So you are ready for a new employee, perhaps your first, or perhaps your 101’st. In every case you need to find someone that can do the job you need them to do, do it better than any other applicant, and do it without making waves in your business. Let’s look at some things you should consider when screening potential new hires and measuring their potential for success within the job and your organization as a whole.
Capability and competency go hand and hand. You need to insure that every potential employee has the necessary education, training and skills to perform the work for which you are filling the position. But at the same time you need to determine if that competency is just ‘paper thin’? You must also attempt to measure their capability to perform the work; do their past experiences (paid or unpaid) clearly demonstrate that they have what it takes to deliver "when push comes to shove." Of course you are not only looking for an employee who can do what needs to be done ‘today’, but what will need to be done in the days, months and years to come. As such you must evaluate their potential for job growth and responsibility.
Character and compatibility are measures of potential success. It’s important to insure that your employees share the values of your business and its leader(s). You wouldn’t want to hire someone who hates QuickBooks, even though they are trained and experienced in using it, to be your QuickBooks instructor, now would you? Or what about someone who has an attitude of ‘anything goes’ when it comes to preparing tax returns, that ‘the rules are for those who get caught’. They might be a wiz that can cite every provision of the tax code, but if they don’t honor that code, where will you and your business be? A potential employee not only has to fit within the ‘frame work’ of your organization, but they have to fit within the ‘team work’ of your business. The ability of an applicant to fit into the per-existing structure of existing personnel, existing clients, and existing management is critical, if you fail to consider these factors you are simply “itching to be scratched”.
Culture and commitment turn employment into careers. Even the smallest organization has a business culture, that sense of ‘self-image’ by which the business is perceived in the eyes of their employees, clients, and business colleagues. When a business is not ‘of one accord’, and ‘team’ is less important than ‘individual’, then those workers who have not bought into the culture almost always end up disrupting the culture. At the very least they become so difficult to work with that they are isolated to some position that even further takes them away from the rest of the team, thus compounding the problem. You can tell, perhaps as early as the first in-depth interview, if a potential employee is committed to becoming a part of something bigger than ‘self’, and contributing on a long-term basis, or if they are simply looking for work until they find something they view as better. Buying into the culture of your business is the start of commitment, temporary workers (in their minds) never buy into more than their next paycheck.
You must review each applicant’s education and training, certifications (where appropriate), and work experience as measures of their capabilities and competency. At the same time the information they provide during their interviews, as well as in employment and personal references, can give you data to measure an applicant’s potential for success.
Personally I always spend a lot of time during interviews discussing an applicant’s education, I don’t care if they are entry level and have only a high school diploma, or if they are being interviewed for management and profess to an MBA degree, I want to know how they ‘did’ in school. One good question to ask is ‘how much time each week did you devote to your studies?’ Devoted students spend a lot of time, even if their grades don’t show it, and they can tell you exactly how much time they spent. (Of course I must admit that I would probably fail my own interview because I never had to study very hard to make good grades.) Still the same, students who are committed to their education spend the time and their grades usually do show it. Odds are that the commitment an individual makes to their education usually carries over into their career employment, if they undertook their formal education as ‘party central’ they probably will undertake your job offer with the same degree of enthusiasm.
Don’t assume simply because an applicant has a great resume, good grades, and detailed work history, that you need not take the time to obtain meaningful references from former bosses, co-workers, and even school instructors. These people tend to share what is on their mind concerning an individual, but stay away from the typical ‘would you re-hire’ type question. I like to ask questions like ‘if you were to re-hire this person, would you expect the new employment relationship to be more meaningful and beneficial than during their past employment?” That one question and the answers you obtain may provide a wealth of data concerning how the applicant fits into your measures for success.
Best of luck in your next hire.