What Are The Best Criteria To Hire New Employees?

What are the best criteria to hire new employees? Character trumps everything when hiring people. We can upgrade skills, but it’s almost impossible to train values and ethics.

In my 32-years business career, mainly in executive positions, I hired many people. In hindsight, some were exceptional. Others fitted well. But a few did not pan out. Hiring the right person challenged me. It was an area I studied, discussed with experts, yet each senior-level-hire created anxiety.

What Are The Best Criteria To Hire New Employees? Character first
What Are The Best Criteria To Hire New Employees? Character first

We did a job specification  showing the needs of the job. We prepared a job description with the profile of the person needed. Then, we provided equal chance for all job seekers so we might get the best person for the job.

Best Criteria To Hire New Employees: Character First

What was my problem? How would I get to know each candidate? How would I go beyond résumés and application forms to learn about each person? I was sure each person would have a super résumé. Besides, I felt sure each would be well coached. Interviewees knew they were selling their skills. They knew they needed to perform well. And usually they acted brilliantly.

How did I cope with the challenge? In two ways. First, I ignored résumés. Second, I tried to focus on the person and not the job.

People are the most important part of every firm. Without committed, dedicated people, a business will be sub-optimal. We knew we needed the right people in the right slots for success. Some firms with poor human resources’ practices will appear to do well in the short-term. But they will not thrive long-term. We wanted long-term, super results from people. So, we tried to create conditions so they would feel trusted, respected, and valued.

Best Criteria To Hire New Employees: Beware of Résumés

Why did I ignore résumés? They are marketing tools and recruiters view them as such. Indeed,  research by The Ladders.com, an online job-matching service for professionals, found recruiters spend little time on résumés. On average they spend six seconds looking at a résumé before the first decision on a job seeker! That’s why job applicants try to present the most impressive résumés to get that first phone call from a hiring company.

Besides, according to a Business Insider study, 31% of people lied on their résumés. Candidates overstate feats, extend work experiences, make up degrees. Indeed, one of my failed recruits for a senior professional job lied about his degree. He seemed to be the perfect candidate. On the surface, he had the right experience and skills, and he performed well in interviews. But somehow our human resources people did not catch his fake degree. Not surprisingly, shortly after hiring him, we fired him.

Best Criteria To Hire New Employees Character Trumps Everything
Best Criteria To Hire New Employees Character Trumps Everything

To my second point: Why didn’t I discuss job needs with candidates? The person is more important than the job. Each person is unique. I needed to know this person. Who is he or she? What makes her tick? What attitude will she bring to the firm?

It was easy to check candidates’ experiences and qualifications. I tried to learn about her character, her attitude, personality. These are highly subjective traits and difficult to assess.

Sure we can do personality tests. But there are potential issues with them. I prefer to chat with the person. Ideally with the talk balance 75% for the candidate.

Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in their book, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, suggest firms select people with character. That’s people whose attitudes will redefine how a job is done. The authors say they resist the urge to hire people whose skills are a good match for an existing job. Instead, they hire folks whose talents will redefine the job.

So, what are the best criteria to hire new employees? I looked for someone with good values and ethics who would respond well to being valued highly and treated with dignity and respect. I wanted a spirited, motivated, reliable, teachable, loyal, and open person. To be sure, these character traits are difficult to see in a regular interview. However, they will ooze out when we allow job seekers to relax and talk in a safe setting.

© 2014, Michel A. Bell

Michel A. Bell

Michel A. Bell is a former senior business executive, author of six books (including Business Simplified released in 2018), speaker, and adjunct professor of business administration at Briercrest College and Seminary. Michel is a Fellow of the Chartered Certified Accountants (UK), holds a Masters of Science in management degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Doctor of Business Administration honoris causa from Briercrest College and Seminary. He is founder and president of Managing God's Money.

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