Getting Beyond the Rehearsed Blather in Recruiting

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Getting Beyond the Rehearsed Blather in Recruiting

Last week I had a short, informal coaching conversation with an experienced, level 2 retail manager. Soon to be involved with staffing a new store, he was concerned about the recruiting process, and the fact that many candidates today show up with their promotional blather fairly well rehearsed, and a modicum of experience with behaviorally-anchored interview techniques. “I’m concerned”, he said, “that some of them are so well rehearsed that my BS meter may not go off, and I’ll wind up hiring a couple of bozos.”

I asked what, aside from character (e.g., the ability to reliably tell the difference between the company’s stuff and personal possessions) were the three greatest critical success factors he was seeking. His answers, in no particular order, were:

1. A self-starter – someone who sees what needs to be done and doesn’t wait to be told what to do.

2. Someone who, regardless of chronological age, is an adult. They show up prepared, don’t take more than their share of the oxygen in the room, and clean up their messes.

3. Someone who plays nice with others – it’s not always about them. They notice others,  listen, smile, care, and say thank you.

The rest, he said, he could teach them. I offered him four suggestions:

1. After a paper (resume or application) screening, begin the interview process via phone. It’s more convenient for both parties, and allows you to efficiently verify a sufficient community of mutual interest before getting dressed up.

2. Keep doing the behaviorally-based interviews, but listen more and a lot harder. In my experience, even seasoned recruiters do too much talking in interviews, consuming as much as seventy percent of the available time. The more unprepared they are, the more they talk. They don’t allow dead space (silence), which frequently prompts a job candidate to expand on a previous answer, or volunteer other information. Allow more time between interviews to give yourself time to finish your note-taking and reflect, before preparing for the next interview.

3. Build some simple “tests” into the interview process. I’m fond of leaving a gum wrapper or other small piece of trash on the floor in the doorway to my office – something the applicant will literally have to step over. Do they stop and pick it up, or ignore it? I suggested that he instruct applicants to show up for the interview, fully prepared, as if they were going to work a shift that day. His company doesn’t furnish uniforms, and it would be very easy for an applicant to stop in a store and ascertain the dress code prior to the interview, and then comply with it. And, as an additional way of checking preparedness, I suggested that he have someone call the applicant’s cell phone during the interview – to verify that it’s off, and to observe their behavior if it isn’t.

4. Finally, with respect to playing nice with others, I suggested that candidates who are still “green lighted” go to lunch with a group of three or four people who would potentially be their peers. It affords each party to examine the other in a different context.

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