Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hiring Part One

The nervous twenty-something sat down at a chair I offered him in the break room of the factory where I was hiring. Within a few seconds of meeting him I had a pretty good idea of whether I was going to hire him or not. Some had resumes and ties, some had torn jeans and a ratty shirt, but most had a scared look on their faces. I set them at ease with an offer of something to drink before we sat down and began the interview. After doing hundreds of interviews and hiring dozens of new employees into the company I got pretty good at getting to know people quickly. Let me give you a few quick observations about hiring for jobs.

Resumes are for pinheads. Any good manager can tell more from a handshake and a look in the eye then they could ever from a resume. Only in the MOST technical of jobs do you even need to know any kind of proficiency in tech stuff. You can ALWAYS teach someone to fix and maintain but you can RARELY teach guts, brains, perseverance and interpersonal skills. I know a lot of idiots with great resumes and there “ain’t no fix for stupid.”

Never trust educational background. With less than 50% of our high school graduates knowing how to read and most universities teaching you political views instead of calculus; I would never trust education. Most people learn to take tests. “Will this be on the exam?” And they forget as soon as the last paper is handed in. How much education and where you got it isn’t important. My degrees are more a testament to my perseverance and patience than they are to my knowledge.

Be prejudiced. Hire based on certain prejudices. I am NOT talking about skin color or gender, which makes no difference. I am talking about hiring the RIGHT people for the RIGHT job, whoever that may be. I have felt pressures from every front to hire people who were not right for the job but they were “right” for some other reason. I was asked to hire a person because their family worked in the company, because they came from a certain school, because I needed more minorities in my departments, because they had seniority, and even because they just needed a break. Resist the pressure against hiring the RIGHT person for the RIGHT job, be prejudiced.

Get under their skin. So many interviews I have been in, on both sides of the table, never get under the skin at what the person is really like. How do you get to know a person in that short of time? They walk in. Are they late, RIGHT on time, or early? You see how they are dressed. Are they OVER dressed, appropriate, or UNDER dressed? You shake their hand. Is it strong and confident, wimpy fish-like, crushing, or Monkish where they wipe after they shake? You look them in the eyes. Are they scared, averted, piercing and deep, or bloodshot? You offer them a drink. Do they graciously accept and thank you, decline and thank you, offer to pay, or have their own and pull out a JB from their pocket. You sit down with them. Do they slouch, sit at attention, cross arms and legs, lean towards you or lean away from you?

You haven’t said a word yet but you probably know whether you are going to hire them based on the first few minutes of meeting them. I am now ready for the interview. Sometimes they surprise me and wipe out my first impressions but usually I have only two questions for them ...

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