What to look for in an applicant, and red flags to avoid

Let’s face it, weeding through a stack of resumes can take its toll on even the most optimistic hiring manager. When you hire frequently, or oversee hiring for your company, the resumes can start to blend together. They often fail to showcase the very characteristics that make applicants stand out as rock star candidates. Here are a few tips and tricks to make spotting a rock star easier.

Before Posting the Job

Before you post an available position online, take a close look at the job description. Have you clearly defined and explained the requirements of the position? Often, we post vague job descriptions, or list run-of-the-mill requirements. This doesn’t help applicants understand what a job will be like, and it doesn’t help you attract candidates who would be a good fit for the position. Make sure you have a clear vision of what success in the role looks like, and what the expectations for the job are.

Before the Interview

Often, we hire out of desperation — we feel like we just need to fill the vacancy! In doing this, we skip over red flags, vetting, personality or aptitude evaluations, and secondary interviews. Don’t do this, no matter how much you need someone. Haste in hiring can lead you to miss out on rock star candidates, or worse, lead to a mis-hire.

Be slow to hire and quick to fire. Take the time to select a quality candidate. Conduct a phone interview, and if you’re still interested, invite the applicant to an in-person interview. Then, contact an applicant’s references, conduct background checks, and really ensure this is a position the candidate wants to pursue.

If you’re going to conduct an in-person interview with a qualified candidate, consider combining him or her with other candidates in an initial group interview. The reason? Even the most mediocre candidate can look great when compared to nothing or no one. A true gem will always shine bright. You may wish to conduct a panel interview or even host an open house interview. This allows the very best candidates to engage in different activities to show their true colors. It’s usually easy to spot the top candidates.

During the Interview

When it’s time for an in-person interview, make sure you have a clear vision of what success in the role looks like, and go over what the expectations are again with the candidate. Then, ask them to repeat the highlights of the role back to you. It may feel repetitive or obvious, but asking the candidate to paint a picture of the job for you asks them to envision themselves as already successful in the role. A true rock star will be able to clearly summarize what success in the role will look like.

Hire for Attitude

The in-person interview is the most important step in your hiring process. No matter how good someone looks on paper, or how great they seemed over the phone, it’s the in-person interview that’s the true test. You’re looking for a candidate who possesses a positive, can-do attitude. Because this characteristic is very difficult to train, modify, or influence, a natural positive disposition and the commitment to go forth with a great attitude is a sure-fire sign of a rock star candidate.

Hire for Culture Fit

Once you have ascertained the candidate has the correct attitude and the drive to succeed, ask questions to see how they’ll fit within your company’s culture. Make sure their ideals and core values are in alignment with those of your company and those you serve. To dive into this, ask the candidate what three values they deem to be the most important in coworkers, spouses, and those they care most about. You might also consider asking them to share about a time when they displayed those very same characteristics or had to call upon their core values to make a tough decision during the work day. A rock star candidate will be able to come up with examples readily. They walk the talk!

Hire for Self-Awareness

Finally, most of us are great at sharing what we’re experts at and where we excel, but a true rock star candidate should possess the emotional intelligence and self-awareness to identify what weaknesses they have or challenges they face. Knowing is half the battle! If a candidate knows what challenges they face, it shows they’ve thought about them, and/or developed ways to compensate for those challenges. They’ve possibly even found ways to use these challenges to their advantage, or as a learning opportunity for personal growth. If a candidate is unable to share challenges they possess or things they need to work on, consider that a huge interview red flag. A rock star candidate will be able to admit their faults and be able to explain how knowing this information is beneficial.

Rock stars are out there — all you have to do is have the patience to find them! Follow these tips and take the time necessary to hire great candidates. You’ll save time and money, and avoid struggle for yourself, your team, your customers, and your bottom line.

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Tracy is a coach at Nexstar who focuses on the implementation of Nexstar processes in contractor call centers. She brings experience from several PHCE-industry roles, including CSR, dispatcher, call center manager, corporate trainer and more.