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Stop Swinging for the Fences: The 3 Can't Miss Qualities to Look for in a Job Applicant.

Updated on July 18, 2021

Stop Swinging for the Fences

There are no home runs when interviewing applicants, but if you get enough base hits you can win the game.
There are no home runs when interviewing applicants, but if you get enough base hits you can win the game. | Source

Your Trying Too Hard

Finding the right mix of people to work with is the most important job you have as a manager. This is not a secret. One of the first bits of training you will have received when becoming a manager involves hiring the right people. You will be issued interview guides, and for those companies that struggle with the training process, they will even provide you with detailed questions you are expected to ask during an interview. Seems a little complicated. Its not as complicated as you might think. I will break it down for you, and make it easy. I will show you 3 things to look for in a candidate when interviewing, that will have your peers asking you how you do it.

With all the tools, training and experience, its hard to understand how interviewing and hiring can be so hit or miss. You can have what you feel to be a wonderful interview. Someone that gave all the right answers. That had great experience. Someone that excels in a second interview with another manager, then explodes into a fit of rage and quits the first time he is corrected by a superior. Where did you go wrong?

Interviewing is made much more complex by the people who know how to act and what answers to give to get hired. There are books, articles and Hubs like this, that teach those skills. Considering the majority of people you interview will know these skills, its easy to understand how hard it is to separate the good candidate from the bad candidate because they all act the same and give the same answers.

We are making it more complicated than it really is. We are trying to find the perfect person, when all we need is the right person. They don't need to be great. They only need to be good. Its up to you to make them great once hired. There are no perfect applicants. But, there are great employees.

Did you know, a great way to tell how well an interview went, is the length of the interview? If you feel you had two people you think had good interviews, but can only hire one, hiring the one whose interview lasted the longest almost always results in choosing the better person for the job.

Whether or not you knew this would work isn't as important as knowing why it works. A long interview usually suggests it went past the required questions of an interview. You spent time talking to the applicant about something other than what was on the template. It also suggests you enjoyed the interview.

The person you hire will likely spend a good deal of time with or around you and others like you. Being able to have a casual conversation in what is usually a stressful situation for both the interviewee and interviewer shows friendliness and integrity, which will help you determine his or her dependability. Finding the right person, is in fact, the same as finding a good person. You will never bat 100, but your chances of scoring will increase dramatically.

Red Flag

Beware the applicant that only gives the answers they think you want to hear.
Beware the applicant that only gives the answers they think you want to hear. | Source

The Nightmare that Could be Interviewing

It Starts with Integrity

The longer an interview lasts, the more likely any inconsistencies will become apparent. The applicant that understands what should be said in an interview and answers questions based on that knowledge is in essence, lying. The talented liars will ensure they have support for their lies. These applicants want a short interview, Usually, this session will end sooner because you and the applicant will not have nearly as much to talk about.

On the other hand, the longer the session goes the more comfortable the applicant should get if he or she is being honest. The honest applicant will also be more willing to voluntarily reveal personal information. This is another sign he or she is being honest. Now, just because they are being honest, doesn't mean you should hire them, or that they don't have integrity issues. One applicant told me he used to take medicine from the closets at the retirement home in which he worked. He was being honest with me; honest about being a thief.

During the interview, a person with strong integrity will also answer your questions about their past experience in detail. Again, they are more worried about giving you a good example versus giving you the right example.

The person with possible issues will give very vague explanations of their work experience. They either don't have any, or are afraid the ones they do have will hurt their chances of getting the job. Asking for numerous examples when you get this feeling, will result in similar or vague responses when dealing with someone that is hiding something.

It is also wise to note the response "personal reasons" as the answer to the question, "Why did you leave this job?" on the candidate's application. Personal reasons are just that, personal. It is something they do not want you to know. That doesn't mean you have the right to pry, but the fact they worded it like that, hints that there is something they do not want you to know. If they feel it will affect their ability to get the job, they are probably right. You don't really have to know why they don't want you to know, to know that you probably shouldn't. Now, I have had the occasional applicant explain what happened without me having to ask. They just appeared to be afraid to right it down.

Build your team with integrity. Your life as a manager will be so much simpler. True integrity is not just a quality of a great employee, but a great person. If you have even the slightest doubt, move on to the next applicant. Don't be afraid to cut an interview short. If you decide not to hire this applicant, you are not only wasting your own time, but theirs as well.

Don't Give in

Ask for the Time

The second, and easiest quality to find is dependability. You can usually cross this one off before you even begin the interview. The dependable person will show up a little early, if not extremely. This translates well once they get the job.

I begin to feel guilty, because I will have several employees sitting in the break room, waiting to clock in for work. I usually let them clock in a few minutes early, but they still end up waiting because they get there way more than a few minutes early. This, by no means is bad. They have actually begun bringing lunch with them, and eating in the break room before work.

