Tag Archives: human resources

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.

Bombay Calling

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I recently stumbled onto a TV program entitled Bombay Calling. It was about an offshore call center, providing a compelling exposé of an India-based outsourcing call center and the people who worked there. In a gripping documentary style, it showed both the good and the bad in offshore call centers. Just as proponents of offshoring would find plenty to celebrate, opponents would likewise be encouraged. I was both mesmerized and saddened by what I saw.

Although I have been privileged to visit many call centers in the United States, I have not had the opportunity to tour an offshore operation. Through the eye of the camera, I was fascinated to witness a call center in a culture for which I was not too familiar, functioning in a manner that was very familiar. I was pleasantly surprised to see many of the same call center conventions repeated in this overseas operation (with only a few adaptations to accommodate culture). I was greatly encouraged with the bright-eyed, enthusiastic workforce, their can-do spirit, and an optimistic outlook. How wonderful it would be to have a call center — regardless of location — filled with reps like these; but, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The show begins by introducing us to Kaz Lalani. Not only does he outsource calls to Bombay, India, but he also operates call centers in other countries. Kaz boasts that his Indian reps have a strong work ethic. They try hard and really care — unlike agents in Britain, he states (which is where this outbound campaign is targeted). His experience with British agents was not positive. He says they don’t want to work and are always watching the clock, leaving the moment their scheduled shift is over. Not so with their Indian counterparts, who work hard and eagerly stay late when needed.

There is an air of joyous excitement and capable confidence among the agents. The call center is filled with hard-working, fun-loving staff who enjoy their co-workers, their jobs, and the work they do. Staff interviews reveal why. “It’s a great job, for good pay,” states one agent, “even for an undergrad.” Another boasts that he makes more than his girlfriend — even though she has a graduate degree. A third employee dropped out of engineering school for the express purpose of pursuing a call center career.

As astounding as all this seems, the average starting pay for a call center agent in Bombay was reported to be more that four times the average Indian income. This is why young people to leave rural areas for call center work in Bombay. This does cause some angst, both for parents — who lament a loss of tradition — and their children — who must adapt to city life without the nearby help of family. Nevertheless, there is a general acquiescence to the situation. Several of the agents send money back home, pay bills for their parents, or do things to increase the standard of living for their family; all of which is made possible by their call center jobs.

With even more call centers opening in Bombay, these agents are acutely aware of the great demand for their English-speaking skills. They perceive this ability as their unrestricted ticket to opportunity and success. A paradoxical aside is that the show’s producers occasionally resorted to subtitles for some of their English-speaking interviewees — a necessary decision, which, by my reckoning, was not made often enough.

Eight months later, the call center is hurriedly expanding. They are calling Australia (first shift) and the U.K. (second shift). Some reps have been promoted to training, supervisory, and QA positions. However, the dark-side of their sharp rise in income is beginning to show. One rep proudly admits that he has become materialistic; another longs for more time to spend with his wife and child; a third wants to leave the call center, but can’t — he has become accustomed to his new standard of living. Many of the reps are now complaining about the stress of the job — and they turn to partying and alcohol — every night — to dull the pain.

With the rapid expansion, not all of the new hires are ideal and some do not work out; sales numbers plummet. Some reps aren’t concerned — they’ll just go to another center; others are worried, but at a loss what to do. One once confident rep has lost his swagger — he has gone two days without a sale — and has a shell-shocked glaze.

This call center is no longer producing like it used to — or like the others ones in the network. An ultimatum is given. Some agents are sent to retraining, others are terminated. The call center is now a somber and dreary place. A pall hangs over the cubicles; the optimism is gone. Eventually the operation is scaled back to 25 agents — some of the agents we met survive the cuts, others do not. Kaz turns his concentration to other call centers.

In Bombay, call center work is truly changing the lives of it’s agents — for better and for worse.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.