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Hiring Employees

Three Fool-Proof Interview Questions

Test a potential candidate’s skills and get the real truth before hiring them.

Deborah Hartung

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You liked their CV, you interviewed them and they were absolutely fantastic in the interview. You thought you had hit the jackpot with this person.

Fast forward six months down the line and you are sitting at your desk in a state of utter disbelief, because you have just learned that your ‘new star’ has been making promises to customers that you cannot possibly deliver on – promises which they had no authority to make in the first place.

You stand to lose a ton of money, your company’s reputation hangs in the balance, and you wonder how it all went so horribly wrong.

Don’t you just wish that you could have known that an employee was dishonest or had violent tendencies before you hired them? You don’t need a crystal ball or a psychic on permanent retainer fee – all you need to do is change the way that you ask questions in interviews.

Getting to know candidates

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” is the question that all interviewers across the world ask of candidates the most often. And at least 97% of the time, the answer to this question is a bold-faced lie.

When posing questions in an interview, you need to ask the question in such a way as to ensure that the applicant provides you with sufficient detail on what their behaviour was in a specific work-related context, and then what the outcome of that behaviour was. This is known as the CBO method: context, behaviour and outcome.

Wrong: asking “how would you handle a difficult customer?”

You are giving the candidate the chance to tell you what they ‘would’ do, instead of telling you what they have done in previous, similar situations and you are making it easier for the candidate to tell you what they believe you would like to hear.

Right: asking “can you give me an example of a time when you have had to deal with a difficult customer?”

Now the candidate is forced to tell you about a specific incident and to tell you what they actually did in real life, as opposed to what they ‘would’ do in a fictional, hypothetical situation.

Asking it right

Regardless of what industry and sector you work in or what type of business you have, these are the three questions that you should always ask of every single person you interview:

  1. At work, we all get busy and experience stress from time to time and because of this, we sometimes make mistakes. Can you give me an example of a time where you have made a mistake at work and talk me through what happened, and what you did about it?
  2. Can you give me an example of a time at work where you have exceeded your manager or your customer’s expectations on a task or a project?
  3. When dealing with difficult people, it is sometimes necessary to stretch the truth in order to solve a problem. Can you give me an example of a time when you have had to do this and how it turned out in the end?

In asking these three questions, you have just tested whether the candidate is honest, can pay attention to detail and whether they have some level of achievement orientation, drive and personal motivation to be really good at their job – traits that all employees need to exhibit in any organisation. The third question tests for integrity and you will know, based on your industry and your personal ethics, whether the answer that the candidate gave you amounts to acceptable behaviour and an acceptable level of honesty and integrity for your company and the job that you are considering them for.

Internationally, this method of interviewing is known as ‘targeted selection’ or ‘competency based interviewing’ and during the past ten years it has become increasingly popular in South Africa – especially amongst banks and other financial institutions.

By simply changing the way you ask interview questions, you are forcing the applicant to give you a real-life example of a situation that they faced in their workplace and you can then ask them further questions to establish the context, their behaviour and the final outcome of the situation. If the applicant cannot give you an example or does not answer your question competently, it is likely that they will not have the ability to perform at the levels that you require of them in your organisation and they may not be a suitable candidate for your purposes.

As for your ‘new star’ who has been making promises that you now have to deliver on: they will have a perfect answer at their next interview when they are asked about ‘stretching the truth’.

Deborah Hartung has almost 15 years’ experience in Human Resources and Labour Relations management and has consulted across various industries. Visit the Hartung website or the HR Guru site should you require assistance with any matters relating to HR or Labour Law within your organisation, or should you wish to improve your knowledge through attending informative training sessions and workshops.

Hiring Employees

Are You Hiring A Cultural Fit? Do You Actually Want To?

Acknowledge your culture, and share it with applicants before they even get to the interview phase.

David Teten

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Who should you hire: The superstar with great skills who feels like a poor fit with the culture, or the person with weaker skills but who fits in culturally? Even though I believe in hiring the stranger, cultural fit really matters.

I once had an interview set up with a candidate who looked strong on paper. Within one minute of meeting him, it was obvious that he was too crude in his language and thinking for the culture I was building. I would have been embarrassed to have him introduce himself as affiliated with our company. I terminated the interview faster than I had ever done before.

