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How Good are You at Hiring?

Such success doesn’t come from taking shortcuts.


September 16, 2015
By Dave Harrison

October 2015 — Do you want to improve your hiring success, reduce the costly turnover of good employees and avoid labour shortages at your greenhouse or garden centre?

It’s all about effective interviewing, according to veteran farm management specialist Dr. Bernie Erven, professor emeritus of agricultural economics at Ohio State University.

He’s an expert in human resource management in small business and family business relations. He was a speaker at Cultivate’15 in Columbus, with a presentation on improving the job hiring process.

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Hiring the right person is a critical skill for managers, one that requires an effective game plan and plenty of preparation. “Poorly done interviews can easily lead to hiring a poor fit.”

Interviewing, he stressed, is only one part of the hiring process. Before you get to that stage you have to: decide how the position being filled will help your business; list the qualifications necessary to succeed in the position; develop a pool of applicants; and select the applicants to be interviewed.

Erven suggests more than one person should be involved in the process, though don’t go overboard. Two or three people are fine – include the immediate supervisor and a co-worker on the team. One-on-one interviews work best, and the team members can compare notes after the applicants have been interviewed.

Structured interviews are better than less formal sessions, and it’s important to ask the same basic questions of all applicants.

“Behavioral” questions are important. Past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior.

“How did you resolve conflicts between co-workers when you were a supervisor,” is a good example, or “describe an equipment-related problem you have solved in the last year and how did you go about solving it?”

Other examples would be:

  • What is the most difficult challenge you have ever faced, and how did you handle it?
  • How do you provide performance feedback to the people you supervise in your current position?

Avoid asking questions that applicants can prepare for, such as “what are your goals and aspirations,” or “why do you want this job.”

In that vein, throw in some questions applicants won’t expect, such as:

  • Describe the best supervisor, coach or teacher you have ever had.
  • Describe the person who is your all-time favourite co-worker.
  • What has been your most important accomplishment outside of work.
  • What is the one question you are most afraid I will ask you?
  • Why should we hire you?

This shows how candidates think on their feet, and how they deal with the unexpected.

Interviewers should only jot down short notes so they can maintain eye contact. Immediately after the interview, they can complete the report prompted by those notes.

“Preparation is the key to interviewing success,” Erven said.

Highly desirable applicants expect a well-done interview, and some will even refuse a job offer if they’re not comfortable with the quality of the interview.

Poorly done interviews can easily lead to hiring the wrong person, and that means having to go through the process again.

“Hiring success doesn’t come from taking shortcuts. If you hire well, it’s far less likely you’ll have to do it again in a few months.”


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