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Accentuate the Negative
by Mel Kleiman, CSP

With fewer and fewer jobs available these days, companies might expect to see an increase in the number of qualified people applying for any position available.

And with so many people looking for a job in a limited job market, you might even think that companies are living in a hiring paradise.

Frequently, this isn't the case at all. Companies find that although they may receive as many or more applications, employee turnover and dissatisfaction is still high. Finding a qualified applicant in a 50-applicant pool can be as much of a challenge as finding one in a pool of five.

Perhaps part of the problem lies in the way managers are viewing those applications. Perhaps instead of looking first at what's right with the prospective employee managers need to start looking at what's wrong with them instead.

Initially separating the most qualified from the least qualified is a simple task but managers often don't use their analytical skills after the applicant walks through the door.

Because time and effort have been invested in reviewing the applications, contacting the applicant and setting aside time to meet with them, managers want a right fit, even when there isn't one. Taking the time to look first at applicants' negatives can prevent losing even more time, energy and money in the future.

For example, let's say you are about to interview a candidate who has worked as a clerk for a local chain for six years. Your company needs an experienced clerk and from the looks of the application, this appears to be a perfect fit. After all, he's been with his previous employer since the beginning, doing the same thing, every day, for six years. It certainly seems like he would be an ideal employee. Or would he....? An employee's time at a company does not always equal experience. It may in fact - just equal time.

Knowing what you know about your company and about your industry, can you recall the last great employee you had in the same position for that length of time? Extenuating circumstances aside, most great employees want more out of you as you do out of them. More time at a company should bring with it a higher level of investment, more responsibility, and even a need for change and growth. Why hasn't this applicant been promoted or given more responsibility in six years? Thinking about his experience in a negative light just might prove to have a positive outcome for your organization.

If your purpose is to attract and retain a group of strong, energetic and dynamic employees, hiring a person who shies away from additional responsibility, and balks at new and challenging roles is inconsistent with your purpose.

Looking at applicants in a negative perspective helps identify and prevent high turnover rates and employee dissatisfaction. Looking only at what's right with an applicant doesn't take into account the whole person, leaving you with an inaccurate assessment of who they are and what they can do. Paying attention to the negative aspects of an applicant's experience can actually be a positive move for you both.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally recognized consultant, author, and speaker on strategies for hiring and retaining the best hourly employees. He is the President of Humetrics, a leading developer of systems, training, processes, and tools for recruiting, selecting, and retaining the best hourly workforce. Mel is also the author of four books, including the best selling "Hire Tough Manage Easy." You can reach Mel at (800) 218-0930 or (713) 771-4401 or mel@melkleiman.com.