Forty-six percent of newly hired employees will fail within 18 months, while only 19 percent will achieve unequivocal success, according to a study by Leadership IQ. Of those that fail, 11 percent lack the necessary technical skills. The remaining 89 percent have other difficulties integrating into the workplace. That statistic – the 89 percent – is startling, but even more startling is that a majority of employers are not addressing it sufficiently. How many interviewers make a formal assessment of cultural fit? Even the most impressive candidate may turn into a mis-hire if he or she onboards into a poor cultural fit.

Cultural fit includes both a firm’s personality – values, interpersonal skills, extracurriculars – and how a firm works – management, hours, pace, etc. I know one well-known start-up that, in its early days, required that every hire be interviewed by the entire team. Not only that, but any one person could veto a candidate. “I think there is something to be said for the ‘airport lounge test,'” a colleague said to me. “If you don’t want to sit with somebody when stuck waiting for a plane, you probably won’t want to work beside them either.”

At the same time, cultural fit should not become a euphemism for hiring a bunch of people who look or think just like you. “Don’t hire people you know.” If you do, you’re not going to get the best fit for your organisation. An organisation that selects for the highest performers cannot possibly also be a homogeneous organisation.

It’s also worth assessing if your culture is what it should be. Let’s say you interview someone who tends to be very frank, and therefore irritates people. In your culture, people tend to speak indirectly about sensitive matters. They say, “If I could make a suggestion” and “perhaps” before saying, “We’re screwed.” On the one hand, you might say this person is going to irritate folks.

On the other hand, is your firm burying problems rather than addressing them? Every hire shapes future culture; the new person might be an infusion of useful straight talk.

Related: Hiring Your First Employees

For employers, here are six steps that you can take to increase the likelihood of attracting candidates who will be cultural fits within your firm:

1. Have a company mission plus values statement, and list it on the job posting and your website

Every firm has a culture. What is yours? We recommend to acknowledge it, and share it with candidates. In particular, highlight what is unusual, not generic, about your firm. If everyone in your office is obsessed with sports, then mention in your job posting. “Benefit: Get to attend home Rangers games with many of your colleagues!” This allows for candidate self-selection based on their values and whether they would feel like they fit into the culture.

2. Obtain data on a candidate’s behaviour, values and most preferred/least preferred company culture

My executive coach observed that it’s helpful to ask candidates to describe their ideal corporate environment, their “most preferred” culture, as well as to describe a place where others might like the culture but where they would not. This is to discourage them from describing a company culture that no one would like. These open-ended questions encourage candidates to free-associate about their company culture wish list, and can enable you to assess whether their ideal company is close enough to your real company.

I recommend to screen for cultural fit values and technical skills separately, in order to minimise the risk of missing something. Some firms make a point of screening for cultural fit, before even bothering with the technical fit interview, on the grounds that it’s a waste of time to do otherwise.

Related: When To Hire A Consultant

3. Enforce a standard rating system

I suggest formally assessing against the mission values of the firm. Show the mission statement to the candidate, and give an example of the mission conflicting with itself or other imperatives. Example: We have committed to a deadline of July one for a client, but the product still has bugs. What should we do, given our cultural imperative of keeping promises? See what the candidate recommends.

4. Assess a candidate’s interactions with other employees and make observations

Take note if they fit in with the rest of the firm’s people by observing how the candidate participates in group exercises and how effectively the candidate communicates with the rest of the employees.

Ask people at all levels to interview the candidate. After all, the candidate will interact with people throughout the organisation once they start the job. To encourage interaction, pay attention to how they talk with the receptionist, security guard and/or other candidates in the waiting room. The candidate is more likely to show his/her true self in these interactions.

5. Ask the candidate for their observations

Dattner suggested you can also ask the candidate what they observed about the culture in discussions and meetings with you to ascertain how attuned they are to the culture. You may get valuable feedback about how an outsider perceives you.

6. Execute a post-facto analysis

Review any mis-hires retroactively to determine what went wrong during the interview process. You can also interview any candidates you made offers to, but who did not accept, to get additional feedback about your company and its employment brand.

Related: Looking For Talent? Here Are The Benefits Of Hiring A Graduate

candidates-point-of-view

The candidate’s point of view

Here are some questions I suggest candidates ask before accepting a job offer:

Office personality and communication

  • How have you responded to feedback from subordinates?
  • Can you give me examples of how you support your subordinates’ growth and development?
  • What does my working group do together outside of work, if anything? Friday get-togethers, other functions?

