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New hiring figures are modestly rising. Managers are being asked to interview candidates with extraordinary care. This article offers a recipe for the do’s and don’ts of hiring in cost conscious organizations with a dash of generic interview questions and strategies thrown in. The best and most consistent match of a candidate to a specific position depends upon the right mix of people assessing each candidate’s job fit, the basic ingredients uncovered at interviews, and the questions designed to test the palate of a candidate’s personality traits, styles, values and interests. Job candidates from diverse ages and backgrounds with the personality traits, values, interests and skills that match positions are the best hires.

About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph.D. is President of MasteryWorks - a leading Career Development solution to large to mid-size companies, including Lockheed-Martin, CapitalOne, Sprint, GAO, AmerisourceBergen, Pfizer, SHRM, and FreddieMac. MasteryWorks provides enterprise web portals, training, consulting, and an assessment framework for employees and managers. For more than 30 years, Caela has been a tireless advocate around complex issues redefining the workplace. She envisioned the current workplace climate by more than a decade, when she published the book, “Who is Running Your Career: Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times” (Bard Press, 1997). Through MasteryWorks, she oversees solutions that create the foundation for impact-filled “career conversations” - centered on increased contribution, performance, and fit. Her strategic approach consistently delivers on employee engagement and retention goals for her clients.
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Hiring Again? You'd Better Get It Right
The DOs and DON'Ts of Hiring the Right Person

by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.


"For these times, managers need to be extraordinarily careful about hiring the right people."
Despite a stream of disappointing employment statistics, new hiring figures seem to be inching upward. For example, the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) is predicting that the U.S. job market will present increased opportunities for workers in the manufacturing and service sectors in the last quarter of 2009 and the first half of 2010. The latest LINE reports mark the fourth straight month that job additions will outpace layoffs in both the manufacturing and service sectors. September 2009 vacancies increased from September 2008 in three out of four job categories for manufacturing and services. The business sections in both the New York Times and Boston Globe have also reported modest increases in hiring activity validating a Gallup‘s Job Creation Index that has been creeping upward to reach a 2009 high water mark.

While these random reports and data suggest that the job market has made some modest gains from earlier this year, companies continue to be extremely vigilant in holding down costs and continuing to do more with less. This means that managers need to know what to say, what to ask, and what to do in order to fit and match the right person into the right position. For these times, managers need to be extraordinarily careful about hiring the right people.

Know the Job, the Profession, the Organization, and the Industry

The hiring process starts long before the interviews. Choosing the right people to assess a candidate’s job fit is as important as selecting the hire. Don’t choose an HR manager to do all the interviewing of new hires. Select a team of potential co-workers and managers who have the most knowledge about (1) the skills and competencies needed for the job under consideration, (2) a broad understanding of the trade or profession which the job encompasses, (3) a familiarity with the culture of the organization, as well as (4) an awareness of the overall industry.

Do prepare a set of questions and the interview strategy beforehand that will elicit the way a candidate will act, think and work. While it’s important, don’t assess a candidate for knowledge and skills alone. Do assess a candidate’s interests, values, personality, and behavior for a match to the essential behavioral components of the job. Tours and informal conversations can help determine how well the candidate responds to the overall environment and the organization. Don’t make the rookie error of hiring someone just like you. That’s a recipe for disaster. Look for complimentary skills and experiences. Enhance the diversity of your team.

Match the Right Person to the Job
Poor job fits can derail the workforce, wreck your organization, and shatter the culture. A careful hiring process should uncover whatever makes a candidate tick and should identify the unique psychological footprint of the applicant. Do determine how a candidate thinks and reacts. For example, ask a candidate how he or she might react or resolve a problem on the job and see if the candidate’s answer is intuitive, analytical, direct, decisive, thoughtful, etc. Does the job call for the same kind of thinking?

Personality, Values and Interests can shed light on why a person will or will not “fit” into a certain position and consequently be a top performer. In our cost conscious organizations, it’s more important than ever to match each candidate’s unique talents to "fit" each job.
CareerFit™ Model
© 2006-2009 MasteryWorks, Inc.

CareerFit Model
Personality Traits/Style
Personality traits have a huge impact on success and performance evaluations. They are mostly innate and don’t change much. For instance, a social, gregarious, outgoing, intuitive person may do very well in a sales or customer service position, but not enjoy an analyst position. Such a person thrives in social situations. What comes naturally to such an individual would take immense personal energy for a more quiet, introspective, thoughtful person. Yes, such a person might figure out a way to be successful in a more gregarious environment, but not without expending enormous energy.

Don’t mismatch a candidate’s personality traits and styles with the job. Personality traits and styles generally predict how an individual will perform on the job. Personality won’t necessarily forecast success or competency, but it will accurately predict the way a candidate will respond to problems, interact with other employees, and maintain pace with the environment and organization. Mismatches between job and personality, traits and styles will certainly presage stress, conflict and ultimate performance problems. Observe for the candidate’s personality traits and style - whether the candidate is compassionate, entrepreneurial, innovative, thoughtful, aggressive, timid, outgoing, flashy, political or social. Do try to match the candidate’s personality traits and style to the job.

Values, such as integrity, honesty, importance of family, concern for social justice, interest in acquiring wealth and power, and concerns about winning, etc., are some of the principles that guide us to make decisions. They provide a rudder for our choices and every organization sails in a sea of values and ethical and work imperatives that dictate its culture.

