Betsey Nash

Hiring is a Lot Like Bobbin’ for Apples

Betsey Nash
Betsey Nash

Only Human
By Betsey Nash, SPHR, SHRM-SCP ~

With most of us taking about the first 5 minutes of an interview to make a decision on who to hire, which gives us about a 14-percent success rate in predicting success, the hiring process is much like getting on your knees, holding your hands behind your back, closing your eyes, plunging your face into cold water — grabbing the first thing you can get our teeth into. Both experiences leave us soaked, but only one is fun.

The statistics are staggering: 30%-80% of resumes and applications contain lies and interviewing the applicant does not help pick out the lies from the truth. After all, we make up our minds quickly and with little information, and then hold onto the decision for dear life. Demographics like race, gender, and age all seep into our decision, hard as we may try to keep things objective.


The poorer your preparation, the worse your chances of finding the right person, but my God, it takes so much time to dig through the avalanche of resumes you get via LinkedIn, Indeed, CareerBuilder, etc… Is it worse when you get no applicants?

Then you’re really desperate. At the Home Depot a million years ago we used to joke that all we needed to hire someone was a mirror to hold under their nose — if they were breathing, they had a job.

Then there are the companies that take so long to make a decision that a candidate can lose interest. Is that the idea? If you can persevere through four-plus interviews, you’re hired!

So, what are we to do? We have to have a reliable system in place that provides us with as much good, accurate, reliable, valid information as possible and eliminates the emotional reactionary unchecked triggers. Oh is that all?

There are tools out there, of course:
• Don’t rely on resumes. Use an application because it is a legal document and gives you a book of information that is consistent for all candidates, making comparisons easier. And read it. Learn to spot red flags: blank spaces, short-lived jobs, inconsistent wages, unexplained gaps in employment, reasons they left previous employers. And when they sign it they are attesting that it is the truth and that you can fire them if they lie.
• Know what you’re looking for: not just skills, but talents, strengths, personality traits. Do you need a tracker, a decision-maker or an encourager?
• Learn how to interview. The first interview is like a first date and both sides can be nervous, may embellish, and the candidates are desperate to ferret out what you want to hear. Listen more than you talk — you know that — and don’t be afraid of silence.

Use open-ended questions and ask follow up questions, too. Q: “Do you work better with a hands-on or hands-off?” A: “Well, either. Until I know what I’m doing I like a lot of direction, then I like to be trusted to work on my own.”

Great answer? No, everybody feels that way. What will this person’s supervisor be like? You still don’t know if it will be a good fit on not. So dig deeper: “How do you know if you’re ready to be left on your own?” Or “Once you’re on your own, how often should you check in?” Make them think and make them reflect on what really works for them. You want to know the real person.

General Electric’s famed CEO, Jack Welch, said that the two most important interview questions are, “Why did you leave your last job?” And “Why did you leave the one before that?” They are useless, however, if you don’t listen for the answers.

“Personal reasons” is not a sufficient response, and yes, you can follow up without risking a discrimination lawsuit. You asking “Bad boss?” triggers a response and even if your guess is wrong, they will add more info.

Or you can be more direct: “Your application indicates that you started your own business after leaving X Corp Why did you choose that time to start?” Or, “There’s a gap in your employment history after you left that job, tell me about it.” Dig deeper.

• Conduct a background check and reference check.

Yes, all of this takes time and practice. But the cost of replacing a lousy employee is 150% or more of their wage. The cost of keeping one is a lot higher. Don’t get soaked.

Betsey Nash, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a long-time human resources professional, past president of the Human Resources Association of the Central Coast and owner of Nash HR Services, based in SLO. She can be reached at: betsey@nashhrservices.com. Only Human is a regular feature of the Tolosa Press.