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TIP TUESDAY: Take on an Investigator’s Mindset When Interviewing Applicants

by Tadd Downs for SHRM online

As a career criminal investigator, my job for the past 25 years has been to put bad guys in jail. Yes, I know this has nothing to do with human resources, and I am sure you are asking, “Why is a criminal investigator writing an article for an HR publication?” It’s simple: An investigator and an HR professional have more in common than you may think.

The more I speak to HR folks, the more I am convinced they could benefit from what I call an “investigator’s mindset.”

In essence, both sets of professionals conduct investigations. The law enforcement investigator does so to solve crimes, while the HR professional investigates applicants and candidates before hiring them. This can be challenging and frustrating. If the HR investigation is done right, a qualified employee is hired. If it’s done wrong, the employer ends up with a problem employee. However, avoiding a bad hire is easier said than done.

During a candidate interview, the HR professional ideally tries to have an open and honest conversation with the applicant so that the former can make an informed business decision. However, scientific studies show that applicants often lie in interviews to obtain a job. In addition, applicants may go to great lengths to try to impress the interviewer.

In my research, I’ve found that interviewers are often poorly prepared to detect a job seeker’s misleading statements. Here is where using the investigator’s mindset can help the HR professional.

Criminal investigators are experts at what I call creating a “psychologically safe” environment. When an HR professional uses an investigator’s mindset for hiring, he or she needs to:

  • Become a student of nonverbal communication.
  • Recognize the seven universal emotions.
  • Properly prepare.
  • Lower the cognitive load.
  • Listen aggressively.

Become a Student of Nonverbal Communication

Investigators know that they can’t rely on “gut instinct” but on facts. One way to do this is by becoming a student of nonverbal communication. By becoming a student of nonverbal communication, the HR professional can look beyond any impression an applicant tries to make. An excellent and easy-to-observe example of this is when an applicant answers a question verbally with “no,” but their nonverbal display—nodding their head—indicates “yes.”

Understand the Seven Universal Emotions

There are seven universal emotions shared by cultures throughout the world, according to a series of experiments by Dr. Paul Ekman, a professor emeritus in psychology at the University of California.

These emotions are anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. Recognizing these emotions can allow the interviewer to determine whether what a candidate says coincides with what he or she is feeling. For example, an interviewer can ask, “How well did you get along with your previous supervisor?” If the applicant displays emotions such as contempt, disgust or anger, yet indicates they had a “great relationship,” the applicant’s emotions do not support his or her words. However, if the interviewer sees happiness during the applicant’s answer to the same question, the emotions and the verbal response are congruent.

Properly Prepare for the Interview

Interviewing takes preparation and practice. Setting aside time to prepare allows the interviewer to:

  • Avoid confirmation bias, which is a tendency to look for information that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses about a candidate, while neglecting information that might contradict that bias.
  • Avoid truth bias, which is the tendency for interviewers to want to believe others, despite evidence to the contrary.
  • Avoid overconfidence bias, which is the tendency for an interviewer to believe that his or her ability to interview is better than it actually is.

Lower Your Cognitive Load

Cognitive load refers to the amount of mental effort being used in one’s working memory. When your cognitive load is great, it impairs your ability to assess what it is you’re seeing and hearing. In layman’s terms, if too much is going on in your mind, you’re not able to conduct a successful interview. Your cognitive load will place a “road block” in the way of adequately interviewing your applicants.

The primary way an interviewer can reduce cognitive load is by recording the interview. This will replace the need to take notes.

Aggressive Listening

The late Stephen Covey said it best in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People (Free Press, 1989). “Most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand.” Thumb-twiddling, rubbing of the legs or hands, and self-hand-holding are a few examples. Maintaining eye contact is one way to listen aggressively to an applicant. Eye contact shows interest in what the candidate is saying, and scientific studies have shown that by maintaining eye contact, you are better able to recall what has been communicated.

The Power of Silence

Lastly, use the power of silence—your silence. After all, if you are talking, you are not listening.

Tadd Downs has over 25 years experience conducting interviews and investigations with the Virginia State Police, then 21 years as a special agent with the U.S. Secret Service. He is the author of Using the Investigator’s Mindset: How HR Professionals Can Interview Like an Investigator to Avoid Bad Hires, (self-published, 2017) in which he takes an in-depth look at the applicant interviewing process.

WEDNESDAY WORKFACT: Onboarding Employees for Success

{by Christine Marino at http://blog.clickboarding.com/employee-engagement-onboarding-impacts-performance}

 

Employee engagement is a perpetual hot-button topic for employers as research have shown that as many as 70% of employees are disengaged at work. This means less productivity for employees and endless frustration for you and your management team. The best way to create a culture that is engaged and happy is by engaging your employees as soon as possible — during the onboarding process.

