"Every role, performed at excellence, requires talent"

Marcus Buckingham, First, Break All the Rules

Most managers have had the experience of hiring someone who seemed like a dream during the interview, and turned out to be a nightmare on the job. All managers secretly pray that the people they hire don't turn out to be incompetent (or worse). Every once in awhile we hit gold and hire someone who turns out to be a star performer. How can you increase the odds of success?

  • Learn the unique qualities of your best performers

     – Identify those employees you would most like to clone (wouldn't that be nice?). Spend time with those individuals in order to understand what makes them successful in their jobs and differentiates them from their peers. Observe their behaviors as they do the job and contrast those behaviors with those of average performers. Ask them about their thought process in accomplishing their duties. While there are "profiling" tools that assist with this process, it is invaluable for you as a leader to personally understand the qualities that lead to high degrees of success in those positions that directly report to you. It takes time and effort, but selecting the right people is the top responsibility of any manager.
  • Enlist the assistance of your top performers in the interview process

     – Since you want more employees with the qualities possessed by your top performers, let your top performers spend some time with candidates. You will clearly need to conduct some coaching with these individuals, discussing the questions you would like them to ask and the aspects of the job you want them to discuss with the candidate. The point is, they know what it takes to do the job in an excellent and manner and can:
  1. Communicate the realities of the job to the candidate.
  2. Help you decide if the candidate possesses the success qualities you are looking for.
  • Model the organization's service philosophy during the interview

     – Training actually begins the moment an applicant says, "I'm here to apply for a job." Throughout the interview process the applicant is picking up clues regarding the culture of the company. There are no second chances with this. You can discuss your corporate culture with the applicant, but if it doesn't match their actual experience, the experience will prevail. For instance, if responsiveness is said to be valued, and an applicant is treated as an interruption, the interview process seems disjointed and inefficient, this will tell the applicant the true culture regardless of what you say. The process must be carefully orchestrated, and everyone must know exactly what to do and say when someone announces, "I'm here to apply for a job."
  • Keep the applicant pipeline full

     – Hiring the best applicants is directly related to the number of qualified applicants coming through the door. If you wait until you need to hire a new employee to begin looking for one, you are likely to settle, as opposed to hiring the best. Always be on the lookout for potential outstanding associates. If you are looking for a service representative and receive excellent service from someone in a similar position, offer your business card in case the person is looking for a career change. Anytime the local newspaper announces a business closing or layoffs, meet with the company's HR department to identify potential, high performing applicants.

    It is becoming more and more common for companies to offer incentives to current employees for referring applicants. Sometimes the incentive is based on whether the applicant is hired and completes a probationary period. It is recommended to go one step further. The incentive should also be based on the new employee achieving a designated level of performance at the conclusion of the probationary period. This encourages excellent referrals instead of mediocre referrals.

While the actions outlined above are time consuming, they are far less time consuming than being in constant crisis mode due to an "employee revolving door." The big payoff comes over time, when consistent application of a disciplined selection process results in a reputation for hiring individuals who possess the qualities that deliver service excellence.

About the Author
Dennis Snow is the president of Snow & Associates, Inc. Dennis worked with the Walt Disney World Company for twenty years and now consults with organizations around the world, helping them achieve their customer service goals. He is the author of "Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service" and "Lessons From the Mouse: A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life." You can reach Dennis at (407) 294-1855 or visit his website at www.snowassociates.com.