openness even a tad of aggressiveness and a calm nature that was outgoing. Facial expressions scored high with me because the face is the window to the sole. I did make one exception that I can remember in a lady named Amber Martin. I hired her as a college intern based on a recommendation from another college intern already working for me. She was timid and shy. Somehow my gut told me that she was just intimidated by the interview. Amber now works full time at the Corps and has risen to the level of Division Chief. So don’t ignore your “gut” when hiring.
May 3, 2018 @ 15:26
I’m glad you saw this blog because your comments are actually anecdotes to the blog’s message. The team you built at the Corps, while you were there, substantiates the point. Your comment “what I was most interested in was their attitude” says it all. It’s the essence of what we mean when we talk about the “human element.” Thanks again for responding.
April 30, 2018 @ 12:38
Great article. And so true for building teams. Thank you, Jay – Beth
May 3, 2018 @ 15:23
Having worked with you in the past I know you have witnessed and participated significantly in team-building in your career, which is a great skill to have. I appreciate your comment.
Diane Vaughan, Consulting
May 1, 2018 @ 13:00
Great article, Jay. I think this is “Business 101.” As an employer or supervisor, the best results will occur when folks hired for jobs are matched with skill sets. Too many folks hire a person and then want them to conform to a job that is completely outside of their personality. I think people skills are extremely important so having a conversation rather than a script interview and/or tests will help you know if that person is the right fit.
May 5, 2018 @ 11:18
Diane, I appreciate you comment. As you have acknowledged, this is a critical topic and, as you say a basic “Business 101” issue. Taking your comment about making sure “folks are hired for jobs matched with their skill sets” one step further, we need to make sure we let them know that we are going to pursue work “they want to do.” And finally, your comment “outside of their personality” is so important because you used “personality” which hints to paying attention to the “human element” in hiring and, in fact, it applies to running a business in general. Thanks so much for your comments.
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