You've gone through the hard process of hiring. Countless interviews, hours of pouring over resumes, and you've finally found the one! Most managers at this point are chomping at the bit to make the offer. However, it's a huge mistake to skip one last step- reference calls.
Why? Well, there are countless horror stories out there on the internet of managers who discovered that their dream employee was actually a convicted embezzler or quit their last job in a flourish of sabotage. However, on a less dramatic scale, talking to references gives you valuable insight into how employees actually behave in the workplace. So far, all you have to go off of is the word of your potential new superstar. We all want to think the best of ourselves though. Talking to a former manager can give you a sense of what it's really like to work with this employee.
I'd also advise avoiding an emailed questionnaire. You get a lot more context from a phone call than you do an email. The reference's tone of voice and inflection can give you insight that you may have not gathered otherwise. It also gives you the opportunity to ask follow-up questions and probe deeper into the comments they made.
My favorite questions to ask references include:
If there's one thing I always tell new employees, it's this: documenting is your best friend.
Have a problem employee? Documenting from day 1 can take letting them go that much easier. Employee does amazing work and tackles multiple projects with ease? If you write it down, performance reviews will be a breeze and you won't risk forgetting important accomplishments. Alternatively, if performance wasn't up to par, documenting can make your evaluation objective and fair. Want to stay on top of all the projects your team is on? Document with project management software, emails, or even a giant whiteboard behind your desk! When in doubt, document.
To demonstrate, let me share the story of the first person I ever fired. When I was promoted, I started creating performance metrics for all of my staff. I wanted to make sure that I was objective in my evaluations of staff and could keep an eye on their performance. To my surprise, I discovered that one employee had done no work in the past 8 years. Absolutely zero- his job was to delete records and none had been deleted in 8 years. I was flabbergasted.
Had this been caught in his first year on the job, perhaps he could have been retrained. However, because I caught it so late and previous conversations with supervisors were not documented, I had to start from scratch and go through the process of a PIP. Moral of the story, document from day one. Don't let problems marinade for years before taking action. By recording issues from the day they start, you can help to catch issues early and make your job easier in the long run.
Is there a time you wish you had documented? Share below!
Interviews are stressful. We've all been there- your palms are sweating, you're in the stiff suit you pulled out of the back of your closet, you're hoping you say the right thing and don't mess up. You feel as though you're on display, being quizzed and trying to guess the right answer. And then the dreaded question comes: "what are your salary expectations?" Many of us are at a loss and feel like it's a game of "pin-the-tail on the hiring range," where we need to guess a number that's not too high, but not so low that we undersell ourselves. So here's my proposal for hiring managers: stop asking this question!
You may be thinking "but Julia, how do we find out if the candidate is expecting more money than we can pay?" Here's my solution- just tell them the range. When I set up the initial interview, I disclose the hiring range, hours worked, and any other essential info about the job I feel candidates need to know up front. This lets them chose whether or not they want to continue in the hiring process based on the realities of the role. While perhaps not conventional practice, this has been extremely successful in practice for me!
When it comes down to it, applicants feel put at ease when you are transparent throughout the process. It allows for better communication and for candidates to evaluate if the role is a good fit for them. Interviewing is a two way street- why not be open and honest? And if you're hoping to offer a lower salary by not disclosing the range, rethink your practices. Employees deserve to be well compensated. This practice also disproportionately affects women and minorities, which is discrimination. For the sake of retention, equity, and just good business practices be direct. Be clear. State the range.
When interviewing, good questions can be the difference between a hire gone wrong and a new superstar employee. By developing good questions, you can ensure that the selected candidate has the skills and attitude necessary to succeed in their new role.
Behavioral Interview Questions
Behavioral interview questions are an excellent way to draw out examples of a potential employee’s past behavior, which is helpful in predicting how they’ll handle similar situations in the future. Rather than ask “are you detail oriented,” which most people will respond yes to, ask the candidate for examples of a time that they completed a task that required a high level of accuracy and walk you through how they handled that challenge. More examples of behavioral questions include:
• Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an upset customer
• Give me an example of a project that you failed at and what did you learn from the experience
• Describe for me your most proud accomplishment in the past five years
• Tell me about a time you received negative feedback and how you addressed it
• Have you ever had to take a project on that you had no experience with? How did you handle it?
Don’t Ask These
These categories are protected classes and could open you up to a discrimination claim if discussed:
• Religion or creed
• National origin or ancestry
• Physical or mental disability
While it is not illegal to ask these questions, it is to base your hiring decision off of them, so it’s best to avoid these questions altogether.