Research suggests that living in harmony with personal values is important. For example, an employee is more likely to leave an organization that conflicts with his or her family values or values of honesty and integrity. An employee is more likely to stay in organizations, which fosters and rewards the employee’s values. Don’t mismatch the candidate’s values to the job, or the organization culture. People rarely change their personal values. When values are on a head on collision course with a job, employees leave the job or fight for their cause. In either case, it is a crash-and-burn-costly mistake for the organization.

Interests are those activities that stimulate curiosity, involvement, mental or emotional activity, and passion. What does the candidate enjoy and like doing? Is there a magnetic attraction between the candidate and job activities? See if the job stimulates the candidate’s interests.

Interests have been organized into four main categories – people, ideas, data and things. Don’t hire a candidate who has little or no natural interests in the job. For example, a candidate who likes working with data should not be hired into a position where people need to use their hands. Likewise, a candidate who likes to work with his or her hands on things should not be hired to supervise people or perform administrative tasks. This lack of “fit” becomes an energy drain and leads to poor performance.

Business, Professional, Leadership and Team Management Skills
Business skills, professional skills, management skills and leadership skills are all learnable skills. Business skills, such as communication, problem solving, and conflict resolution, are those generic competencies required for success in most work situations and are highly transferable. Professional skills, such as IT software development, network administration or client management and proposal writing and costing are those competencies in areas that are unique to a profession or trade and are less transferable. Leadership skills, such as building alliances and strategic planning are competencies needed to achieve missions, strategies and build learning while Team Management skills encompass strategies to work effectively with people. While these competencies are frequently main elements in a job description, they are all learnable through formal and informal education. And while each position, project or profession requires a certain proficiency in all four kinds of skills, don’t base or weigh your hiring decisions entirely on learnable skills.

Hiring Diverse Candidates
Organizations gain strength through diversity by engaging people with different backgrounds, age ranges, cultures, skills and personalities. Diversity broadens the base of knowledge and skills, increases innovation, expands sales and potential markets and provides insight into success of an organization. It brings differing points of view to the table to create innovative ideas.

For example, customers and clients are made of all four generations. Each generation brings certain important characteristics to the workplace. Smart companies capitalize on age diverse generations and carefully hire four generations into their talent pools.

Veterans (1923-1945) bring to the workplace wisdom, mentoring skills, historical memory, expertise, strategic planning and a strong work ethic. Boomers (1946-1964) are change agents, hard working, need meaningful work, look to have learning opportunities, play by the rules, and want easy access to leaders and managers. Generation Xers (1965-1979) are pragmatists, insist on a work life balance environment, are collaborative and tech savvy, insist on meaningful work and bring innovative and entrepreneurial mindsets to the workplace. Generation Yers, Millenials (1980-2000) are a mix of idealists and realists, who challenge the status quo, need flex time, embrace change, expect great managers, and are networked, tuned in and team players. Each generation brings different mindsets, experiences and eyes that focus differently on problems to innovate solutions adding value to every stakeholder.

Some Helpful Tips
  • Do call the candidate before any meeting to confirm the candidate’s background, job and salary expectations.
  • Do prepare for interviews carefully in advance so that they are neither casual nor slipshod. Organize a team of interviewers.
  • Do take the candidate on a tour of the organization and have each person he or she meets assess the candidate’s different skills, traits, values and interests. Decide the essential things you need to learn about a candidate.
  • Do write down the questions you prepare and keep notes of the answers.
  • Do conduct the interview in a calm and relaxed environment. Begin by explaining clearly and concisely the general details of the organization and the job.

The Questions, How? What? and How?
The How? and What? questions elicit real motives and feelings. The Why? questions require candidates to defend or justify their positions and thereby will give you more insight into the candidate’s thinking process. Why? questions asked in rapid succession are a form of a pressured interview technique aimed at digging out true values and feelings. Always try to discover the candidate’s true motives, values, traits and skill sets without being intimidating.

Do ask open-ended questions.  Don’t do most of the talking. Be certain the candidate does 90% of the talking. Ask the candidate about any questions you may have on the candidate’s résumé.

Do offer job candidates opportunities to ask their own questions. Questions asked by interviewees can be revealing. Their questions often identify a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses by affording them a chance to show their insight, capability and potential.

Key Questions to Ask
  • Why should we hire you?
  • List what you can add to the job and the organization.
  • Please give me examples of your past successes.
  • How do co-workers describe you?
  • Why do you want to work for this organization?
  • What have you done to improve your knowledge in the last year?
  • Why would you be an asset to this organization?
  • Tell me about suggestions, improvements and innovations you have made.
  • Please give me examples of your greatest strengths.
  • Other than this job, what is your dream job and why would you choose it?
  • How would your previous supervisor describe your strengths?
  • Please give me some examples of your ability to work under pressure.
  • How do your skills match this job?
  • Please give me examples of what have you learned from mistakes on past jobs.
  • If you were hiring a person for this job, what would you look for?
  • Please give me examples of your work ethic.
  • Have you failed in projects in past jobs and why?
  • Please give me examples of the most fun you have had on past jobs.
  • Do you have any questions for me?

Obviously, you don’t need to ask all the questions. Talk with your interviewing team beforehand and determine who is covering which areas. Set a time to review your interviews shortly after the candidate has left.

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