Expert Advice of the Month, Screening out the duds: Donald Cooper

Donald Cooper is a Toronto-based speaker and business coach. Using his vast experience as a manufacturer (Cooper Canada sports equipment) and an award-winning retailer, Cooper has helped hundreds of companies in over 40 industries around the world to create compelling customer value, clarity of purpose, and long-term profitability.

It’s tough to pick the best candidate for the job when they don’t show up. Almost half of Canadian employers stated in a recent survey that “the poor quality of candidates” is their number-one problem when it comes to the hiring process. So, what are you doing to screen out the duds?

First: stop hiring anyone who just shows up! Thousands of businesses around the world are now hiring anyone who simply shows up for an interview. It’s a desperate move and a huge mistake. These non-performers will hurt your business while they are there with you and will cost you a ton of grief and money when you finally decide to pitch them. You need an effective screening process to weed through applicants.

That requires a strong understanding of who you’re looking for. Do you know what skills, talent, knowledge, experience, education, attitude, values, personality, and energy level are needed for the hire? What are the deal breakers? Finding great people is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But it’s a lot easier to find that needle if you know what the needle looks like.

What questions do you ask to find out if candidates have the qualities you need? Create a script of questions to ask. Don’t wing it! For each position, create a job description that states the outcomes to be delivered and the key activities required to deliver those outcomes. Most job descriptions focus on activities only, rather than outcomes—and that’s a big mistake.

Don’t just hire people who can do the specific job that you’re recruiting for today. Hire people who can actually help you get to where you commit to be in three to five years.

Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Can they do the job we’re interviewing for?
  2. Are they a great fit with our culture, values, and standards?
  3. Can they help us grow the business to where we commit to be in three to five years?

Get references, and check them. Do the work. Ask specific questions. Once again, write a script. And above all, don’t wing it!