Gut Feeling Isn’t a Reliable Applicant Screening System
Interviewing new people is not my favorite thing to do, especially after the umpteenth candidate—and being officially brain-dead makes it particularly challenging!
After moving our business to its current location in 2000, I physically suffered a collapse from extreme exhaustion. Tons of equipment, furnishings and files had been moved after weeks of logistical planning, packing and consideration. I was all up in the middle of it and the cost was mind-bending. Even as the dust settled, more things needed to be done to get back to normal—like hiring more people. That’s a good thing, right?
So, I placed ads for new workers and scheduled interviews with many who responded, selecting the possibles based on the qualifications stated on their resumes and additional information they had written on our company application.
One interview I will NEVER forget was set for about 5 p.m. one night—our normal closing time. As I said, I was beyond exhaustion that day, and the last thing I wanted to do was interview anyone. But, the applicant had arrived right on time, and after all the customary greetings I lead the person from our small foyer into my office. Trying not to just collapse in my desk chair, I smiled my best smile and motioned this latest hopeful to be seated across the desk from me.
It was an awkward moment—the applicant waiting for my first question, and me drawing a complete blank as to what that question might be. At that moment, our roles might have been reversed. Wasn’t the applicant supposed to be the one thinking, “Don’t let them see you sweat?”
I tried not to have a deer-in-the-headlights look on my face as I desperately searched my mind for any “brilliant” question that might bring out the information I needed in order to make a good hiring decision. Isn’t that what an interview should achieve? (Not just a “wing-it” interview filled with time-wasting, clichéd questions that discern little about the person you’re considering bringing into your company to pretty much LIVE WITH for years to come.)
Those “shoot-from-the-hip” interviews reveal very little information that needs to be known up front; information that is usually only found out after the person’s hiring. Sometimes TOO LATE you learn things about that person that could have been discovered via a simple question you failed to ask during the initial interview.
Before I learned about the power of systems, I remember hearing many owners say (including myself), “I just go with a GUT FEELING, and I normally get it right!” But, truth be known, in my case, when I got it wrong, I REALLY got it wrong!
OK, Philip, what does this have to do with SYSTEMS?
When the aforementioned interview was concluded, I was embarrassed and angry at myself—and, in fact, I actually apologized to the applicant for my unprofessional interview, offering the excuse that I was just too tired from our move. Pretty lame excuse!
I knew full well what the real reason for my lousy interview was: I didn’t have a SYSTEM for applicant processing. So, the very next day I went to work building such a system—it was simple enough to do, given a little time and the research and experience I’d gained over the years.
I developed several checklists of questions to be asked when interviewing various types of applicants—i.e., sales, pressroom, bindery and prepress personnel, etc. Different positions require some very different questions.
We have used our Applicant Processing System for years and, like most good systems, it just keeps on giving good results. Recently, my oldest son Paul was about to start interviewing some applicants for a new opening in production. It was his first time doing that, and he stopped by my office for a little advice. I pointed to our online Operations Manual that contained our Applicant Processing System and all its various documents.
“I THOUGHT I remembered seeing that system when reviewing some of the human resources documents!” Paul said. He has just recently assumed the position of plant manager and is on track very soon, along with his brother Barton, to take the wheel of our printing company.
Affirmation came the next day after Paul had interviewed two or three applicants and again stopped by my office. He was excited to tell me, “Dad, the questions on this checklist are great! I asked every question on this list, although at the time I thought some were a little bold.” He went on to say that the questions really brought out a few things he wouldn’t otherwise have known.
Paul added, “I believe now I would have hired the WRONG person, had it not been for this checklist!” That was good confirmation!
Did I mention? Great systems work!
P.S. There are certain questions that an interviewer is NOT supposed to ask an applicant BY LAW. That’s another checklist; another system we have that should be added to your Operations Manual…that is, if you’ve begun systemizing your business and not just relying on a “gut feeling.”