Six Rules for Hiring with Confidence

A recent interview with Mark Murphy, CEO of of Leadership IQ,* revealed the startling statistic that 89% of new hires tracked by his company failed because of attitude problems. Not because they lacked the skills to do the job, but because their personality was in some way misaligned with the position. This is just one of several mistakes businesses make when hiring new employees, but the good news is: they’re avoidable.

We’ve all seen resumes of potential hires and assessed their previous experience in an attempt to match it with our needs. Ideally, an interview provides us with the opportunity to size up the candidate’s personality and ask questions. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, we tend to ignore or fail to notice what could be key components to the applicant’s appropriateness to the job we need to fill.

It’s easy to assess technical skills. A candidate either knows X, Y, or Z or she doesn’t. This is easily verified. But what is harder to detect is the fit within your culture and company policy. For example, Candidate A has left three jobs in the past two years because he didn’t like his bosses. You’re desperate to fill the position, and he possesses the necessary skill, so you hire him. Guess what? His work ethic is still poor.

So, rule #1 is: Actions Speak Louder Than Words. Don’t take a chance on someone with a track record that isn’t what you’d want to see at your company. Skills and promises are nice, but you can’t change character.

Rule #2: Don’t Be Desperate. Everyone’s been in a bind and needs to fill a position immediately. But this puts you at a disadvantage on many levels, least of all being a tendency to ignore warning bells in your head. You may also unwittingly transmit your desperation to the new hire and, in doing so, find yourself managing an employee who knows they’re doing you a favor by coming on board.

Rule #3: Develop a Seamless Policy Manual. Don’t create headaches by leaving loopholes in your policy. Remember, it’s your business, and you may, within the scope of the law, of course, dictate what you will and will not tolerate. For example, you have had problems with workers leaving early, or trying to adjust their schedules in ways that don’t work for your company. Clearly state your business’s hours of operation in your Policy Manual and outline consequences for failing to adhere to them. Don’t want to be hassled into hiring someone’s brother/friend/wife? Don’t accept recommendations. It’s that easy.

Rule #4: This ties in to Rule #1. While you shouldn’t hire someone who has a great skillset but a bad attitude, you should hire someone with a great attitude who may be missing a few skills. Remember, you can always teach an intelligent, eager person new things, but you can’t alter someone’s personality. If you interview a candidate whose enthusiasm and drive you love but they are slightly deficient in the experience department, teach and mentor them.

Rule #5: Go with your gut. It’s important to logically assess a candidate for a position and weigh his or her skillset and experience against your needs. It’s equally important to give consideration to the subtle cues you pick up in interviews that can tell you more than any résumé. Take your interviewee on a tour of your workplace and watch him interact with other employees. Take her to lunch and see how a potential manager treats a server. Don’t be afraid to keep looking when someone sounds great on paper but rubs you the wrong way.

Rule #6: Don’t let your own insecurities get in the way. An operations manager looking for an assistant doesn’t want someone so talented he’ll be replaced by her. So he hires the candidate who was the least experienced and least impressive. This not only made his superiors question his judgment, but he wound up fixing all her mistakes and picking up the work she couldn’t handle himself. Always hire someone who will make you look good, and find a way to cope with the insecurities that get in the way of your own success.