4 Crucial Traits To Look For In New Hires
Originally published: 04.01.12 by Patrick Valtin
John was a successful HVACR contractor. Pressured by the expansion of his practice, he decided to hire an office manager. Alice had the solid resume. On paper she was the perfect fit. But during the next five months, she damaged the business beyond repair. When John found out that Alice’s rough personality (undetected during the interview) was the major reason for his customers’ sudden lack of loyalty, he fired her. The next week she sued him for breach of “implied contract,” as her probationary period was over. Final resolution of the case was an award of $550,000 to Alice. John was forced to sell his practice in order to comply with the legal judgment.
John could have prevented this disaster by using these four keys to effective hiring, which are sequential:
1. Performance mindset: Your highest priority is detecting naturally high performers. The No. 1 reason you hire someone is to get the job done — whatever the job is. Most business owners and hiring managers evaluate candidates with their hearts rather than with their heads. Emotions control the process.
• Does the applicant mention measurable results/achievements in his/her resume or job application?
• How about references that clearly support his/her achievements?
• Does the applicant provide practical, results-oriented examples of some past performance, rather than mostly action-oriented ones?
• Does the applicant feel at ease with your results-oriented questions?
2. Willingness. Many call it “positive attitude.” Some people are naturally willing to work hard, to learn more, and to do new things. Showing a positive attitude when problems arise can make the difference between hell and paradise in the working environment, especially when working in a team.
Willingness to learn, acceptance of heightened responsibility, and going beyond expectations are so important! When asked why they usually fire employees, only 9% of business owners said “inability to do the job.” But 69% of them cited attitude-related reasons, such as absenteeism and tardiness, bad attitude, or work ethics; 22% mentioned other attitude-related reasons.
There are a few good detectors that can help you to separate top players with high willingness and the right attitude:
• When asked, the applicant can easily provide examples of situations on the job where he/she had to demonstrate a positive attitude in order to solve a problem or challenge.
• When challenged during a simulation or role-playing, the applicant shows evidence of willingness to respond and solve the problems.
• The applicant can show evidence of willingness when he/she had to solve problems in order to help a group.
3. Know-how. You want to have competent employees who can master at least the basic technical skills as required on the job. In a 2010 national survey of employers, more than 70% of managers revealed that recently hired high school students proved to be deficient in basic academic skills, such as grammar, spelling, and written communications.
The best and easiest way to measure an applicant’s practical, non-academic skills is to put the person to the test. Here are some important rules, no matter what the desired technical skills are:
• Never trust academic or educational evidence of know-how found in the resume.
• Never rely on an applicant’s previous experience to demonstrate technical know-how for your vacant position.
• Test. Right in the interview, put the applicant in a real (best) or simulated (second best) situation and observe his/her action — and reactions.
4. Personality. Measure personality last; not because it is the least important evaluation criterion, but because if you let yourself be influenced by a “nice” personality, it could offer trouble, or destroy your business! The golden rule is: Never trust what you see during the interview. Too many employers fail to detect the difference between temporary personality and the lasting one.
Our experience has shown that the simplest and most effective approach in detecting job-related personality factors is the following:
• When you develop your job description, make a full list of soft skills vital to the job.
• Honesty being a crucial soft skill, you can start checking it through resumes/job applications and phone screenings. If you have doubts or reservation, challenge the applicant on any nebulous topic during the interview. Also use reference and background checks to confirm your doubts.
• During the first interview, focus on the first three points I discussed. Ensure that you have prepared simulations or scenarios that challenge the applicant on each of these selection criteria.
• Remember: People reveal themselves best when they are confronted with unprepared or unexpected situations. Challenge is the key word.
Ensure your hiring procedure focuses on “invisible” personality-related skills. Business is often a gamble, and the odds of success lean on your ability to judge potential employees. n
Patrick Valtin is the author of the No-Fail Hiring book and an international public speaker. His No-Fail Hiring System has been used by thousands of small businesses of all kinds of industries. To find out more about his speaking and training, visit
www.patrickvaltin.com or call 877-831 2299.
Articles by Patrick Valtin
Have a Plan Before You Hire
4 Crucial Traits To Look For In New Hires
Look for these “invisible” attributes to find high-performance employees.