Increasingly, the most valuable asset of a job applicant isn’t a specialized knowledge of one particular field (for example, architecture or engineering). The most valuable assets of a job applicant often are skills increasingly common to all job positions.
Computer literacy. Look for the individual who can analyze and interpret computer information, who can assist the organization in making the best use of this technology.
Ability to use information. The person who knew everything that could be said about one aspect of the business has been replaced by the computer and the Internet. Look for the applicant who acquires critical information rapidly and knows the difference between relevant and irrelevant material.
Capacity to be a team player. Today’s emphasis is on team playing — collaborating, listening and arriving at decisions by group consensus. Team playing also requires that employees express concerns and discuss problems in a non-threatening, constructive manner.
Strategic vision. For example, ask applicants, “What ideas did you have at your last job to make it a better place?”
Presentation skills. These abilities go hand-in-hand with strategic vision. An employee might have clever, innovative ideas. But they are of no value if he or she can’t sell you or others on the vision.
Familiarity with change. More and more, in today’s business climate, the only constant is change. You want an employee who is comfortable with — and even encourages — constructive change in the workplace.
Time management. You want an employee who promptly deals with hassles and yet finishes a project on time. Ask an applicant what he or she considers to be the key elements of time management.
Independent judgment and discretion. What experience does an applicant have with independent thinking? Ask: “How and when did you act outside of normal procedures?”
Personal accountability. For example, ask applicants, “What past mistakes offered you a unique learning experience?”
Avoid Firing, Hire Carefully
Anyone who has ever fired an employee knows it is not a pleasant experience, no matter what the reason. It can be costly, too, if the terminated employee receives unemployment compensation.
Two of the top reasons given for terminating an employee are poor performance and bad attitude. These two causes alone are not acceptable for denial of unemployment benefits!
How can you avoid this trap door of unemployment expense in ridding your organization of a poor-performing or disruptive employee? In many cases, the problem may go back as far as the day these employees were hired, and their attitude and work problems may be as much your fault as theirs. Here are four tips to reduce termination headaches:
Avoid the “warm body” syndrome. Sometimes, if a job has been vacant for a long time and work is piling up, it is tempting to hire the next “warm body” that walks through the door. Make sure the person is qualified.
Check references carefully and make other calls. Job applicants are always going to name people who will speak well of them as references. Perhaps someone else who works at the same place as the reference could provide a more unbiased opinion. Better yet, contact an applicant’s previous supervisors.
Don’t ignore tip-offs to potential problems. If you are “sold” on a particular applicant and are ready to offer the person a job, don’t tune out signs of trouble.
Example: A supervisor interviewed several candidates for a job and liked one applicant much better than the others. She made one call to a previous employer before making the job offer. The former employer gave the applicant high job marks — except for occasional, unexplained absences. The supervisor asked for no explanation, presuming the person had occasional bouts with colds and flu. She didn’t learn until the applicant was hired that the new employee lacked the self-discipline to report to work as scheduled.
Make sure newly hired employees get the supervision and training they need to do the job properly. If they don’t know how to do the job, they won’t do it well.