09 May 2008

How to hire the right staff

Make the wrong call on choosing a new staff member and you could be creating future nightmares. How does one make the right choices? Here are are seven questions to ask.

Hiring a new staff member is a tricky and potentially very costly exercise. The wrong person might be quite capable of doing the job, but might cause divisions amongst the staff. Or might not be up to scratch where the work is concerned, but gets on very well with everyone. Both of these are appointment failures.

The first one might get the job done, but cause the productivity of other staff members to drop and the second one turns the workplace into a social club and productivity also flies out the window.

Essentially you are looking for someone pleasant and efficient on whom you can rely. You want to get the job done with the minimum of fuss, in other words.

Good questions to ask when interviewing new staff

Why did you leave your last job?

Bad. If the person says unflattering things about his previous boss or place of employment, be afraid, be very afraid. (-10) Even if it were all true, his loyalty can be questioned, as well as his ability to shoulder a portion of the blame for things going wrong.

Good. If he is still currently employed and just wants more of a challenge, this looks positive.(+10)

What do you think you can contribute to this company?

Bad. Overconfidence is not an attribute. An applicant who has the attitude of wanting to move in and take over, should be avoided at all costs.(-20 points). New ideas are all very well, but there should be some respect for the hard work and input of others that have gone before. You don’t want a newcomer who tells you how you should do your job on Day 1.

Good. It creates a good impression if the applicant has done some research on the company and at least knows what field they’re in. But this is the least they can do ( + 0).Someone who is modest, but not self-deprecating will be an asset to your company. (+10)

Why did you choose this particular career?

Bad. Sheer necessity. While we all need to work to live, one would like someone to have more than a passing interest in the line of work other than having to pay their rent. Desperation is not an attractive prospect generally and it also means that that person will leave your employment the minute something better comes along. Even though times are hard, it does not look good if someone has been unemployed for a long time. (-10)

Good. A real interest in this field. Someone who has always wanted to get involved with the line of business your company is in, even if they are not very experienced.(+10) Sometimes experience is not necessarily a recommendation, especially if someone has learnt habits you then have to undo.

Did you compile your own CV?
Bad. No, it was done by a professional, a friend, a colleague. (-10). Professionally compiled CVs all look the same and don’t really give you a feel for the applicant. If there are spelling errors, or the CV is untidy or there is incorrect information on it, it bodes ill for the level of commitment you can expect from this applicant. (-20) Unless someone is applying for one of the top 20 jobs in the country, a CV of 30 pages is a definite no-no. (-30)

Good. Yes, I did it myself. (+10). It is neat and tidy and short and to-the-point (+20). It has references and relevant certificates attached to it. (+10)

What sort of salary were you thinking of?

Bad. Any definite answer.(-10) Someone who has been around the block will know that one always finds out how much the company is prepared to pay first, before naming any amount. If one is specific, one might very well end up being paid 25 percent less than the company was prepared to fork out. Any mention of financial hardship or family problems is purely manipulative. (-20)

Good. A counter-question regarding the proposed scale of payment. (+10) Flexibility (+10). A definite minimum (+0).

What are your weakest points?

Bad. A diatribe on a catalogue of woes. (-20) If this is the low opinion someone has of themselves, why should you appoint them? Who wants a whinger in the office anyway? After all, getting work done is the main point of your business, not sorting out endless personal problems. Someone who says they have no weaknesses, is also deluded. (-10)

Good. A realistic assessment of a weak link in the chain as far as work is concerned, such as perfectionism, inclination to overwork, or being a lone operator. (+10)

How do you get on with people generally?

Bad. If the applicant is too positive here, subtract 5. What you are looking for is a realistic person, not Miss Congeniality. Presenting only the rosy side, reveals a certain lack of insight as well.

Good. A realistic assessment of positive and negative aspects will earn the applicant points. (+5) If someone stresses that every person gets on better with certain people, but that professional behaviour in the workplace should sort out most problems, your applicant is mature and has insight. (+10)

Susan Erasmus, Health24


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