Recommendations for an applicant

This article was written by Gary North

If I were the head of a human resources department, I would train my staff to look very carefully at the careers of the people looking for a job.  If the person is coming in from a company that has gone belly-up, the main question I would want to know is this: “How will this person fit into the culture of my company?”  Every company has its cultural standards — ways of getting things done.  Will this person fit into the company effectively?

I would ask the person about the kinds of things that he did in the company before the company went belly-up.  I would want to get him talking about the culture of the now-defunct company.  Why did he do well?  Did he like his job?  I would want to find out whether this person will be a good fit for the new company.

At some point, I would ask the person what he does in his spare time.  I want to know what his hobbies are.  Are his hobbies related to the job?  If his hobbies are associated with the job, then he is really serious about mastering the basics of the job.  My favorite example of this is Capt. Sullenberger.  He was the pilot who saved all the lives in the crash landing in the Hudson River.  What does he do in his spare time?  He flies gliders. In other words, it has to do with flying.  That’s the kind of guy you want on your team.

My focus would be on getting the candidate to ask about the company.  I want to know what he is after.  Is he after money?  Is he after meaning?  Is he after the retirement program?  What motivates him?  What does he know about my company?  Has he researched it?  Does he know the services or products put out by the company?  I would want to hire somebody who knew a lot about my company. If the person knows what is going on in the company, he has taken the time to study it.  That means he is interested in getting a job with my company, not just any company in general.

If I can get him to talk about my company in comparison with other competing companies, that would be ideal.  This way, I would understand if he really knows the industry.

I would ask him about how many trade shows he has attended.  If he has attended none, that is a tipoff.

I would want to know his list of books related to the industry that he has read and marked up.

I would ask how he found out about the job opening.  Does he have a network of some kind?  Would he be a source of recommendations for other highly competent people that the company might want to hire?  I would look ahead. There will always be people to be hired.  If this person turns out to be good, probably the people in his network are good.  Use this guy to get access to top-performing people in his network.  This is why people pay big money to go to the Harvard Business School: networking.

What websites does he read related to the field?  Ask him to discuss the differences between these websites.  Anybody can say he goes to standard websites.  Find out if he knows the differences in outlook among the editors of these websites.  If he knows the differences, he is a potential employee. This guy really is interested in the field.

Of course, this presumes that the person asking the questions knows what he is talking about.  Does he know the differences between the editorial styles and focus of the major websites and magazines in the industry?  I don’t think most of the people who ask the questions know much about the industry.  These are people at the bottom of the totem pole in any corporate system.  The companies don’t put their best people into the human resources department.

If somebody is willing to take a job at a low wage in to establish himself in a new company, he is serious about his commitment.  That’s why companies should do most of their hiring at the tail end of a recession, not at the tail end of a boom.  Hire people when they are willing to take low wages for entry-level jobs.  Fire them if they don’t perform well.  Give them promotions and raises if they perform well.

Update 30 March 2023