Hiring A Great Employee Series Part 4: Skill Set

Hiring A Great Employee Series Part 4: Skill Set

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  Human Resources and Hiring

Hiring A Great Employee Series
Part 4: Skill Set

A place where I will never go again: I have looked at an outstanding resume with excellent job experiences and a tremendous list of qualifications only to have been duped by a terrible employee. I can tell you exactly where I went wrong. I hired someone who told me how perfect they would be and I am certain they believed it. I hired someone who does not listen to a word that I am saying; someone that takes no direction or criticism; someone that thinks their way is just plain better than everyone else’s. I appeared to them as someone that they did not need until the tip of my pen was set against the paper that signed their last check. How could my first impressions have been so wrong? Maybe they used a resume service; maybe they practiced answering questions in a positive light; maybe they read the book on how to win friends and influence people; maybe they are so good at lying that I am easily deceived. I hired someone who lacks some basic skill sets.

I have changed my approach in the hiring process to find the missing piece of determining if a hopeful applicant has the needed skill set to perform our job duties. Sure, I am still looking for a qualified resume followed by positive interview to move into the next phase of my employee search. But I have added a skill set test. I need to know if this applicant can take a verbal or written instruction and move it to an action. Simply put, how well do they listen and then perform? I am looking for a candidate who desires to be a part of a team, thrives on learning new things, pays close attention to detail, turns listening into action and strives to improve themselves both personally and professionally. Sounds impossible, but it isn’t.

I give a skills test in two sections. The first is a short listening drill where I introduce myself and convey my company’s goals. I then proceed with several unique features of our practice. Lastly, I finish with a few upsides (great clients, challenging cases and something new every day) and a few possible downsides (long hours, grief, cleaning up manure) that can occur while working in our practice. I slide a quick quiz in front of the candidate(s). The interviewee is asked a few simple questions:
What is a goal of the practice?
Name a unique feature of the practice.
Name 3 upsides and three downsides that can occur in our practice.
Why do you think you would be a good fit for this position?

Once the prospective applicant has completed the test, a second quiz can be offered. This quiz includes a few math questions and a couple of word problems and that can be easily modified to fit most operations. I am amazed at how well some people will do on these quizzes. It becomes very clear which applicants are interested in the job and capable of thriving. These candidates are quickly offered a working interview. On the other hand, I am floored at how poorly some finish. Sadly, it is evident that some folks do not listen to a word that I say. How would they survive assisting another employee, serving a client or taking care of an animal if they lack the ability to listen and react appropriately? They would fail miserably. These failed candidates obviously have to be cut loose. Thank them for their time and inform them that you will make your decision within 24 hours. The skill set tests can be a performed in a one-on-one situation or in a group interview setting. These assessments save me from conducting a working interview in the face of unsatisfactory applicants and turns my focus to the remaining candidates, while the great listeners float with ease to the top of the applicant pile.

About the Author
Dr. Colleen Lewis is a 1996 graduate of Kansas State University, College of Veterinary Medicine. Her career has taken her to many places as a practice owner, consultant, embryologist, and mentor. She enjoys mixed animal practice, teaching, traveling, farming and high school sports with her husband, Andrew and their three boys.

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