Employment law attorney Michael Maslanka reviews the book 45 Effective Ways for Hiring Smart by Pierre Mornell. ReviewÂ contains tips for hiring the best employee, from interview questions to checking references.
Recently, I ran across an excellent book, 45 EFFECTIVE WAYS FOR HIRING SMART: How to Predict Winners and Losers in the Incredibly Expensive People-Reading Game by Pierre Mornell, published by Ten Speed Press. It contains many outstanding ideas, and we thought we’d share a few with you. Here goes.
Remember that first impressions can be misleading
Whether looking to find somebody to date or to hire, it’s certainly a good idea to fight off first impressions. Nevertheless, as we all know from our frequent (or, in the case of some of your editors, infrequent) dating experiences, we often jump to conclusions within the first 30 seconds. Interestingly enough, the same is true of managers looking to hire candidates.
Although I’m big believers in intuition, that’s not the same thing as jumping to conclusions right off the bat. And here’s a news flash for you: most people foolishly want to hire (or date) people exactly like them. Remember this the next time you’re conducting an interview or sizing up a dinner invitation. This trap is known as the “halo effect.” When this happens, you immediately come to the conclusion that you like the person you’re interviewing and, therefore, discount any bad things they say that are inconsistent with your initial impression; or worse, you take an ostrich-like attitude of self-delusion about their flaws. Don’t do it. You may be a great person, but your organization needs to strengthen itself through diversity.
Listen for verbs
Verbs are the muscle of a sentence. They communicate a lot. In short, verbs are action words, and when an applicant uses them in describing his or her experiences, they reveal a lot. If an applicant says that at their last job “I supported” or “I helped manage,” get your antenna up. These applicants may be extremely passive, not self-starters. In contrast, if they say things like “I ran a department” or “I found a new market,” that shows valuable experience.
In short, you want to find employees you can hold accountable and who understand that they must be held accountable. It doesn’t matter what job the employee does — CFO, custodial worker, secretary, or receptionist. When each person in an organization allows himself or herself to be held accountable, the organization is better for it. As one of our clients likes to say, “Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.”
Of course, you want to check references to avoid possible negligent hiring lawsuits. But, just as important, you want to find the best person. Mornell advises that the easiest way to check references is to call five names that the candidate provides you. When you call is important. If you call first thing in the morning or late at night, you’re likely to get the voice mail of the person who’s listed as a reference.
According to Mornell, that’s fine: if you leave a message explaining why you are calling and that you’d like a call back, you can then do a little tabulation regarding who calls you back. If four or five out of five call back, even if they just tell you that their company policy is name, rank, and serial number, that’s a good sign. If only one or two out of five call you back, then that’s a sign of concern.
Don’t just throw slow curve balls across the plate
In my employment law newsletter, I’ve suggested that when conducting an interview, you should ask hard questions. For instance, ask them about a difficult situation they encountered and how they resolved it successfully. Then ask them about a situation they were unable to resolve successfully and what they learned from it.
Mornell suggests another idea. For instance, he suggests that you give an applicant a sample assignment during the interview process. For instance, ask them to read and analyze a report. (By the way, this is not a way to get free work from someone. Not only is that unethical, but you may violate the Fair Labor Standards Act.) You can at least see how quickly someone thinks on their feet and whether they are suitable for the position.
Michael Maslanka is the managing partner of Ford & Harrison LLP’s Dallas, Texas, office. He has 20 years of experience in litigation and trial of employment law cases and has served as Adjunct Counsel to a Fortune 10 company where he provided multi-state counseling on employment matters. He has also served as a Field Attorney for the National Labor Relations Board.
Mike is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as a “Texas Super Lawyer” by Texas Monthly and Law & Politics Magazine in 2003. He was also selected as one of the best lawyers in Dallas by “D” Magazine in 2003. Mike has served as the Chief Author and Editor of the Texas Employment Law Letter since 1990. He also authors the “Work Matters” column for Texas Lawyer.