How to Hire Employees You Can Trust
Choose the staff who make your business inviting to customers and profitable for you
Most customers are looking for more than the latest model or best price. They want to engage with employees who not only know the products and services, but are also sensitive to their needs. Savvy business owners treasure the peace of mind that comes from having employees with whom they can communicate easily, and are eager to help the business be successful.
Have you ever lost sleep over having to reprimand or fire an employee? Most likely this was due to an unpleasant interaction with you, a co-worker, or worse—a customer. Many managers were taught to look for candidates with a background in needed skills. For businesses that depend on excellent customer service, it’s often wiser to hire people who naturally care about others. This is because it is easier to train good-hearted people in practical skills than to try to teach empathy.
You may wonder if you have the knowledge, skill, or patience to direct such a hiring process. Take heart. If you love your business and know your customers, you have all the information you need.
Hire In Haste, Repent In Leisure
It’s tempting to hire someone after one lively conversation. However, this magical feeling of rapport is only one of many important elements that may indicate a good fit. A thorough hiring process benefits everyone. You gain the confidence to make a commitment to new employees, and they are invited to communicate honestly with you.
For twenty years as a psychotherapist and business consultant, I have counseled business owners in solving problems caused by mismatched, unproductive, or insensitive personnel. The best way to avoid this struggle is to use a hiring process that highlights interpersonal qualities as well as an aptitude for the job.
Three Elements of a Thorough Hiring Process
To identify a candidate’s personal qualities, a hiring process needs three distinct elements of screening, probation, and evaluation. Each step gives you the opportunity to determine if a prospective employee can help you meet the goals unique to your business. No one can hurry this exploration and count on good results.
Using all three elements allows you to detach from the natural tendency to want to like and be liked. You are not pressured to make an important decision with too little information. Your reward will be finding employees who make your business a delight for the customers, co-workers, and you.
A. Screening For Qualities As Well As Skills
Promise yourself to base this important decision on more than an initial interview. People who shine under pressure and claim dazzling skills will not necessarily have empathy for customers or loyalty to you. Someone who appears less confident initially may turn out to be an ideal employee.
Make sure the job application includes questions to answer in writing: describe interests, unusual background, or skills. Find out if they are artists or photographers, what their hobbies are. Where have they traveled? What books do they read?
You can sense how they’d interact with your customers while discussing their interests and experience. You can weigh their ability to carry on unpressured conversation, which is a basis of good sales and customer satisfaction.
Getting the Most from the Initial Interview
This is where you learn if job candidates follow your instructions, respect your time, and how they would dress for work. Schedule at least an hour--you do not want to hurry this process. Use the following guidelines to make your meeting as productive as possible:
· Throughout the interview, remind yourself to stay neutral and avoid showing negative reactions or giving eager praise during an interview. Breathe easily to keep calm and centered. Allow short silences between your questions. Pay attention to expressions and body language as well as words.
· Hold the interview at your business, even if it means meeting before or after regular working hours. It’s important for them to see the workplace and for you to watch their responses.
· Make it clear you want them to arrive on time, dressed for work, with a fully completed application, and three work and two personal references.
· Ask them to write their reasons for wanting to work in your business. Include a request to write briefly about personal interests and unique experiences. Note if the handwriting is legible (ask for a sample during this meeting if the application is typed).
Begin the interview by reading the application with care. Did they follow instructions? How do they communicate in writing? Invite them to discuss work and life experiences, and if there was anything they want to add after they’ve seen your business. Notice if they interrupt you and how thoughtfully they answer questions. You’re looking for clues about their ability to listen to customers and other staff.
Use Educational Questions In Screening
Always use a script when interviewing candidates. Prepared questions allow you to focus on the most important topics. Avoid setting them up for “yes/no” answers. Take this opportunity to educate them about the responsibilities of the job.
Give real examples from your own experience. You want them to see the importance of discretion and customer service. Let their answers direct your follow-up comments and queries to disclose their strengths and limitations. The following questions take you deeper than surface impressions.
· What do you imagine you would like best about working here?
Caution: a) It’ll be easier than my last job. b) “I don’t know.” or“I haven’t thought about it.”
Welcome: a) “I love the kinds of projects and products you have.” b) “I like helping people.” c) “I’m intrigued by what you do/sell.”
Follow up comment and questions: The most important part of the job may be helping customers who are looking for solutions. Some will be anxious about discussing private problems with a stranger. Ask your prospective employee:
· How would you go about helping a customer feel welcome?
· How do you think you would handle a delicate or complicated request if you didn’t know what resources we could offer?
Give examples of the kinds of customer questions or problems typically faced in your business, and ask how they might handle them. The response shows a great deal about the prospect’s level of skill, sensitivity, and personal style.
The job is undoubtedly more complicated than an applicant could initially perceive. Discuss challenges you’ve had to handle in your business. Then ask the prospect:
· How do you best learn new skills and routines?
Caution: a) Just tell me what to do. a) I don’t know (or a shrug). c) I can handle it; it’s not that different from my last job.
Welcome: a) Show me exactly how you want me to do things. b) Explain how I can do things the best way possible. c) “I’ll watch and ask other staff.” d) “I’d love to learn more about ______.”
Follow-up comment and questions: It’s your job to watch for where employees are doing well and where they need training. This includes appearance and work habits, and how they interact with you, other staff, and customers. Pay attention to how they talk to you. Will you enjoy training them? Do you think this candidate will be able to ask questions of you?