Job pace

  • When do most people arrive/leave work?
  • Am I expected to be on call and/or checking email often in case any work needs to be completed outside of office hours?
  • How formal is the firm? (Dress code, etc.)

Firm structure

  • How many reporting layers are there?
  • How often and how will I have access to senior management?

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Hiring Employees

The Consequences Of Appointing People In The Wrong Positions

Let’s consider the consequences and impact of poor appointments.

Brian Eagar

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We all know of someone who might have been appointed on a whim, based on someone’s gut-feel or because of their connections, just to discover that they do not fit the job description – or the organisation.

What are the consequences of this? Why should we care about recruiting the correct people for the correct positions? Simply put, the negative consequences of poor appointments can drain money and energy and have long-lasting effects on the organisation. In fact, I believe this to be one of the fundamental dysfunctions that negatively impacts leading purposefully. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, expresses the same sentiment advising to rather keep the position vacant than appoint inappropriately.

Consider the case of James who happens to meet the required qualifications for the post as advertised for Financial Manager at Company ABC. He is interviewed and seems to know his stuff. James is appointed in the position and starts with great enthusiasm. However, it soon comes to light that, despite his qualifications on paper, James does not fit into the company culture at all. He also seems to divulge a bit too much. A few weeks after having started, someone overhears him openly sharing information that is considered highly confidential.

He is approached about this by Company ABC’s Financial Director who explains that it is completely unacceptable for him to betray confidences and that there will be a formal disciplinary process if he does this again. James feels threatened and defaults to “water cooler talk” about his boss, belittling him and saying that the organisation obviously doesn’t recognise his worth, all while trying to justify his actions.

Needless to say, not too long thereafter – following a few more incidents – James leaves Company ABC. He also leaves a mess that now needs to be cleaned up.

Related: Dr John Demartini On Hiring The Right People

Let’s consider the consequences and impact of poor appointments such as that of James:

  • Severed relationships: in the case of James, team members have now become privy to information which they should never have known about. Leaked information can cause great discomfort within the team and impact relationships between leaders and teams negatively. This needs to be managed very carefully with all to move forward and regain trust.
  • Lack of trust: those who appointed individuals such as James may be second-guessed if they are ever to appoint others in future. It might also impact the level of trust the team has in their other decisions, even if not linked to any appointments.
  • Frustration: if the person who has been appointed simply cannot do the job, there is a huge risk for the organisation. Not only do others need to step up to guide the new team member (consequently taking time away from their own work), but it causes irritation and possibly resentment amongst those involved.
  • Lost traction: we often appoint hastily because we can’t afford to lose time, but we don’t realise that by appointing inappropriately, we lose even more time. While the role is vacant, the work that needs to be done will most probably take a backseat or not get the amount of focus it requires. Also, if you appointed the wrong person the first time, you will have to do damage control on top of that. This causes a backlog which affects not only the organisation, but the team and the person who will fill the role in due course.
  • Cost of re-appointing: once the person has left the organisation, it could take months before someone new is appointed. More than that, it takes a few months at least for the next new person to be brought up to speed and on track to fill the role effectively. Don’t forget the bottom-line costs of recruitment which could include a fee for finding a new placement, or opportunity costs of HR now having to spend time on filling this role at the cost of other roles that need to be filled.

While it is easy to think that the only cost of a team member leaving is that the work is less likely to get done, the above shows that it can also have dire impacts on culture and bottom-line. While most of us are aware of these consequences, we still fall into this trap. But there are a few ways to apply ourselves and avoid appointing poorly – although there are, of course, no guarantees:

  • Hold panel interviews: even if doing this prolongs the recruitment process, it can be hugely beneficial to have more people involved in the selection process. It is important to make sure that everyone’s opinions count. If possible and appropriate, have the person who is leaving the organisation be part of the interview panel as well.
  • Assess functionally: have the potential candidate/s complete a practical exercise or even give them the opportunity to spend a few hours in the office to see and experience ways of working. This will also give them the opportunity to see whether they feel comfortable in the environment.
  • Assess psychometrically: have them complete suitable psychometric tests to gauge their suitability for the organisation and the role from a personality and aptitude point of view. Culture fit is vital.
  • Interview references: it is important to ask the questions that really matter i.e. did the person welcome constructive feedback? Would you re-appoint this person if you had the opportunity? Are they self-driven or do they work better in a team environment? Which three words would you use to summarise this person’s work ethic?

