Too often I hear complaints from managers and business owners that the people they’re hiring just aren’t working out. It doesn’t take much to fog a mirror, so when desperation leads one to hire the first warm body that walks through the door, the results are iffy at best. What follows are some excerpts from my 26-page booklet on Strategic Screening and Hiring (which happens to be free this month to all who write and ask for it).
First, if you don’t have a job description for a position you wish to fill, you’ll save yourself needless trouble down the road if you create one. Not only will new employees know what’s expected of them, you’ll be on top of what’s fair to expect from your employees.
I recommend using a “Table Top Job Analysis” method as a starting point, as it makes fairly short work of the process. A simple overview of the process looks like this:
1. Form a small group of “experts” for the job in question. These are usually folks who are already successful in the position you wish to fill. If the position is one-of-a-kind or brand new, select people who understand what will be expected. Your group should have at least three people but no more than seven.
2. Have the group make lists of duties and tasks that will be required of the new hire. A “duty” is a general responsibility that requires at least five or six “tasks.” Example:
Oversee Emergency Response Teams
Identify deficiencies in the emergency plan
Develop emergency response skills in office personnel
Create response teams and appoint leaders
Educate all personnel on potential emergencies
Schedule and conduct emergency response training
Evaluate emergency team effectiveness
When creating job descriptions, a general rule is have no less than five and no more than fourteen duties per position. The same numbers apply to how many tasks each duty should have.
3. Have the group of experts prioritize the duty list. This step is very helpful for determining which candidates are the best fit. Without priorities, someone who majors in the minors may end up looking like a stellar candidate.
Once you have a clear-cut job description, you have an excellent foundation for writing a set of valid, relevant interview questions.
The key is to create behavior-based questions. These are questions based on an applicant’s genuine past experience (how did you handle “x”?), not on a hypothetical future possibility (how would you handle “x”?).
For example, if you were developing questions for Overseeing Emergency Response Teams, you might ask:
“Tell me about a time you scheduled and conducted training. What obstacles did you encounter, and how did you overcome them?”
This is a far cry from:
“Tell me how you would schedule and conduct training.”
One is asking for genuine experience, the other could be answered hypothetically. The second type of question offers no insight that an applicant can actually do what their answers indicate.
To be fair and equitable, the questions you develop should be asked of all candidates. Remember, these are behavior-based interview questions, asking your applicant to “tell you a story about when he/she ….” This gets to the core of who the applicant is, because applicants won’t be prepared with pat replies.
The more unique your questions, the more likely you are to hear the real applicant speaking!
I recommend asking your questions during an initial phone screen from your “A-list” applicants, as phone screens save time for both you and the applicant. Besides, if telephone work is part of a job description and a candidate cannot communicate well on the phone, it’s a yellow flag!
This prep work may seem like so much busy work, because it doesn’t seem “urgent.” But it’s certainly important, and if it’s not part of your groundwork up front, you have a higher chance of experiencing a truly urgent crisis down the road.
P.S. Be sure to write and ask for my 26-page booklet, Strategic Screening and Hiring
. I'll ship it out at no cost to you.