Finding Great Employees, Part 1 of 2: The Ten Hoops

Sam Carpenter Answering Service White Papers

Part 1 of a 2 Part Series

No Mind Readers or Fortune Tellers
It’s critical to spend time creating efficient systems on paper and here’s a prime benefit of that effort: Your superb “off the street” documented systems are for regular people just like you and me, people who aren’t mind readers or fortune tellers.

We have very little staff turnover at Centratel, and some employees have tenures approaching 30 years. Friends have said to me, “I’m sure you’re successful because you’ve been lucky enough to find very good people to work for you.” Translation: “You just stumbled into finding people who adore you, know your every thought, and will perform your every wish. You lucky guy!”

I’m respected, but no one in my office adores me, and there are no mind readers. And, “perform my every wish”? It’s a ridiculous assumption.

The idea that one must “find the right people” is the pervasive misconception. The inference is exactly backwards. At Centratel, we do have an extraordinary staff from top to bottom, but that’s not because of plain dumb luck or my prowess as a recruiter. It’s because we attract and keep quality people due to the great work situation we offer. The great situation comes before the great people.

There are plenty of hardworking, disciplined, honest people out there who are quietly looking for a fair shake so they can put themselves on the line and show what they can do. And when they perform well, they want to be rewarded. You just need to attract these people and then give them black-and-white instruction, good pay, and the promise of a bright future. As always, it’s just simple mechanics.

On the other hand, yes, there is an extreme shortage of people who can mind-read and fortune-tell.

From the Bottom Up
Seeking the perfect employee who will solve all problems—a from-the-top-down solution—is the opposite of the systems-thinking solution. In the Work the System business, your job as a leader is to provide an exceptional business system that will attract hardworking, dedicated, long-term employees—a bottom-up solution. Again, there are a lot of terrific people out there just waiting for a good opportunity. The purpose of this post is to help you find them and  then keep them.

So these great people become great employees. You make it possible for them to shine by providing a forum for their innate skills and high motivation and especially, by being clear about what you want them to do. You give them solid direction and real opportunity and then turn them loose.

The (somewhat) unintended consequence? Our solid systems and my terrific staff allow me to be free…to do what I want with my time and money.

To These People You Owe Your Best
You want employees who believe in what you have created; individuals who can become intrigued with your personal vision and who will want to continue into the future with you—at least for a while. These good people are the bedrock of your future. To them you owe the best—and the best’s centerpiece is the carefully constructed system-based environment you provide. Then, if your people grow with your company and you teach them well, it will be a compliment to you if someday they go out and start their own businesses. On the other hand, it will be the supreme compliment if they stay with you over the long term.

Evaluating People
In our search for system-oriented personalities at Centratel, here are ten “hoops” that job applicants must negotiate. Note that clear-headedness and self-discipline are the common threads of these systems-thinking prerequisites:

  1. Did the applicant show up for the interview on time?
  2. Was the minimum score achieved on the aptitude test?
  3. Does the applicant know about the business? Did he or she check out the website before applying for the position? Are there questions about what goes on at Centratel, or is the applicant just looking for any job? Is advancement important?
  4. Did the interviewee smile? Seem happy? Generally, did he or she seem to be self-disciplined?
  5. Did the applicant listen to you or were your words sliding by unheard as he or she waited for the next opportunity to talk?
  6. Can this person carry on a reasonable conversation? Did he or she look you in the eye when speaking? (Careful with this one. There are cultural variations about how much eye-contact is proper.)
  7. Did the applicant’s appearance convey that she or he takes care of herself or himself?
  8. Did the applicant previously bounce from job to job?
  9. Did the interviewee pass the drug test?
  10. How much does the applicant want the job?

By breaking down the subjective interview process into component parts, we transform it into a more objective, black-and-white test. Yes, intuition can be important, but it should never overrule your guidelines. Don’t confuse feelings with logic, subjectivity with objectivity. However compassionate, the “this person needs a break” gut feeling is too often a mistake. Use gut feelings to disqualify rather than to qualify. (That’s a useful rule to follow elsewhere in life, too.)

At Centratel it’s critical that the job applicant passes through all of the aforementioned “hoops.” If he or she fails just one, we won’t offer the position because that one negative indicator suggests a problem that can’t be neutralized even by all the other positive signals added together. We are hard-hearted about this and don’t make exceptions.

College education? We don’t worry too much about this, although a college degree indicates someone who can stick through long-term challenges to reach a goal. Unfortunately, a college degree is no longer a reliable barometer of literate capability or of a reasonable mind-set.

You know this already: Hiring and then firing someone is not just a bad investment for the company, it’s also an intense personal blow to the employee. For the job prospect, it’s infinitely less painful to not get the job in the first place. Be compassionate by creating a thoughtful (and, of course, documented) hiring procedure.

Next time, Part 2 of 2. Finding Great Employees: Closely examining the Ten Hoops.

One Response to “Finding Great Employees, Part 1 of 2: The Ten Hoops”

  1. Tim Francis says:

    Sam, your book is outstanding. Thank-you for sharing your hard-earned wisdom. We’re all better for it!

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