Try interview test before you hire

score Question:
I am spending a lot of time interviewing people, then hiring the one I think is good, and spending time and money on training. Shortly afterward, I find out they don't fit my business. I've gone through a lot of new hires without solving the problem. Any suggestions?

When hiring people, some of the most common steps include reviewing the individual's resume, interviewing the person and checking the references.

This is standard fare for most businesses, but there is a major problem with this approach. Some people are great interviewees. That's why a growing number of businesses are beginning to develop what are called pre-interview strategies - or, if you like, pre-hire strategies. Before the person is hired, he or she is given an assignment, and the results are discussed and evaluated during the employment process.

I know a client who has a small group of retail stores. Before she hires anyone, she has the individual visit one of the stores, walk around and look at how things are being done. The person's assignment: evaluate the operation and make suggestions they feel are appropriate.

On the one hand, of course, you could say that my client ends up getting free counseling. On the other hand, she gets some very good insights regarding the applicant's ability to analyze and size up situations. and if the person presents a two-page write-up that also contains some useful recommendations, so much the better.

The one thing she's looking for is a person who can observe what's going on, see the big picture and evaluate how well things are going.

Many applicants don't do very well on this assignment. They make general comments about the store, personnel and their suggestions for improvement, if any, are standard or routine, ones that anyone could easily generate. The people she hires are those who are more insightful and able to view things in a practical way.

In particular, my client doesn't look only for a lot of suggestions regarding how to improve things. She also wants the candidate to make suggestions that can be implemented. For example, one individual submitted a one-page list of suggestions that included changes that would cost in excess of $50,000.

Since it wouldn't be possible to generate sufficient savings or efficiencies with the investment of this large sum of money, the ideas were not implemented. However, a few of the suggestions required minor expenditures and were put into effect. And she hired the individual because she felt that once he got more experience in the store, he would temper his suggestions and make them more cost-beneficial.

The important thing to remember about this pre-interview strategy is that it helps screen people who warrant further consideration from those who don't.

An individual who is laid back and didn't take the initiative on his previous job is unlikely to suddenly turn into a fast-paced, hard-driving employee if you hire him. So you want to get an idea of the type of individual you are considering for the job before you hire because the past is an excellent reflection of what you are likely to get in the future.

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.

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