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hroughout my consulting career I have continually challenged the popular no- tion that “a company’s greatest assets are its

employees.” Whenever I see this slogan, I remind the owner that people, in general, are not a company’s greatest asset; however, the right people are. The fact is, ultimately, the success or failure of a business or department hinges on management’s ability (or in- ability) to recruit, hire, and retain talent. In the world of human resources, we have a

motto that accurately sums up this reality. You’ve probably heard the phrase coined by nutritionalists, “You are what you eat.” Well, in HR we say, “You are who you hire.” True, isn’t it? It stands to reason then, if you hire employees from hell, you will soon have a workplace from hell. What a concept! It’s better to hire smart and avoid people in red suits with horns. Let me share a vital hiring secret. What we’ve

found in dealing with tens of thousands of employ- ment challenges around this country is: people are at their most productive when they’re in a position that lets them draw on their natural strengths and allows them to be themselves. When people feel the need to act unnaturally,

they experience stress, which lowers productivity and leads to job dissatisfaction. Example: people who know me very quickly understand that I’m an inpatient driver who is analytical, assertive, and (unfortunately) low on the sensitivity scale. I’ve faced the fact that I don’t make a very good shrink, but my personality sure does suit consulting. Now, if you were to tell me that I had to become a CPA or a CFO of an organization, assuming I could learn the trade, I would be flat-out miserable. There are no two ways about it. I wasn’t made for that kind of work and simply would not enjoy it. I could do it, but it would cause a great deal of stress. You see, you don’t need to know a lot about

people’s weaknesses, but you do need to know about their strengths. Why? Because building on strengths is much more productive than trying to correct weaknesses. One way to obtain information about people’s

strengths is personality testing. Another is through in-depth questioning during the interview. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: define the attributes

that are necessary for success in the position and then search for these using a structured interview process and good interview questions. Too many interviewers make the mistake of over-

looking very basic traits that are essential for success in any position. These traits go beyond experi- ence and previous work history, and have become increasingly important as the workforce makeup has

changed. Take a look: ■ WORK ETHIC. Work ethic is not something that comes with a long employment history. What we’ve found is that work ethic is developed at a very early age and has more to do with feelings about work that formed in childhood. To gauge whether or not the candidate has a strong work ethic, ask what type of chores he or she was responsible for as a young adult. Did the candidate work for an allowance? Did he or she work through high school? Ask questions that provide clues to an early development of a strong work ethic.

■ LOYALTY. Does the candidate have any childhood friends? Is there evidence of long-term relationships that require loyalty?

■ SENSE OF HUMOR. This is not the ability to tell a joke, but the ability to go through life’s ups and downs and still keep a smile on your face. It’s the concept of seeing the glass “half-full” instead of “half-empty.” Talking with the candidate about his her life and the different challenges he or she faced will give you clues about this one.

■ RESPECT. One of the best tests of respect is how the candidate treated the receptionist. Some companies have the receptionist complete a form after meeting the candidate that zeros in on things like how easily the candidate smiled and whether or not the candidate was polite and easy to talk with.

■ JUDGMENT. There’s no replacement for an employee who exercises good judgment in decision-making. This one relates to common sense. Ask the candidate to give you examples of using his or her independent judgment and thoughts in making important decisions.

■ FLEXIBILITY. A person who opposes change can have difficulty growing with the company. Look for clues in the candidate’s life and


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