Hiring woes

Q: My manager is the worst interviewer in the world. He just
chit-chats with candidates. He doesn’t really interview them. We end up
hiring these new employees who are really not qualified and make
everyone else miserable. They don’t show up for work, they annoy others
because they don’t have basic work skills and they don’t care about our
customers. The original team is very committed to our customers. What
should we do?

A: Working with colleagues who are less committed can be
de-motivating. It sounds like you have a core team who are very focused
on delivering results to your customers. Your manager should be asking
questions about customer service, after a few “chit-chat” questions.

Beginning an interview with a few non-interview questions is fine.
Questions like “Did you find us ok?” or “When will spring really begin?”
are all ways to warm up a candidate and set the tone for a friendly
back and forth. However, it sounds like customer service skills are
critical. Some questions that your manager might want to ask are:

1. Tell me about your customer service experience.

2. Describe to me a time when you have had to interact with a very challenging customer.

3. What has been your favorite role of your career? If the candidate
does not mention one with customer interaction, this might be a yellow
flag. What has been the least favorite role of your career? Again, if
the candidate includes a role with heavy customer interaction, this
could be a concern.

4. How would you describe a strong co-worker?

5. How would your former co-workers describe you?

6. Describe to me the last piece of negative feedback a supervisor shared with you.

Notice I shared questions where a simple yes or no wouldn’t suffice. I
focused on customer service skills and how this candidate interacts
with co-workers. We have all worked with colleagues who are helpful and
will chip in when a co-workers is harried or overwhelmed. When they are
able, they assist a colleague. Then, we have those that look the other
way when a co-worker is struggling. Or they volunteer for a project and
and you find them surfing the net picking out new shoes. It is
frustrating and I have worked with both types.

Every hire is a risk. In a relatively short amount of time, an
interviewer has to assess a number of factors, including skill (can the
candidate do the job?), cultural fit (can they add to the work
environment or will they detract from it?), and co-worker relations (can
they work well with others on the team, if this is important). In our
firm, we help clients terminate more employees for cultural fit and how
well (or not well!) they work with others. If a colleague can contribute
to your work environment or positive co-worker relations, they are
usually a keeper!

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.