Finding, hiring the right workers

February 27, 2017 By    
Photo: iStock.com/JanuszT

Photo: iStock.com/JanuszT

Customers are increasing. Sales are improving. Profits are rising. It’s time, you’ve decided, to add a go-getter to your sales staff.

But how can you pick the right candidate?

The answer’s critical to success. Hire right and the world’s your oyster. Great employees help your business grow by dealing productively with customers.

“The best people are self-motivated, talented and trainable,” says Mel Kleiman, director of Houston-based Humetrics, an employment consulting firm. “They hold themselves accountable and they take responsibility. Those are the people you want.”

Hire wrong, though, and the story’s different. Unproductive employees toss monkey wrenches into your operation and too often quit, leaving you in the lurch.

“You end up wasting a lot of time and money trying to recruit, advertise and cover shifts for the lack of a good hire,” says Richard Avdoian, an employee development consultant in St. Louis.

It’s much more cost-effective to interview well, establish a structured orientation and maintain an ongoing training schedule so you are continually enticing people to stay. Here’s how.

Make a list

Know what you want before you start looking.

“The No. 1 mistake is going shopping without a list,” Kleiman says. “Too often employers don’t have any idea about the qualities they are looking for in a new hire.”

What characteristics make a star employee?

“Think about the best person who has held the open position in your business, or whom you have seen holding the same job elsewhere,” explains human resources consultant Rebecca Mazin, a cofounder of Tarrytown, New York-based Recruit Right. “Then identify the characteristics that made that person so effective.”

There’s one personality trait that likely stands out above the rest.

“The most important characteristic is enthusiasm,” says Alan Weiss, president of Summit Consulting Group in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. “You’re better off hiring someone with enthusiasm and no expertise than expertise and no enthusiasm.”

And enthusiasm is something you have to buy out of the box, not add to the mix later, Weiss adds.

Fortunately, you can tell in your interviews if a candidate has the right degree of personal passion.

“Is the person passive and laid back, just reacting to you?” Weiss asks. “That’s not a good sign.”

Instead, you should look for someone who answers your questions with a story and a laugh, and then follows up with relevant responses.

In other words, look for someone who is a master of the conversational skills so valuable when dealing with all aspects of the public.

Says Weiss: “The behavior you see in the interview is the behavior you get in real life.”

Leading questions

Great employees help your business to grow by dealing productively with customers. Photo courtesy of AmeriGas

Great employees help your business to grow by dealing productively with customers. Photo courtesy of AmeriGas

Plan ahead with some questions that can uncover qualities of star employees.

“Ask behaviorally based questions,” Mazin says. “Remember that past behavior is the best prediction of future performance. So rather than ask ‘How would you handle a busy day?’ ask ‘Tell me about a time when you had a busy day and you got everything done.’ Or [ask for] ‘a time you were not able to do everything, and what did you do about it?’”

Ask for specific examples, she says.

Avoid the commonly used questions that are too open ended such as “What are your strengths?” Mazin suggests.

“Any good candidate has a list of these questions and has already prepared canned answers.”

Here are some additional questions:

■ “Have you been involved with groups of people?”

“If not, they may not be extroverts,” Avdoian says. “You need people who are not shy with others.”

■ “In your last job, were the responsibilities you were hired for different from the responsibilities you have today?”

“The best applicants will say their responsibilities were different,” Kleiman says. “Then follow up with ‘How did you learn the new responsibilities?’ If they answer with something like ‘I had to figure it out,’ that shows motivation.”

■ Try a role play.

“Pretend you are a prospect and ask the applicants to converse with you,” Avdoian explains. “See how comfortable they are. Dealing with the public is all about approachability and ease in initiating and conducting conversations.”

And while you are talking with the applicant, look for these personal traits:

■ Do they have good eye contact?

“Because of the internet, more people today are limited in their social
interactions, and some even become antisocial,” Avdoian says. “The person not comfortable talking with you and making eye contact may not be receptive with customers.”

■ Can they converse?

“Ask open-ended questions and see how well they speak,” Avdoian says. “Can they improvise on the spot? Can they give you two or three sentences that make sense?”

Finally, don’t rely on one conversation with the candidate.

“A single interview might be good or bad, but you need a greater opportunity to assess the applicant,” Weiss says. “I suggest a minimum of three interviews so you know what you see is indeed real. They can be brief, maybe 30 or 40 minutes.”

Get another viewpoint by scheduling one interview conducted by someone else.

