Five Things to Think About When Hiring an Employee

Do they have proven experience in the desired skillset?

If you’re hiring someone to build your house, it would probably be good to know if they’ve successful built a house before. You’d want to check their references and likely see examples of their work. Often, the position you’re hiring for has requirements that are very specific to your organization. When this is the case, it’s unlikely that you’ll find a candidate that has exactly the skillset you are looking for. Once approach is to expand the way you think about the technical elements of the job. Has the candidate worked with detailed data? Worked in finance? Supervised teams? Does their career history demonstrate an ability to learn and grow?

It can be more challenging to interview candidates who haven’t ticked all the boxes on the wish list in the job posting. But finding a suitable candidate who has a diverse experience that can, with some training, step up to do the job, might bring much needed energy and insight to your team.

Do they demonstrate ‘traits for success’?

I define ‘traits for success’ as those amorphous qualities really set apart an average hire from a high-quality employee. Ability to take ownership of the process, enthusiasm for quality over the long haul, empathy for teammates, willingness to see setbacks and mistakes as a valuable part of the process. These qualities are very difficult to quantify, particularly in a one-hour interview. The purpose of STAR questions (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is to help reveal a how a candidate responds to challenges. Do they answer the question asked, or do they change the subject and go off on a tangent? Is their reply work related or do they take a deep dive into their personal life?

There are a few benefits for using STAR questions. One is that by asking each candidate the same question in the same way, you have the opportunity to compare each candidate based on the same criteria. Apples to apples. This can help limit the amount of personal bias that colors your interview. Another benefit is that you are given a sneak peak on how this person will get the job done. If they don’t answer the question and take you on a conversational journey leading who knows where, it may be a sign that they might have a hard time getting to the heart of the task at hand. A candidate who over-shares, or trash talks a former employer, might be showing you their penchant for drama or poor personal boundaries.

It is important to keep in mind that depending on how seasoned an interviewee is, nerves are likely to play a part in how well they come across. Also, don’t forget to consider how your own reactions, including body language, can influence the success of an interview. Which leads us to the next point:

Have you considered your personal biases?

Most people are more comfortable with people with whom they share common ground. Did you go to the same school? Do you belong to the same club? Have you both worked with the same former coworker? When we have a point of connection, it’s only natural to feel more empathy. The challenge here is to consciously challenge your native biases. Does the candidate dress differently than you do? Have a different speech pattern? Come from a different socio-economic background? I know you’re shouting at the screen right now, “We’re an Equal Opportunity Employer!!!”  Of course you are. And at the same time, it could be possible that the candidates you believe will perform exactly the way you need them to, might all end up being just like you.

One example I use is the Myers-Briggs’ Personality Types. If you are an extrovert interviewing an introvert, you might find it disconcerting when the candidate looks off towards the ceiling as they take time to formulate an answer. Conversely if you are an introvert interviewing an extrovert, you might find it unnerving as the candidate appears overly friendly and outspoken.  

Taking this one step further, what happens when as an introvert, you round out your team with a group of introverts – people who recharge themselves by being alone? What will happen when you’re trying to improve processes and challenge the status quo? What if the entire team is composed of extroverts? Will every process designed include lots of group interaction?

By heightening your awareness of your own personal biases, you can become more conscious of how you are tacitly (and not so tacitly) empathizing with interviewees. This opens the door to selecting candidates that represent different viewpoints, creating a more diverse and inclusive team.

How does fear influence your decision?

Often, by the time the hiring requisition has been approved, and HR has recruited and screened enough qualified candidates for a position, you’ve been struggling without the much-needed employee for too long.  You can see the effects of running short staffed: over-worked employees with tempers wearing thin. You need one more person ASAP.

Being worn out from being short staffed might make the ‘good-enough’ candidate seem more attractive. Don’t fall into this trap! It might take a few more days to find the right person, but it’s more painful to continually coach or possibly terminate the candidate who is the wrong fit for the position, than to make the tough decision to wait for the right hire.

How does this candidate fit into your succession plan?

Hopefully your organization has a development plan for every employee. Not only will that help you attract life-long learners who embrace change, but it will help your organization continually adapt to the changing business environment. When you’re interviewing a qualified candidate, try to consider whether this employee is likely to grow with the organization. With the high cost of recruiting, hiring, and training employees, creating a work environment where employees can imagine their future makes good financial and business sense.  

What is your biggest challenge when hiring a new employee?