It goes without saying that selecting, hiring, and retaining the right people is of paramount concern. Interviews are often just as stressful for the interviewer as the interviewee, but take a deep breath and remember, just as the old saying goes, “they are just as scared of you as you are of them.”

Is Experience Overrated?
Without a doubt, previous work experience is an important consideration when selecting the right employees in the hiring process, but there are other factors to consider. Looking towards the future, more and more people are following non-traditional career paths. Especially in these cases, transferable skills are something that are a relevant and important consideration. Would you rather hire an experienced employee that produces consistently mediocre work, or a superstar in waiting that just needs to be acclimated to a new work environment? Most intelligent and motivated people enjoy learning new skills, information, and engaging in new challenges.

With less of an emphasis on experience, aptitude and ability are especially important to assess. If the employee has no direct experience, what sort of time commitment would be necessary to catch them up to speed? You may find the benefits outweigh the costs as employees that have diverse backgrounds can contribute a lot to your team in terms of unique perspectives, viewpoints, and creativity.

Not everyone has the opportunity or resources to attend the best colleges. As a matter of fact, something can be said of a person that is able to overcome financial obstacles and/or family obligations and earn a degree while working full time. This is something to explore in an interview. Along these same lines, just because a person doesn’t have volunteer or extracurricular experience while in college doesn’t mean they partied away their free time. Look for employment that was concurrent with their time at university and use this as a point of discussion during the interview.

Check References
This seems obvious, but most employers don’t go through the trouble of checking references. It’s easy to see why, as most references are friends, colleagues, or trusted confederates of the employee. At best, you will get a biased opinion if you ask the wrong questions, but what are the correct ones? The amount of people who falsify information on resumes is shocking.

Unfortunately, references are not necessarily a reliable source to verify many of the common falsifications or fabrications, but if you are clever enough, you can use them to verify information provided by the prospective employee in the interview. Trust your gut and use your judgment.

Interviewing Techniques
There is no right or wrong way to interview someone, but avoid “one size fits all” approaches. Also, if you are going to use a special tactic or technique, make sure it is appropriate for the industry that you are in. I once heard of a friend who had to endure a stress interview for a summer job as a painter.

Try limiting behavior-oriented questions. The most popular example is some variation of, “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer.” Many prospective employees have prepared a canned response to many of these questions. These often are better gauges of an employee’s ability to prepare than true measures of their ability to deal with issues.

Consider situational questions that are tailored to the specific demands or requirements of the job they are interviewing for. These are something along the lines of, “Tell me how you would handle this situation _____.” These are also great for employees that may be lacking experience. If you are trying to measure a person’s ability to use reason and judgment, make sure you have made them adequately comfortable and give them time to respond.

Final Thoughts
Knowing who you are looking for is the first step. It would be worthwhile to have an open and candid conversation with your staff to identify the qualities you find important for each position. Try to think beyond knowledge, skills, and experience and focus on core personality traits. KSAs are undoubtedly important, but they can be learned, developed, and built upon. Personality, on the other hand, is much more stable and cannot be easily modified.

Make sure these and other qualifications are kept updated on your contact or careers page, and keep them consistent with any postings on job boards. You may turn off a potentially valuable employee if the information you have posted is either inconsistent or out of date. Consider investing in a careers microsite. Always remember, “human resources” should never be a misnomer! Your employees are some of your most valuable assets.

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