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The Green Sheet Online Edition

January 14, 2008 • Issue 08:01:01

Interviewing for quality

By Curt Hensley
CSH Consulting

Thriving in the merchant services business isn't easy; just ask any ISO owner or agent out there working constantly to sign merchants. When your hard work does pay off, you'll probably have to expand your operation to achieve an even higher level of success.

Hiring decisions will eventually become the key to continued success. The process can be overwhelming, depending on your hiring experience and the amount of candidates to choose from. Here is some insight on how to weed out the best candidate from the dozens of applicants.

Fault factors

According to a recent study by Leadership IQ, a training and resource center, 46% of newly hired employees will fail within 18 months, while only 19% will achieve unequivocal success.

Contrary to popular belief, technical skills are not the primary reason why new hires fail; poor interpersonal skills dominate the list, flaws which many managers admit were overlooked during the interview process.

The study also found that 26% of new hires don't succeed because they can't accept feedback; 23% are unable to understand and manage emotions; 17% lack necessary motivation to excel; 15% have the wrong temperament for the job; and only 11% lack necessary technical skills.

Typical interview processes fixate on ensuring new hires are technically competent, but the ability to be coached, emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament are much more predictive of new hires' success or failure. If an employee alienates co-workers, lacks drive and has the wrong personality for the job, do technical skills really matter?

If you are a highly perceptive and psychologically savvy interviewer, you can assess employees' likely performance on all of these issues. But the majority of managers lack both the training to accurately read and assess candidates, as well as the confidence to act even when their assessments are correct.

Structural view

The financial cost of hiring fiascos, coupled with the opportunity cost of not hiring top performers, can be millions of dollars, even for small ISOs. In today's warp speed marketplace, business survival depends on high performance. To get those prize employees, recruiters and hiring managers must identify outstanding candidates quickly, often during the first round of interviews.

So how can you get the most out of each interview and score the very best hires for your company? Let's start with the way you arrange the interview.

The typical employment interview is only 57% accurate as a predictor of future performance, according to a Michigan State University study.

That's not a great success rate considering you could flip a coin and get 50%. The study reiterated Leadership IQ's findings that most employment interviews place too much emphasis on evaluating skills and personality, and not enough on past performance.

Our work at CSH Consulting has found the same phenomenon when working with hiring organizations.

That's why we coach managers to conduct interviews focused on what each candidate has done in the past while constantly evaluating their emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament.

An effectively structured interview can quickly uncover the common characteristics of most top performers. Here are some qualities to consider when meeting with a potential employee:

  • A track record of high energy and team leadership that lead to results

  • A consistent, demonstrated record of comparable past performance

  • An exceptional ability to adapt and produce in a new environment

Plan execution

You can develop a profile of every candidate to measure past performance and predict future achievement with a four-question interview. This was originally created by Lou Adler, President of The Adler Group, a training and consulting firm that assists companies in obtaining more top talent by implementing performance-based hiring.

These four questions are designed to highlight candidates' past accomplishments as they relate to the position for which they are applying.

While listening to the responses, focus on the candidate's individual, team and job specific efforts. The questions themselves are designed to let you do your fact-finding while revealing the significant details of each accomplishment.

1. What's been your most significant accomplishment in each of your past two or three jobs?

  • Listen for the energy the candidate brings to the answers.

  • Listen for details. How have the candidate's accomplishments impacted former employers as a whole?

  • Probe for specific examples.

2. For each of your past two or three jobs, I'd like you to sketch out an organizational chart. Can you tell me about your most significant team or management achievement in those positions?

  • Look for extent of control and team leadership.

  • Get examples of the candidate's actual role, and the time and effort involved.

  • Tune in to interpersonal challenges and the candidate's strategies for dealing with conflict.

  • Listen for evidence that the candidate can successfully motivate others.

3. One of our key objectives for the person who is offered this position will be to (enter objective). Can you tell me about your most important comparable accomplishments?

  • Look for job-specific competencies.

  • Ask for specific details to minimize exaggeration.

  • Anchor each major performance objective for the position with a past accomplishment of the candidate.

4. If you were offered this position, how would you go about implementing (describe top two or three performance objectives your organization has established for the position)?

  • Listen for indications that the candidate can adapt easily.

  • Look for past evidence that the candidate can contribute in a new environment.

Does this process sound simple? It is - and it takes about an hour. If you like what you hear from your candidate, here's a follow-up question to ask:

5. Although we're meeting with some other fine candidates, I believe you have a strong background. We'd like to get back to you in a few days. What are your thoughts now about this position?

This expresses your ongoing interest in the candidate. It also expands the interview to include more information about the candidate's interest in your company. You'll find this question reveals issues and ideas you will explore during your next - and more than likely final - interview with the candidate before making a decision.

If you think the candidate has the intelligence, motivation, attitude and the ability to take directions that meet the needs of your organization, and the individual's accomplishments solidify this notion, then you have truly found the right person for the job. With the candidate on board, there's no doubt your merchant services business will thrive as a result. end of article

Curt Hensley is the founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of CSH Consulting (www.cshconsulting.com), a recruiting firm exclusively focused on the payments industry. He and his leadership team have over 50 years of combined experience in recruiting and merchant acquiring. This niche focus and deeply-rooted expertise have made it possible for CSH to have placed more than 1,000 professionals over the past seven years. Contact Curt at 480-315-8800 or curth@cshconsulting.com.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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