I’ve been a manager for almost two years but I still struggle with hiring decisions, even though I’ve hired eleven people so far. I lead a customer service team. I’m happy about the eleven hiring decisions I’ve made, for the most part.
Eight of my new hires worked out wonderfully and are still here. Two of them washed out in the first few weeks. The last person struggled very badly in the job but we got lucky because there was a job opening in our sample room. “Margaret” moved into the sample room after six difficult weeks in my department, and she’s happy there.
So, I only have two “fails” out of eleven hires but those two missteps still bug me. Hiring the wrong person is a very expensive and time-consuming mistake.
I have so much on my plate that I can’t afford to hire someone who is not going to be able to come up to speed, or who quits right away.
Right now I’m interviewing for two customer service reps. I have four to five serious candidates, and of those four to five people I need to choose two people to hire. All of them seem like smart and motivated people.
Some of them have more experience than the rest, but I’m not sure that more experience is necessarily a great barometer for success in this particular role.
What clues or indicators should I be looking for?
Many managers wonder “How should I make hiring decisions?” and that’s not surprising . In the vast canon of HR and leadership literature there is very little said about exactly what to look for when you’re hiring!
For years the mantra was “Hire for experience” which is useful in some situations but all wrong in other situations. Some people say “Hire for potential,” but how do you gauge a person’s potential, exactly?
We all want to hire smart, capable and enthusiastic people, but we also know that a person’s success in any job has a lot to do with the environment, and their interaction with it.
We can’t always say for sure whether a person will succeed in a new job, regardless of their experience and/or wonderful personality.
Your hiring track record is excellent, so it would be silly to waste your precious time and energy worrying about how to absolutely, positively avoid hiring the wrong person.
There’s no way to guarantee that every new hire will work out.
Here are five good reasons to hire someone, and five good reasons not to!
- Hire the candidate who has already thought through the assignment and has ideas about how they will approach the job. If you ask the question “How would you approach this assignment?” and one candidate says “I’d want to study your product literature, read your customer service call scripts, shadow one or two of your most experienced reps and get comfortable with your credit and return procedures” that person is more on the ball than a candidate who says “I’m not sure — I guess you’ll train me on the job, right?”
- Hire the candidate who knows why they want this job, as opposed to any old job they might be offered. Hire the person who can tell you clearly how this role fits into their career plan, like this: “I’ve been working blue-collar jobs and I want to get into white-collar jobs. This customer service role seems like a great way to do that. I like to talk about products and I like being on the phone.” A person’s reason for pursuing one job over another job is an important part of their brand!
- Hire the candidate who understands their own career story. Some people run their own careers. They can explain every twist and turn in their career history. Other people don’t run a thing — they are blown about like a leaf in the wind. They are not driving their own career. Things happen to them — they do not make things happen.
- Hire the candidate who can tell you one or several stories about how they made a difference or saved the day at a past job or at school. These stories are called Dragon-Slaying Stories. Hire the person who knows they have personal power, and knows they get to decide how to use it!
- Hire the person whose goals for their new job mesh with your goals for the department. If you interview someone who is gung-ho to rise through the ranks quickly and your company doesn’t offer a career path beyond customer service, it’s probably not a great match. Hire the person who wants what you have to offer!
- Don’t hire a candidate who merely shows up at a job interview ready to answer questions — period. Don’t hire the candidate who has not researched the company and has no questions to ask you.
- Don’t hire a candidate who cannot tell you what they’ve learned in their career so far. Do not hire a person who has the functional skills to do the job but can’t tell you why they’re interested in doing the job again.
- Don’t hire anyone who is more concerned with the “box” around the job — the selection of nearby lunch spots, the location of their workstation or the dress code — than they are concerned with the job itself.
- Don’t hire anyone for a customer service job whose anecdotes illustrate a cynical view toward customers in general. It is easy to develop negative feelings toward all of humanity when you answer the phone forty times a day, but that worldview doesn’t work very well in a customer service role. Some candidates cannot help rolling their eyes and mocking their past customers as they tell you about their customer service experience. Everyone understands how trying a difficult customer can be, but a person with the mindset “Customers stink!” is not your best customer service hire.
- Finally, don’t hire a person who isn’t on top of the details during your recruiting process. Of course, you must be on top of the details on your end, too — keeping your commitment to get back to candidates after interviews and so on. People show you who they are, and you must believe them when they do. If a candidate gives a great interview but then has to be reminded three times to send over their references, for instance, that’s a bad sign.
You have made a great start with your first eleven adventures in recruiting. You will learn something new with every new hire, whether the person you hire is a great long-term employee or not. You will get stronger and stronger every time!
All the best to you,