Use Culture to Propel Employee Engagement

There’s more to early onboarding than having legal paperwork completed by their first day. Almost 50% of potential employees explore company materials (like their careers website) to get a feel for the company’s values and cultural fit. For employers, this means “cultural onboarding” needs to start well before an employee starts working. Provide your new hires with digital information as part of their onboarding material. Be sure to explain what your company is about and contextualize their job within its larger vision. This gives your hire a better idea of the company they’re about to work for, easing them into the job.

Be Proactive and Smile

You’ve told your new hire where their office is and what events go on the company calendar… now what? What do candidates want from their onboarding? According to a recent survey by BambooHR, 23% of new hires who left their jobs within six months of starting wanted clearer guidelines about their responsibilities. 17% felt “a friendly smile or helpful co-worker would have made all the difference.” The message? When it comes to onboarding, a little friendliness goes a long way.

Better Performance Through Extended Onboarding

Research shows that employee onboarding programs increase performance by 11%. Now imagine what you could do if you truly engaged your employees before day one. The more you teach your employees before they get into the on-the-job training, the faster they’ll be able to do their job.

When performance is taken into consideration, every day counts. Even day-one.  Many companies have a probationary period, so understanding an employee’s growth from the first day is a crucial predictor to their performance in the future. The average time for a professional employee to reach full productivity is about 20 weeks. 26 weeks for those at the executive level. So no matter how minor it may be, every little thing you teach an employee through onboarding will cut down on this time, meaning higher performance and better work sooner.

It’s simple: if you want your employees to engage with your company culture, have a better onboarding experience, and grow into their own as employees more quickly, you need to engage with them before and throughout the onboarding process. Even something as simple as a positive attitude can go a long way. If you engage your new hires during onboarding, you’re setting your employees up for better performance and a better experience.

 

WEDNESDAY WORKFACT: 4 Facts to Know About Hiring Good People

Everyone talks about the importance of “hiring good people.”  Meaning what, exactly? Skills and experience? Character? Eagle Scouts? People like you?

Keeping these following facts in mind will help you hire employees who will be a good fit in your organization—they may even turn out to be simply good people.

1. People lie.

For whatever reasons, it is common for job candidates to exaggerate—or even just outright lie—on resumes and application forms, and even in interviews. This happens at all levels, including some infamous failures in hiring for the C-suite.

Some employers put it down to the intense competition applicants feel in a kind of escalating ground war with other similar candidates who may look better, but the reality is that lying to get a job is an indicator of the person’s character, and there is no reason to think that similar behavior won’t happen again when the person becomes part of your organization.

2. Turnover is expensive.

When you think about the costs to recruit, interview, and train, combined with the lost knowledge, lost productivity, and stress on staff who remain while the position is being filled and the ‘new person’ is getting up to speed, the costs are undoubtedly great.

Everyone knows there will be a certain amount of turnover in an organization, but you want to avoid mistakes in hiring that lead to premature departures. This puts pressure on you to devise a hiring process that is systematic and thorough even though that might seem to cost more in the short run. The ultimate quality of your candidates is affected at every step of the hiring process.

3. Blanket Exclusions are Dangerous – and May Be Unfair

For convenience or efficiency, employers sometimes choose to reject applicants based on simple or even single factor criteria. For example, some employers have excluded applicants, without further research, based on a single statement that they have a criminal conviction in the past. This strategy may expose you to litigation by rejected applicants and potential action by regulators, and it likely leads you to miss out on good hires.

There are jobs where a hard and fast rule for exclusions exists, such as rejecting applicants for law enforcement jobs if they have a criminal conviction. But your hiring process should be built largely around screening applicants for their qualifications based on job-related criteria and be sure the hiring process aims to evaluate the individual fairly for his or her own circumstances, and how they do or do not fit the position.

4. The social media ‘goldmine’ can just as easily become a minefield.

Employers have easy access to a trove of personal information about candidates via social media. But keep two things in mind before you succumb to the temptation to peek inside your candidate’s personal life.

First, remember that once you look into the candidate’s accounts, you cannot “unlook” at it. In other words, you cannot pretend not to notice things about the person’s history, political views, or any other matter of private belief or lifestyle. You are accountable for knowing what is in there.

Second, the use of any information you find in a social media account is protected by the same laws that protect the use of offline information. The rules about privacy are evolving, but some courts have found social media accounts to be off limits for use in employment decisions. You may need to look at this kind of information, but you are best served by giving the job to a third party agency that will follow the laws diligently.

No doubt about it: good people make companies great…. and with these facts in hand you are better equipped to bring more of the right people on board .

TIP TUESDAY: What Do Employers Really Need to Know About Job Applicants?

Employers invest significant time, energy, and resources in bringing a new employee onboard.  Recruiting, screening, and interviewing processes are all done with the goal of hiring an employee who will do a job well and work well within an organization.  So what do employers need to know to hire successfully?  And what are the things employers don’t need to know?

