Effective interviewing is only the start

July 30, 2011


Dramatically Improve Your Interviewing Process 07-28-2011

By Doug Fleener, President and Managing Partner, Dynamic Experiences Group

July 28, 2011

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of Dynamic Experiences Group.

The other day, I noticed that a manager was interviewing a job applicant on a bench in front of her store in a local mall. Since I’m never one to miss the chance to watch and learn, I decided to hang out and see what I could take away from the interview.

I can sum up the entire interview in one word. Boring! The interviewer was boring. The applicant was boring. I think they were boring each other. At the end of the interview, the only thing the manager learned was what was already on the application, and all the applicant said was the same stock answers everyone says in an interview, including the all important, “I’m a people person.” My day was complete.

Interviewing and candidate selection is just too important to not do extremely well. A great hire can have an almost immediate positive impact on the store, and a bad hire can lead to 60, 90, or more days of pure hell.

Here are ways to dramatically improve the interviewing and hiring process:

  1. Spend part of the interview working together on the floor. Instead of asking the applicant to tell you about her customer service and selling skills, have her show you with real customers. Sure, she won’t have a lot of product knowledge. Sure, she’ll be nervous. But I’ll tell you what — you’ll quickly separate the winners from the fakers. At the very least, do some selling scenario role-playing with a candidate.
  2.  Have him observe the staff and share his insights with you. You’ll be surprised how many people who say they’re good at sales and service can’t define it even when they see it.
  3. Require the applicant to interview you. You can learn a lot about a person by the questions he/she asks. Is he interested in the challenges and opportunities, or how the lunch breaks work? Is she interested in hearing why you’re a great company to work for, or is she already thinking about vacations?
  4. Have the applicant spend time with non-management team members. If he/she is good, we want to do everything we can to get our offer accepted. One of the best ways to do that is to have the candidate bond with one or two of your best non-management employees. It’s one thing for you to say how wonderful your store/company is, but it’s another when that message comes from a potential colleague.

Discussion questions:  Of the interview techniques mentioned in the article, which will likely provide the most value on average to the interview process? Do you have any unconventional interview techniques that you would add?

My post:

The ideas Doug shared are all good and are easily imbedded in a strong talent acquisition strategy.  The real conversation here should be around the creation of that strategy.  Without a comprehensive strategic approach to talent acquisition, any one touchpoint can only be marginally effective.  Keys to an effective talent acquisition strategy include, but are not limited to:

  1. A clear understanding of what talents are necessary for success – not just generally, but in your unique culture.  This is accomplished by a careful study of the best staff – not just the top sellers, but those who readily create real and human relationships with your top clients.
  2. Determining what is needed to “fit” into your unique culture, including the specific individuals on the team the new staff will be joining.
  3. Developing a structured interview which asks questions that enable the candidate to articulate their strengths in the talents you are looking for (or not)
  4. Training interviewers how to use the structured interview plus “fit” questions.  Here is where the suggestion to spend time on the floor & interview with non-management comes in.  There is no better way to judge fit than to observe the individual in the environment and with their potential peers.
  5. Finally, determining where people who fit your talent profile “live” so that your marketing efforts for candidates can be most effective.  Where they “live” includes social media sites, physical locations (zip codes), types of current employers (for direct recruitment) and more.

This is just the beginning.  A comprehensive talent strategy won’t stop here.  It will include the methods of onboarding, leader engagement, development programs, structured touchpoints for follow up with the staff to ask how they are doing and how you are doing in meeting their expectations, and annual engagement surveys to judge your progress in creating an attractive and retentive employment environment.  Look to the Ritz Carlton and the Container Store as benchmark organizations for this effort.

I have laid out a much more robust and demanding approach vs. the simplicity of an improved interview.  Anything less cannot deliver what you are truly after:  an improved selection process, leading to a more effective workforce, leading to more satisfied customers and a healthier business – creating a virtuous cycle of successful talent management.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist


What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

Go to the full article at Retailwire.com:  Dramatically Improve Your Interviewing Process


Thank you for visiting my blog!  Please subscribe using the RSS button and comment on my postings.

Customer Service Tops NRF Agenda

January 16, 2008

Customer Service Tops NRF Agenda – 1/16/08



In the annual NRF/Amex Customer Service Survey, these retailers topped the list:

Top 10 U.S. Retailers for Customer Service
  1. L.L. Bean
  2. Zappos.com
  3. Amazon.com
  4. Overstock.com
  5. Blair
  6. Lands’ End
  7. Coldwater Creek
  8. Nordstrom
  9. Lane Bryant
  10. Newegg.com

Discussion Questions: How is it that some retailers talk about service and deliver it while others just talk? Where does the system break down at companies that regularly fail to meet customer service expectations? Is it in the hiring process (employing the wrong kinds of people) or in training (failing to give workers the direction and tools to do the job) or at the top of the company where executives talk about service but have no real idea what it means or how to provide it?

My post:

Poor hiring, inadequate training, and a lack of executive will all contribute to the problem.  Executive passion for the customer experience is the starting point.  The best companies have a CEO and other top executives who truly believe their purpose for existence is delivering great product to their beloved customers via engaged, equally passionate employees.  This passion leads to decisions that continually move their service levels higher and higher:  methods of hiring, developing and retaining talent; methods of engaging in meaningful dialogue with customers that fosters contagious loyalty.  Most companies struggle with consistency.  The secrets of success start at the top and are delivered consistently at every customer touch point.  Not one of the companies on the top 10 list can rest.  The customer and the employee are ever-evolving and executives must remain true to their passion re-examine their cultures, their talent management, and their service delivery methods regularly.

Mike Osorio, Your Dare to be Contagious! Strategist, www.OsorioGroup.com

http://www.retailwire.com/Discussions/Sngl_Discussion.cfm/12688                                                              ————————————————-

Customer satisfaction top U.S. issue in 2008

January 16, 2008

Reuters article 01/16/08

Customer satisfaction top U.S. issue in 2008: IBM/NRF survey

Top responses were

  1. customer satisfaction
  2. expanding the number of stores (#1 last year), cutting costs (tied)
  3. getting and keeping good employees (up from #5 last year)

My take:

It is great news that retailers are prioritizing customer satisfaction over opening stores and cutting costs.  It will be very interesting to watch and see if they invest resources accordingly.  However, I think the real news is the move of “getting and keeping good employees” from #5 to #3.  Personally, I believe this should be #1.  Customer satisfaction, store expansions, and cutting costs don’t occur without excellent employees.  But I am satisfied that retailers are placing increasing emphasis on talent attraction, acquisition and retention.  That bodes well for employees, customers, and investors.


View the original Reuters article here:  http://www.reuters.com/article/businessNews/idUSN1555013620080116?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=10003&sp=true