I like to plan. When I go on vacation, I get almost as much fulfillment from planning and preparing for it as I do actually being away.
My affinity for planning means I am good at setting up, testing and implementing processes and timelines for various things. It helps me in my job because I can plan out the steps and schedule for a brochure or marketing tactic and ensure it is executed on time and in budget.
Sometimes though, you have to leave the process behind and just go with your gut.
This has been proven to me (again) through our recent hiring process, with which I had the opportunity to be more involved than in the past. I outlined the steps, established criteria for advancing and determined questions to be asked to learn about job candidates’ experience and ascertain their writing and editing skills. I thought I had figured out how to find a good applicant.
The challenge is that we are not just looking for someone with the ability to communicate persuasively, though that is very important. We want someone personable, responsive, principled, detailed, industrious, smart, proactive, resourceful, coachable and more – all while fitting in with our group. These qualities can be hard to find without bringing in every single applicant to see how they will work in our environment.
People can surprise you, whether positively or negatively. And the trick is to learn more than they are actually telling you. I’ve discovered there are flags to watch for throughout the process.
“This is her,” or “This is him.” – When I call and ask for someone, and the response is that grammatically incorrect phrase, it’s a red flag. I know it’s a little thing, but it has proven indicative of other, more significant, red flags to come.
Cover letters – Yes, your résumé should be clear and easy to read – a way to quickly see experience, accolades and accomplishments. Yet, the cover letter is just as important. It should be a vehicle that persuades me to hire you, that tells me why I should care about the résumé you’ve cultivated.
Subsequent communication – We ask for applicants to send certain information back to us. The way that is presented – how complete and thought-out it is – and the amount of time it takes for it to be returned means just as much to me as the information itself.
We also may receive emails or phone calls checking in about the status of the hiring process. Again, the manner and timing of that communication factors into our decision.
Slang – This is an easy red flag, though sometimes applicants keep it contained during an interview. If someone uses too much slang, or the word “like,” too often, that will negatively affect hiring chances.
Hyperbole – Similar to the above, if someone uses “always” or “forever” or other hyperbole when the timeframe is more akin to “two weeks,” it’s a red flag.
Ill will toward previous boss – If an applicant speaks negatively about a former supervisor, that leads me to think that he or she could say bad things about me someday, too. No matter what the situation was, discussion should be worded in a way that highlights what was learned, and not blame things on the awful boss.
I’ve really enjoyed learning more through this process about hiring and about people; I love to be stretched in new ways. These are just a few of the things I’ve picked up along the way, and I am excited to continue honing my hiring skills.
I think we’re hiring well this time, and I think I’ll be even smarter about it next time.