Need to Know:

Experience.  Does the applicant have relevant work experience (or other experience)?

Education.  Will the applicant’s education help him or her do the job?

Personality.  Does the applicant have the motivation, energy, and attitude that’s needed for the job?  For the organization?  Note—employers shouldn’t always look for an applicant who will “fit in.”  Sometimes the right person for the job is someone who will shake things up, bring a new perspective, or reenergize a team or department.

Not So Much:

Credit score. It’s apparent from recent legislation on state and local levels that employers don’t need to know whether an applicant has a good credit score—at least for most jobs.  The District of Columbia is the jurisdiction that most recently enacted a law that prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their credit history.  It joins 11 states that have similar laws. Generally, the laws allow employers to inquire about an applicant’s credit history if the job involves unsupervised access to large sums of money or to customers’ financial information.

Pay history. A new state law in Massachusetts and a new ordinance in Philadelphia prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s pay history; similar legislation is pending in other states and municipalities, including New York City, where a bill approved by the city council awaits the mayor’s signature. Basing an employee’s pay on pay history instead of the market value of the position can be a disadvantage to workers who entered the workforce at a lower pay rate; and it can perpetuate gender-based pay disparities.

Not Right Away:

Criminal history. Several states and numerous cities and counties have enacted “ban the box” laws that prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on a job application. Many require employers to delay these questions until after an applicant has been offered a job.

Not At All!

Protected characteristics. It’s a rare job that requires a job applicant to be of a certain age, race, color, religion, national origin, or sex (think female actor for a female role). If employers ask for information, it’s because they want the information. And if they want the information, it’s because they’re going to use the information.  At least, that’s what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “generally presumes” about an employer’s questions.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from asking questions that are likely to elicit information about a disability before a conditional job offer has been extended.  Employers should avoid questions about an applicant’s history of using sick leave, history of hospitalizations, workers’ comp claims, etc.  Questions should be limited to whether the applicant can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

To get the information it needs while avoiding information that’s irrelevant (and possibly unlawful), an employer should focus on the qualifications for the job in question and make inquiries that will help it evaluate how the applicant’s skills and experience align with those qualifications.

What Do Employers Really Need to Know About Job Applicants?

Employers invest significant time, energy, and resources in bringing a new employee onboard.  Recruiting, screening, and interviewing processes are all done with the goal of hiring an employee who will do a job well and work well within an organization.  So what do employers need to know to hire successfully?  And what are the things employers don’t need to know?

Need to Know

Experience.  Does the applicant have relevant work experience (or other experience)?

Education.  Will the applicant’s education help him or her do the job?

Personality.  Does the applicant have the motivation, energy, and attitude that’s needed for the job?  For the organization?  Note—employers shouldn’t always look for an applicant who will “fit in.”  Sometimes the right person for the job is someone who will shake things up, bring a new perspective, or reenergize a team or department.

Not So Much

Credit score. It’s apparent from recent legislation on the state and local level that employers don’t need to know whether an applicant has a good credit score—at least for most jobs.  The District of Columbia is the jurisdiction that most recently enacted a law that prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their credit history.  It joins 11 states that have similar laws.  Generally, the laws allow employers to inquire about an applicant’s credit history if the job involves unsupervised access to large sums of money or to customers’ financial information.

Pay history. A new state law in Massachusetts and a new ordinance in Philadelphia prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s pay history.  And similar legislation is pending in other states and municipalities, including New York City, where a bill approved by the city council awaits the mayor’s signature. Basing an employee’s pay on pay history instead of the market value of the position can be a disadvantage to workers who entered the workforce at a lower pay rate; and it can perpetuate gender-based pay disparities.

Not Right Away

Criminal history. Several states and numerous cities and counties have enacted “ban the box” laws that prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on a job application. Many require employers to delay these questions until after an applicant has been offered a job.

Not at All!

Protected characteristics. It’s a rare job that requires a job applicant to be of a certain age, race, color, religion, national origin, or sex (think female actor for a female role).  Yes, there are exceptions.  But by and large, employers don’t need any of this information about an applicant.  If employers ask for information, it’s because they want the information.  And if they want the information, it’s because they’re going to use the information.  At least, that’s what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “generally presumes” about an employer’s questions.  So, if an employer doesn’t plan to use certain information to make a hiring decision, it shouldn’t ask for it.

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from asking questions that are likely to elicit information about a disability before a conditional job offer has been extended.  Employers should avoid questions about an applicant’s history of using sick leave, history of hospitalizations, workers’ comp claims, etc.  Questions should be limited to whether the applicant can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

To get the information it needs while avoiding information that’s irrelevant (and possibly unlawful), an employer should focus on the qualifications for the job in question and make inquiries that will help it evaluate how the applicant’s skills and experience align with those qualifications.

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