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Claire Morley-Jones

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Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill

Posted: 14/02/2012 16:20

Unfortunately, as much as the control freaks want to - you can't do everything on your own! Sometimes, no matter how much energy or talent you have, you reach a certain point where, in order to continue growth you need additional people. Mindset is an important part of this.

In my career I have lost count of the times I've heard business owners say, "I knew my problems would start on the first day I got staff and they did". Really? What a surprise! Ever heard of the self fulfilling prophecy? It's a sad fact that it's impossible to manage people effectively, with first hiring the right people.

When advising clients on HR issues, I never use the phrase "a company's greatest asset are it employees" - because unless they are effective and skilled, they're not! Ultimately, the success and growth of a business hinges entirely on someone's ability (or inability) to recruit, hire and retain talent. You are who you hire. If you recruit employees from hell; time wasters, shirkers and complainers then pretty quickly you end up with a workplace from hell! My company has a vital hiring strategy to deal with this; hire people into positions where they can draw on their natural strengths and be themselves. This leads into a new way of recruiting: recruit not for skill, qualifications or sometimes even experience. Instead, recruit for behaviour.

For example, we recently ran a recruitment campaign for a client who needed additional administrative support. Many of the CVs suggested the candidates had exemplary administration experience and qualifications, however, when it came to interviewing and testing, the candidates with the clearest ability had innate qualities that made them great at the role. For example, attention to detail, focus, wanting to stay within their comfort zone, enjoying a clearly defined role etc. In fact, the highest qualified even admitted herself, during the interview, that she didn't really want this job but didn't know what else to do.

When people feel the need to act unnaturally, they experience stress, which lowers productivity and leads to job dissatisfaction. We believe you don't need to know a lot about people's weaknesses, but you do need to know an awful lot about their strengths. Why? Simply because, building on strengths is much more productive than trying to correct weaknesses.

The only sure fire way to get the right person, in the right post, is to know what you are looking for! Define what is necessary for the individual to be successful in the role and then test these attributes; whether that's with an in-depth structured interview and personality or ability testing.

We have seen many of our clients make the mistake of focusing too heavily on the CV, experience and work history. The traits you should be looking for go beyond these factors and tell you more about the person who could potentially be working for you.

For example:

Initiative. Ask the candidate what they last did that showed initiative (or what they last did without being told). Then ask supplementary questions such as, "and who's idea was that", "why did you feel that was an issue...", and "how did you....".

Work ethic. Be careful, work ethic, does not mean the same thing as long employment history. Research has shown that work ethic is developed at a very early age and that pride in one's work is instilled in the feelings you have about it. Ask the candidate, "how do you like to feel about work?" or "when do you last go above and beyond what was required?"

Intelligence. It's no secret that intellect does not necessarily come from a formal education. You can test employees for a general idea of intellect and the ability to learn using formalised aptitude tests, however, also ask "what was the last thing you learnt and how?". Intelligent people usually like to continually develop and learn new things - find out if this is true of your candidate.

Judgement. There's no replacement for an employee who exercises good judgment in decision-making and can use their common sense. Ask the candidate to give you examples of using their judgment and how they have made important decisions without referring to others.

Flexibility. A person who opposes change can have difficulty growing with the company. Perhaps ask the last time the candidate had to adapt quickly to changing circumstances at work. Again, ask probing questions such as, "and how did that make you feel" or "how did you go about adapting".

Integrity. The credibility of your company is at stake with every new hire. It is essential that you only hire people with complete integrity. Crosscheck information from the employment application, resume, reference checks, and the interview. Also ask them about their integrity, "tell me about a time when you have been asked to lie at work" or "describe a situation in which you were asked to do something at work that didn't feel right".

Enthusiasm. People who aren't enthusiastic about what they do won't be able to be enthusiastic about what they are offering to you or more importantly, to your clients. Only hire people who believe in your company mission and philosophy. One way to gauge genuine interest and enthusiasm (aside from conversation during the interview) is to give the candidate a tour. It's one thing to say you're interested in and excited about a job. It's another thing to show it.

Positivity This is about the ability to go through life's ups and downs and still keep a smile on your face. It's the concept of seeing the glass "half-full" instead of "half-empty." Ask your candidate about a particularly difficult period they've had at work and how they handled it to give you an idea of how they respond to stress and challenges.

The extent to which these traits exist can be identified through personality profiles, proper questioning and, yes, quality time with the candidate. There are no shortcuts. Proper interviewing and hiring take time. The more time you invest with the candidate, the more you will learn about them and the more of an asset they will be to your company.

The reality today is that success in a job depends on competencies that are intangible and rarely found on a CV. Previous experience, which was once sacred in the hiring process, is almost meaningless. Always choose the person with the right attitude and the qualities outlined above over the person with a zillion years of experience. You can teach and train someone who is mature, intelligent, respectful, and positive. Experienced candidates who are immature, undependable, hostile, and inflexible will be the bain of your life!