In Hiring, Beware the “Ace of Spades:” Why Personnel Selection is No Poker Game

By Patrick ValtinPatrick Valtin

John was a successful physical therapist. Pressured by the expansion of his practice, he decided to hire an office manager. Alice had the perfect resume – on paper, she was an “ace of diamonds.” She was hired the same day and started the next. What happened in the next 5 months unfortunately looked like a very bad end to “Casino Royale.” When John found out that Alice’s rough personality (undetected during the interview) was the major reason for his patients’ sudden lack of loyalty, he fired her. The next week she sued him for breach of “implied contract,” as her probationary period was over. Final resolution of the case was an award of $550,000 to Alice. John was forced to sell his practice in order to comply with the legal judgment.

There Are Four Aces in Hiring: It is not about playing cards, it is about picking people who will help you win – and won’t make you feel like you lost your last dollars playing poker. These Aces are your most important “hiring cards,” yet they are not equal in value. You must know exactly what you want to measure and in which sequence, in order to avoid John’s kind of experience.Your four aces of selection are, in the proper sequence:

Performance Mindset: This is your Ace of Diamonds. Detecting top players who are naturally high performers is your highest priority. The “number one” reason why you hire someone is to get the job done – no matter what it represents. Most business owners and hiring managers evaluate candidates with their heart rather than with their head. Emotions control the process.

When looking for the performance mindset, consider:

  • Does the applicant mention measurable results/achievements in his/her resume or job application?
  • How about references which clearly support his/her achievements?
  • Does the applicant provide practical, results-oriented examples of some past performance, rather than mostly action-oriented ones?
  • Does the applicant feel at ease with your results-oriented questions?

Willingness: This is your Ace of Hearts. Many call it “positive attitude.” Some people are naturally willing to work hard, to learn more and to do new things. Showing a positive attitude when problems arise can make the difference between hell and paradise in the working environment, especially when working in a team.

Willingness to learn accept heightened responsibility, and exceed expectations is so important! When asked why they usually fire employees, only 9% of business owners said “inability to do the job.” But 69% of them cited attitude-related reasons such as absenteeism and tardiness, bad attitude or work ethics. 22% mentioned other attitude-related reasons.

There are a few good detectors that can help you separate top players with high willingness and the right attitude:

  • When asked, the applicant can easily provide examples of situations on the job where he/she had to demonstrate a positive attitude in order to solve a problem or challenge.
  • When challenged during a simulation or role playing, the applicant shows evidence of willingness to respond and solve the problems.
  • The applicant can show evidence of willingness when he/she had to solve problems in order to help a group.

Know-How: This is your Ace of Clubs. You want to have competent employees who can at least master the basic technical skills as required on the job. In a 2010 national survey of employers, more than 70% of managers revealed that recently hired high school students proved to be deficient in basic academic skills, such as grammar, spelling and written communications.

The best and easiest way to measure an applicant’s practical, non-academic skills is to put the person to the test. Here are some important rules, no matter what the desired technical skills are:

  • Never trust academic or educational evidence of know-how found in the resume.
  • Never rely on an applicant’s previous experience to demonstrate technical know-how for your vacant position.
  • Test. Do not be afraid: right in the interview, put the applicant in a real (best) or simulated (second best) situation and observe his/her action – and reactions.

Personality: This is your Ace of Spades. You should measure personality last; not because it is the least important evaluation criterion but because if you let yourself be influenced by a “nice” personality, it could offer trouble, or destroy your business! The golden rule is: never trust what you see during the interview. Too many employers fail to detect the difference between temporary personality and the lasting one.

Why is personality your Ace of Spades? If you play cards you might know that the Ace of Spades is usually called the death card. Personality can be called your hiring “death card” for two good reasons. First, if you allow yourself to be influenced by an applicant’s temporary personality, chances are you will fail and hire the wrong people. Second, you definitely need to detect those vital job-related soft skills because you know this is what will determine success on the job.

Our experience has shown that the simplest and most effective approach in detecting job-related personality factors is the following:

  • When you develop your job description, make a full list of soft skills vital to the job.
  • Honesty being a crucial soft skill, you can start checking it through resumes/job applications and phone screenings. If you have doubts or reservation, challenge the applicant on any nebulous topic during the interview. Also use reference and background checks to confirm your doubts.
  • During the first interview, focus on the first three Aces. Ensure that you have prepared simulations or scenarios that challenge the applicant on each of these selection criteria.
  • Remember: people reveal themselves best when they are confronted with unprepared or unexpected situations. Challenge is the key word.

Ensure your hiring procedure focuses on “invisible” personality-related skills. Business is often a gamble, and the odds of success lean on your ability to judge the aces at your disposal.  Don’t trust the poker faces that present themselves in interviews; know your hand so you can guarantee that the house will win.

Patrick Valtin is the author of the “No-Fail Hiring” book and an international public speaker. He has evaluated over 22,000 applicants for the account of 5,000 customers in more than 30 countries. His No-Fail Hiring System has been used by thousands of small businesses of all kinds of industries. Patrick has trained 85,000 business owners and executives in the field of people management, personnel selection, Sales, business strategies, leadership and organization. To find out more about his speaking and training, visit http://patrickvaltin.com or call 877-831 2299.

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About editor

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan shares his passion for life and faith through words. Peter DeHaan’s website (www.peterdehaan.com) contains information and links to his blogs, newsletter, and social media pages. Peter DeHaan is the president of Peter DeHaan Publishing, Inc., (www.peterdehaanpublishing.com) the publisher and editor of Connections Magazine and AnswerStat, and editor of Article Weekly.