Hire With the Whole Person in Mind
Whenever you’re in the hiring process, it’s easy to focus on someone whose skills and experiences match the job description. But if you solely rely on those aspects, you’re going to miss other qualities and important facts about the candidate that are critical factors for long-term employment success. Specifically, consider other “soft” yet vital skills such as dependability, interpersonal relations and communication because overlooking these competencies will prevent you from hiring the perfect candidate — the one who can get the job done and make it possible for you to excel at your job, too.
Determining a candidate’s soft skills often gets overlooked because they’re often a little trickier to research and/or assess. You often have to get creative — even do a little digging to uncover the truth, but doing so is far from an impossible feat. Here are three tips for unearthing what you need to know:
Outline what vital soft skills are needed for the job. Before you even start interviewing for the position, examine your job description (create one if you don’t have it!) and define those desired competencies. Then plan for and prepare interview questions that will target what you need to know. If your candidate must have solid problem-solving skills, ask for examples of when challenges surfaced in that individual’s past and how he or she addressed it. If you’re curious about their communication skills, perhaps ask about a previous conflict with a co-worker and how that candidate managed that situation.
Note verbal and nonverbal behavior. You can learn a lot about a person just by watching and listening. So for example, if you’re hiring someone for a sales position, make a list of what types of body language or verbal skills are important to the success of the job. Does the person smile, look you in the eye, and take turns talking? Or, does the candidate appear rigid, cast eyes downward when speaking, and blurt out answers in a hurry? All such cues can clue you in on whether or not your candidate can relate to others in a comfortable, confident manner, build rapport, and even come across as convincing.
Use reference checks to dig and discover. Ask questions that go beyond surface talk and get at the heart of what the candidate is like and what sorts of behaviors you can expect. So for example, instead of “Did Joan do a good job?” consider “Tell me about how Joan handled the challenges of the economic downturn?” Whatever that person did in his or her last job will be a pretty good indicator for future performance. So if Joan was a train wreck in her prior position, then she will likely be that way now unless there were some extenuating circumstances that seriously impacted her success. If the latter is the case, make sure you explore that issue even deeper, talking with other references about any potential weaknesses and asking questions in ways that deliver a clearer picture of what you can expect. Also remember to pay attention to how someone answers. If you ask a reference how well someone communicates and the answer is “pretty good,” then that’s an opening to dig deeper to discover why the answer is not “great” or “excellent.”
What are some additional strategies for ensuring accurate reference checks and collecting critical information?