I recently posted about the formula for hiring success, and a couple of people questioned a component I should I include. I don’t want to be the guy who says, “I’ll get back to you on that later,” so let’s take a quick look at it.
As prospective employers, how do we know that somebody satisfies the successful hiring formula of Attitude, Ability, Skills and Knowledge? We don’t. There is no 100% guaranteed method to hire the perfect person to do the job every time — unless, of course, we are willing to set a performance standard that will satisfy neither us nor anybody who has ever wanted to turn a profit.
How do you validate your thoughts about a prospective candidate?
Do you check references? Many will say that it is a waste of time because a candidate will only provide “good” references. True enough, but It is your job to do a good job of checking.
One of the first times I ever called a reference should help drive the point home. 30 years ago, I was hiring for an unskilled labor job, and my top candidate was a Cambodian refugee. He had very little working experience in the US, and I wasn’t really sure about him, so I called his previous employer.
The call was profound. I remember three things from that call: 1) I had a checklist of questions; 2) I had other candidates; and 3) the reference slapped me in the face.
Neither the checklist of questions nor the qualifications of the other candidates are important any more. What is important is the response when I asked, “Was he punctual?” My ears still ring from the response.
“Are you going to just ask me a set a questions, or do you want to know about the man?” He went on, “This man spent months in a refugee camp hoping to come to the US. While he was there, he taught people English and Math so they could make better lives in America, and he sat on the same boat they did hoping that they would have better lives. I hope that tells you what kind of man he is.” The applicant never mentioned any of that to me. He was simply looking for a job in the US, and he didn’t think that his life in Cambodia was important to me.
I was dumbfounded. My view of this man changed immediately. So did my method of checking references. Checklists are no longer allowed. Engage people in conversation. Find out more about the applicant and get the person for the job.
Don’t get me wrong. There are other important screening tools — aptitude and skills testing, interview techniques, etc. . .. We’ll get into them later.
Before then, though, ask yourself the question, “How many good candidate have slipped through my fingers because I have been checking boxes”? Don’t check boxes. The people you are screening are people, and they deserve to be treated like people.