For most small businesses, it’s a potential nightmare. You spend months trying to find the right person and then within a matter of weeks comes the dawning realisation that this appointment isn’t going to work. Somehow, the person who was most qualified for the job on paper, and who gave the most convincing interview, just doesn’t make the grade in the job itself. 
 
How can this happen? 
 
There is a simple answer. Most recruitment activity focuses too much time and energy on the wrong things. 
We spend a lot of time during the process looking and testing for technical skills and qualifications. We ask for years of experience in a similar role (although time served is an indicator of endurance rather than competence). We want people who have used similar software or hardware in the past because we think this means they can “hit the ground running”. We forget that these aspects can usually be trained, relatively quickly and easily. 
 
Think, for a minute, about your best employees. What is it that makes them so good at what they do? I’ll bet it’s not just their technical ability. Every organisation will be different, but perhaps your list includes phrases like: 
 
Flexible and will take on other work readily Doesn't give up until a problem is solved 
Accurate and methodical – checks for errors Sees it from the customer's perspective 
Accepts feedback and acts on it Goes beyond the job to get the right result 
Gets on with colleagues Never satisfied – always trying to improve 
 
Now think about your worst employees. The ones who give you most of your headaches. Perhaps your list will include people who didn’t last long in the job, either through their choice or yours! What phrases would you use to describe why they weren’t suitable? 
 
Armed with both lists, you can use “Tell me about” questions during the interview process to test where applicants fit against these two extremes. As an example, “Tell me about a time when you had to be flexible” will give you a good indication of what the applicant sees as flexibility and whether this fits with your organisation’s definition. 
 
By all means check someone has the technical competence to do the job, but remember to spend at least as much time – ideally more – checking out whether their attitude fits yours. 
 
Most employees can learn new skills – but their basic attitudes are unlikely to change. 
Tagged as: Recruitment
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