How to Hire Right the First Time

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First impressions are made in seven seconds, so should you put all of your focus on somebody’s skill sets when looking to hire? Sure, make sure the person is equipped with the know-how — or at least the potential to “know-how” — to fill the vacant position in your quick lube, but it doesn’t matter how good they are in the pit or office if they can’t uphold your high standards of customer service. In a competitive industry reliant on customer loyalty, you simply cannot risk having the wrong people in the right positions.

“You can train people to do lots of things, but you can’t change who they are,” said Shawn Casemore, author of the book “Operational Empowerment.”

While traditional hiring processes put a lot of emphasis on education, according to an article published by The Wall Street Journal, eight of the top 10 U.S. private employers administer pre-hire tests for certain positions. These kinds of assessments aren’t new to the hiring game. Personality profiling dates back to the 1940s and 50s when industrial companies screened candidates for managerial jobs. At the time, companies wanted to know the type of person they were considering hiring. Would they represent the company well? Did they have high tendencies of anxiety, dishonesty or volatility? Were they detailed, punctual and friendly?

Today, employers want to know these things, but Casemore said the reasons why they want know them aren’t just because they want a capable worker. Today’s businesses want to know if a particular candidate will fit well into their team dynamic.

“Bad personalities lead to a toxic work environment, which leads to absenteeism, low production and poor work quality,” Casemore said.

Perhaps we’re seeing an upward trend in personality testing as a result of the generational paradigm shift.

“There’s a shift happening, and companies need to be aware of it. For the first time, we have multiple generations working together. Each of them have different needs and preferences,” Casemore said. “For example, my parents were happy as long as they had jobs, but Generation X and Millennials are not satisfied with just having jobs. They’re looking for jobs that will allow them to live a certain lifestyle.”

Because the younger generations are rapidly becoming the dominant group in the workforce, it’s requiring workplace hiring and retention strategies to evolve.

“It’s no longer a matter of telling younger generations, ‘this is how it is, and you need to conform.’ It’s about asking, ‘what can we do to keep you here?” Casemore said.

It’s much easier to keep good employees, avoid pitfalls of poor hires and generally cultivate a productive and positive work environment if you hire the right people to begin with. Unfortunately, doing so can be tricky, as people will say, do and promise anything just to land a job. Fortunately, these candidates are typically easy to identify and avoid, but their close cousin — the applicant who looks good on paper but doesn’t work well with the team — can be harder to spot. This is where a personality assessment can be beneficial.

“There are a variety of tests you can choose from,” Casemore said. “I prefer using ones developed based on some of the more historic personality tests such as DiSC or Myers-Briggs. I’m a fan of DiSC simply because it speaks to behavior and communication, is simple to do, easy to interpret and is affordable.”

The DiSC profile assesses a person’s dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness. It produces a detailed report about their personality and behavior. However, before you administer a personality test, make sure you’re familiar with and aware of the labor laws in your area. For example, if you suggest a personality test and an applicant doesn’t want to take it, you can’t make them. Also, if you give an applicant a personality test and don’t hire them despite having all of the qualifications for the job, you don’t want them to be able to tie it back to the assessment. That could lead to allegations of discrimination, etc. Even if you choose to forgo giving a personality assessment directly, familiarizing yourself with the types of questions they ask can help you discretely assess a potential employee’s personality type without the litigious risks associated with a formal assessment. Start by asking smart questions and scheduling multiple interviews.

“I like asking a lot of scenario questions,” Casemore said.

For example, consider asking your interviewee, “It’s Saturday afternoon and a customer comes in needing an oil change. They have an attitude, are in a hurry and want you to make them a priority despite a long line of patient customers waiting in front of them. Give me an example of a time when you’ve dealt with something similar. How did you handle it?”

“You want to ask enough scenario questions to get an accurate idea of who the candidate is and how they would fit into your business. Most people have practiced at least one answer for the typical, ‘Are you detailed?’ and ‘How have you dealt with a difficult coworker?’ type questions before,” Casemore said. “After you hear their answers, if you still think they’re a good candidate for the job, cross reference their responses with references they’ve provided. Let their previous employers know the scenario you ran by the person and what their response was. Next, ask their former employer if how ‘Bob’ said he would respond is accurate. If the former employer hesitates, can’t validate the response or if the applicant doesn’t provide a previous employer as a reference, that could be a red flag.”

Hiring should no longer be a function of the human resources department or the management staff alone. Casemore suggested when you begin to think about hiring, think about ways to include your entire team in the process.

“If I’m looking to hire somebody to work with my team, I have them meet the team they’d be working with before I hire them,” Casemore said. “The more companies I suggest this to, the more people I have look at me and say, ‘Yeah, why don’t we do that?’ It’s really a great way to get a realistic view of what it would be like to have that person working for you. It’s also a good way for them to know what working for you looks like.”

Taking the time to hire the right person will save you time (and money) in the long run. It will also ensure you continue to cultivate a healthy and happy business that’s good to work for and do business with. You might not think personality is a big factor when it comes to changing oil, checking tire pressure and washing windshields, but your employees and customers certainly do.

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