Being early doesn't necessarily mean the applicant is dependable, but being late to an interview is a pretty good sign they are not. Once in the door, keep your eyes open for a watch, pen and their appearance. The watch is an old school method of showing you are aware of deadlines. Watches are not nearly as common anymore, because everyone has a cell phone. The prepared applicant will bring a pen, because they just might need to sign something. Dressing up for an interview not only shows respect for you and the job, but that the applicant can handle taking a little extra time to get ready and still be early.

None of these are deal breakers, but they can help you identify the dependability of an applicant before you learn anything else about them. What should be a deal breaker, when it comes to finding the reliable candidate, is the scattered work experience. If he or she has worked at 5 different places in the last 7 months, the chances are they won't last long working with you. You want either someone with no work experience (no bad habits), or someone that has spent considerable time in at least one of their past jobs.

My favorite question in most interviews is "how often would you say it is alright to be late for your scheduled shift?" I like this question, because I very seldom get the correct answer. It is never alright to be late for work. Most people misunderstand the question. What they hear is, "how often is being late for your scheduled shift excusable?" I understand this question, so I don't usually see it as a red flag. Still, once explained, the applicant should be able to agree with the fact that it is never OK to be late. If they continue to argue the point, the interview should be over.

Its About Them, Not You

Character to Work With

The last of the 3 qualities of a good candidate is friendliness. The inherently friendly person can work with anyone. This person is pleasant, and will excel in customer service.

As soon as you have the chance to greet the applicant, notice the smile. If you don't get one, don't cross them off immediately, they may just be nervous. Break the ice with a couple smiles of your own, a simple anecdote or maybe even a corny joke. The candidate with the good heart will attempt to smile back (if he or she were nervous, you would see it in their smile). They might even react to the joke, so as not to make you feel bad. Either way you are looking for the "OMG" look on his or her face. If you get it, it is time to stop wasting each others' time.

You also want to be mindful of the way he or she interacts with current employees at the time of the interview. These will be the people he or she will be working with. If there is no interaction, again he or she may be either shy or nervous. But if rapport is built in the short time the applicant has with your people, the chances of them possessing integrity and dependability are higher.

The friendly person is likely to want to share more of their personality and life with you during the interview. You will also enjoy talking to this person, so the interview may tend to drag on longer than intended.

Like integrity, many people have learned to feign this characteristic. Watch for friendliness, just as you would integrity. The longer the conversation, the more difficult it becomes to hold a smile you are not used to using. You also want to watch for any kinds of complaints about any of their past work experiences, coworkers or customers. The nicer person will not be as apt to say something negative about someone else, no matter how much they dislike them. Remember, Someone is either friendly or they are not, so take complaints about others very seriously.

Things are going well. You have determined the current applicant can not only be trusted but is extremely dependable. Its time to hire them on the spot, right?. Who cares if they might not be that friendly, you can teach them that through training. Wrong. Like integrity and dependability, friendliness is not a learn-able characteristic. These qualities are developed over the entire life of the applicant, through their experience and values. Don't make the mistake of assuming you can improve on what the candidate already is.

Sign of a Good Interview

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You've Built the Team. Now What?

The success of your business depends on the people around you. It doesn't matter what form of business you manage, you cannot do it alone. The people that you work with will directly impact your mental health and work/life balance. So you would figure this is what you would need be best at in order to succeed. On the contrary, building a team is the single most difficult responsibility for most managers. When you reach for that applicant that has all the answers, you are hoping to hire that one person that can right your ship on his or her own. You are swinging for a home run.

You are more likely to succeed by hiring the right applicant, not the perfect one. Unfortunately, until now you may not have known how to find him or her. Its as easy as recognizing 3 specific qualities in the person you are interviewing:

  • Integrity: Ask for detailed examples of work experience, and watch for vague and similar explanations. Look out for anyone that lists "personal" as the reason for leaving past employment.
  • Dependability: If the applicant is late, or not dressed for the interview, don't be afraid to end the interview. No need to waste any ones time. Short term employment at multiple jobs is a good sign your applicant isn't very reliable.
  • Friendliness: Find the smile, even if you have to dig through the nerves. It will be worth it. Watch out for complaints or degrading of other people; especially past coworkers.

Once you have this team, take a look at yourself. Do you possess the three qualities? Chances are you do, or you probably wouldn't hold the position you do. If not, you have work to do, because people with these qualities will see right through you. Then, how do you think they will respond if they feel you are not honest, dependable, or even friendly. You will lose the good people you just found.

Now that you have committed to being the manager your business needs to succeed, you have to develop your team. They are already good, This is where you make them great. You will only do so by leading by example. You will need to be honest with them, show them they can count on you, and deliver the friendliness you expect from them.

It Really is this Easy

Keep Talking
Stop wasting my time
Detailed examples of work experience
Not willing to offer up details without being prodded
Shows up early in presentable attire
Late, and short term experience in multiple jobs
Smiles, and communicates well
Complains about past coworkers

Don't bend on these principles, and lead by example

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2014 Raul Sierra Jr


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