Sell yourself

Remember that you and your business are also being assessed. Make a bad impression and your best candidates will go elsewhere.

“To attract the star employees, put together a 10-point list of why people should work for you,” Kleiman suggests. Fill in your list by talking with your best employees about why they like working at your business.

Run through these top-10 workplace characteristics with candidates, Kleiman says. Then ask, “Which is the most important to you?” The answers will not only “sell” the candidates on your business, but will also reveal each one’s key motivators.

You can also create a favorable environment by introducing promising candidates to your current workforce.

“Seeing people obviously enjoying their work says more about the organization than anything you can tell the prospect,” Weiss says. “When people who work for you demonstrate that they love the workplace, it makes a big impression on the applicant.”

Plan for success

Smart hiring practices help your business grow as motivated, success-minded employees sell more by engaging productively with customers. Draw up a smart hiring plan and then work your plan.

“If you have a great hiring system, you will hire great people,” Kleiman says. “So build a system that works.”

The right hiring procedures will lay the groundwork for success far beyond the lifetime of your next employee.

“If you hire the right people and let them grow, when they do leave your business they will act as ambassadors, speaking highly about you to other potential employees,” Avdoian says.

“When it comes to hiring the top people, it’s much easier to be hunted than to be the hunter,” he says.


Where are the best candidates?

Smart interviewing tactics reveal personal characteristics that help the best candidates stand out. But how do you attract a great crop of candidates in the first place? Start at home.

“View people in your current workforce as recruiters,” says Alan Weiss, president of Summit Consulting Group. “Tell them you are hiring and you would love recommendations. If you already have an enthusiastic workforce, they will find similar people.”

Expand your reach into community organizations.

“The best employers are always networking,” says Rebecca Mazin, cofounder of human resources consultant Recruit Right. “Always talk with people and find out what they do. Keep alert for prospects through organizations such as your Chamber of Commerce, business associations and the gym.”

Seek out creative ways to reach into the community.

“Even small employers can talk at local colleges,” Mazin says. “Or consider hosting student tours of your workplace. Identify prospects early and frequently, and keep in touch.”


Managing millennials

The times are changing, and the younger generation requires special treatment to perform well.

“When the Great Recession hit in 2008, millennials saw their relatives downsized and people in general lose their jobs,” says Richard Avdoian, an employee development consultant in St. Louis. “There was a resulting mind shift, so that people under 40 now see themselves as ‘on loan’ to you rather than working for you. In effect they are saying, ‘I will stay here and work hard as long as you invest in where I am going next.’ And they expect training to help them advance on their career path. If you do not provide that training, you may not keep your best employees.”

Also, Avdoian says, you need to understand that millennials have been pampered, protected and guarded, and given praise and incentives even when they were not doing so well. As a result, they need more parenting and encouragement and affirmation.

“You need to treat them more parentally,” Avdoian says. “That doesn’t necessarily mean you should pamper them, but it does mean you should praise them. If you don’t, they may leave.”

When hiring millennials, Avdoian says, let them know how you praise your employees so they know what to expect. And ask them questions about their life plans. What kind of job are they seeking? Where are they going next? This will help you retain your high flyers as long as you can.

Finally, millennials have preferences in how they work, so be sure to provide office tools to which they are accustomed.

“Ask them what type of phone they prefer and what pens they like to use,” Avdoian explains. “Do they like using an iPad or a laptop? Give them what they are most accustomed to using so they can hit the ground running.”


Propane industry voices: speaking of millennials

I’ve seen a number of millennial-aged people with very strong core values that align with Generation X. We’re going to be just fine.

They learn differently, they work differently. We have to adapt with practices that they’ve come accustomed to. They grew up in a technology world.

I’ve come to appreciate how hard they’re willing to work. They work right alongside the people who have been there 10 or 15 years. They want to learn. They are inspired.

That’s a generational thing we always go through. My generation – I’m a Gen Xer, mid-40s. If you think of the generation ahead of me that didn’t have computers, they went through that same change as now. Certainly it was brand new to them. So they had to adapt and accept. We were pressing them just like millennials [are pressing us]. They (millennials) have so many opportunities coming that we couldn’t even have imagined. They can adapt and apply.

I have a 20 year old and a 22 year old. Both boys. College-aged kids. I see the propane industry or energy industry as a safe, quality place to work and raise a family. It’s resilient and it creates opportunities.

If we give young people or sales folks the confidence around what they’re selling and marketing, the ability to be successful with it, that’s only going to help us to build a platform to keep growing. We’ve got to give them the tools to be successful.

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