Part III: Hiring The Right People

Managers who are good at finding the right people for a job, aren’t lucky; they’re skilled. You’ll remember from article number two in this series, that most managers need to get better at adjusting jobs to fit people’s talents and skills instead of looking for the perfect person to fill a spot. That said, there is nothing even the best managers can do with an employee who simply doesn’t care about his work, or who is dishonest. No amount of adjusting can change that.

As we all know, interviews can be completely misleading. First impressions are tenuous and superficial. So, how does a good manager know whom to hire? Let’s first look at two key qualities managers should look for in a prospective employee, and then review some tips on how to hire people with these traits.

  1. Honesty. There is not a thing a good manager can do with someone who is dishonest. This trait refers not only to people who might steal or lie, but also people who are subtly dishonest and do things that are morally questionable, including taking office supplies home, or providing extra services to friend and family without seeking approval first – even refusing to take responsibility for a mistake they make and blaming other staff members.There are three ways to ensure that people are honest when you are hiring them: 1) Check their references. This alone may not be a good indicator of a person’s honesty, but it certainly can provide information; 2) Use case scenarios in your interview. Give people at least two situations that are morally difficult to answer and ask what they would do. For example, ask how they would deal with a co-worker confiding in them that they lied to a customer to benefit the company. Would they tell the manager, express their disapproval to the person directly, or keep it to themselves? 3) Use your instincts. The gut feeling you get about someone may not be enough on its own to make a decision, but take it into account. Many times our instincts prove us right.
  2. Conscientiousness. This means people who are organized and responsible. There are plenty of people who can do a job well, but they are unpredictable and disorganized. Conscientious people by their nature, care about their work and about other people. While this doesn’t guarantee skill or intelligence, it does mean they will try and that you can count on them.How do you know if someone is conscientious? There are two ways to tell: 1) Observation. Take note of how they present themselves. Did they come to the interview with references, and copies of their resume? Ask them a question about a specific date and see if they keep that information in a date book or blackberry. That way you can see how they organize their appointments and commitments. Also, you may want to ask them to bring something to the interview like a writing sample or a letter of reference. Ask for it to see if they followed through on your request. 2) Use case scenarios. Honesty isn’t the only thing that a good case scenario can predict. Asking prospective employees how they would deal with a situation in which it was impossible to meet a deadline, or what they would do if they had an important meeting and got sick, can give you great insight into their character.

As a manager, remember that anyone can get better at a skill, so what you are looking for in an employee first and foremost, is character. A person who is both honest and conscientious (and reasonably intelligent) can be groomed to do almost any job. So take the time to listen to yourself, check references and create scenarios that will give you the information you really need.