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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What skills are you seeking in your employees?
Seth Godin's blog posting "What are you hiring for?" resonates with me. Great cover letters, interviewing skills, resumes, and all that stuff are absolutely useless when it comes down to the skills and traits we are looking for in employees. What really matters is, can the prospective employee do the work required excellently, with good integrity, and in a manner that supports rather than destroys the overall enterprise.
Of course, it is never easy to find truly great employees. We've been advertising for some time now, and have received hundreds of initial applications, but even now we haven't committed to hiring anyone (though there are a few serious candidates). Our hiring system is challenging but fair.

  1. We don't read nor screen resumes at the initial stage. Virtually everyone who applies is sent a questionnaire. It describes the work, and asks a few questions that give us an idea of whether the candidate is suitable for the work.
  2. We only review resumes for people who answer the questionnaire. At that point, we compare the resume with the answers; and look for understanding and comprehension, and (if appropriate) relevant experience and proof of qualifications. We also review our "are there any skeletons in your closet" question -- we aren't checking references at this stage, but invite candidates to tell us if there will be any problems when we do.
  3. Then we have a phone interview. This is brief, allows us to probe a bit deeper, and then determine whether the matter should be reviewed further.
  4. For sales candidates we administer an online sales aptitude test. This tells us a lot; failure on the test is a yellow flag -- we won't say 'no' necessarily, but certainly will not pay any money for the candidate to prove him or herself.
  5. Next stage is the working assignment. Usually a couple of days or maybe a freelance task, this is compensated, and is our way of sizing up the prospective employee -- and allows the candidate to size us up as well.
  6. Finally, we check references, thoroughly, before preparing the written job offer/employment contract.
So, what counts is whether the prospective employee can prove he or she can do the job, not whether the candidate can write a nice resume and cover letter; or 'interview well'. In fact, we don't even bother with interviews -- we'll meet local candidates for the work assignment, and out-of-town candidates, if they pass all the tests and are ready for a contract offer, we might have a visit or informal meeting. But why bother with the phony show-and-tell exercises. They don't help us find the people we are really seeking.

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