Related: Hiring The Right Person Is Critical When Growing A Business

While you can never be truly sure about a candidate, and chances are that you could appoint inappropriately despite your best efforts, it is vital to be as thorough as possible during the process. Don’t appoint on a whim or out of desperation to fill an empty position. Spending more time to make a well-considered appointment will serve all organisations and teams well. And if you realise that you have made a mistake, act quickly before too much damage is done.

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Hiring Employees

Unemployment Is Way Down: 3 Tips To Attract Employees In A Tight Market

Now that ping-pong tables have become table stakes, it will take benefits with substance to attract the best employees.

Peter Daisyme

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Get creative. From remote work options to diverse compensation plans, employers like you can tailor your employment package to match the employee.

In this way, you’ll follow the path of the most successful businesses, which see competitive talent markets not as an obstacle but rather an opportunity to demonstrate their companies’ merits, and entice would-be employees.

Flashy perks are out of fashion

Startup culture glorifies fun fringe benefits like ping-pong tables, beer on tap and free pizza. After all, what employees wouldn’t choose to spend Friday afternoons goofing off with co-workers and snacks?

Turns out, most of them. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report found that most employees would leave their current job if a competitor offered substantially more flexibility and money – not perks.

Real adult workers might enjoy Galaga arcade games in the break room, but they would rather be able to leave early to pick up their kids, schedule longer vacations and pay for better lifestyles with fatter pay cheques.

When the job market puts the power in the hands of the worker, businesses can’t skate by on superficial perks. To attract high-quality employees who will stay, companies must offer practical, competitive benefits with long-term appeal.

Related: Why Innovative Employee Benefits Are Your Competitive Advantage

Here is what the top talent really wants:

1. Assistance with student debt and housing costs

The student loan debt crisis is bad and getting worse. College graduates are finding jobs, but their wages aren’t going up. Those in the workforce are making payments late and falling into delinquency.

The problem isn’t limited to recent grads, either. Debt.org reports that the number of people older than 60 with student loan debt has quadrupled over the last 10 years.

Companies can help workers break this cycle by offering student loan support in addition to regular salary. Some providers of programmes now help employers offer student loan assistance programs, to attract new employees.

Employees saddled with debt often struggle to save up for big purchases like houses. In addition to student loan assistance, consider offering a mortgage assistance programme to help employees pay for housing. Not only will employees appreciate the fast track to home ownership, but they might stay with the company longer if they buy a house with a five-minute commute.

2. Forward-thinking travel policies

The Global Business Travel Association found that 59 percent of candidates surveyed consider travel policies when they choose an employer. And there’s a lot more to take into account here than just help booking a flight.

In fact, a movement is growing to make employee comfort a priority in business travel plans, since 79 percent of business travellers report that travel experiences affect their job satisfaction.

“The direct benefit of revamped travel policies is increased loyalty from employees and potential hires alike,” Scott Hyden wrote on Recruiter.com; he’s chief experience officer for RoomIt, a hotel-booking solution for corporate travellers.

What’s important is that smart employers not cram employees into the cheapest non-chain hotel closest to the airport. They take care of the little things (like storing and shipping business clothing) to make every travel experience go smoothly. They allow traveling workers to earn loyalty perks and points from hotels and airlines for personal redemptions. These small courtesies don’t cost much, but they make a big difference to workers.

Related: 5 Benefits Of Turning Your Employee Into An Intrapreneur

3. Preparation help for retirement

According to PwC’s 2018 Employee Financial Wellness survey, most employees are not confident that their retirement savings will even make it to retirement; 42 percent surveyed believed they would need to use money from retirement plans for other expenses.

Leaders should work with retirement plan providers and financial services companies to provide employees with resources and tools to plan for the future no matter what their salary grade.

By providing retirement literacy and investment-education options, enterprises help workers make the most of their pay cheque and live healthy, fulfilling lives. Don’t just put the resources out there and let employees figure it out themselves, though. Invite financial advisors to come talk to employees every few months about their options.

Invest in workers’ futures, and they will be more likely to spend that future with the company that helped them. Even if it’s not currently possible to offer a pension equivalent, employees will appreciate the educational assistance in getting their savings plans up to snuff.

So, yes, ping-pong tables and puppy breaks are fine, but employees are more interested in stability and flexibility than entertainment. Use practical benefits to attract top talent, retain the best workers and ensure that people who work for the company have the resources they need to live successful lives.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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