Lately I’ve been focused on how leaders who treat their employees like humans (and act like humans themselves) create a competitive advantage for their company. It sounds like a low bar, but it’s true.
These days companies tend to concentrate on more complicated ways to create value for themselves, but it’s because people’s jobs are more challenging than ever that leaders need to get back to basics and build companies that treat people like they matter. This starts with the job interview.
I was reminded of the ways that we make too many companies inhospitable for humans by a New York Times article on “the utter uselessness” of interviews. The author made a number of great points about how poorly we evaluate people during an interview, something that is borne out by research.
While the point is true, the article concentrated on just one aspect of the interview, the need to decide if the candidate can successfully do the job. And yes, this judgement part is critical to success of the business. But, if you recognize a leader’s role in creating a team of people with the same goal, then there are actually 5 things that you should do to be a great interviewer.
1. Determine whether the candidate has the skills to succeed in the job, and the ability to be a great member of your culture.
2. Acknowledge that the interview situation can be stressful and show a little empathy.
3. Show the candidate that you want to know what they need to make this a great job for them. What do they need to be at their best?
4. Get to know the person you might work with every day. Show them the way that people connect and work together as people.
5. Help the candidate see that your company is a great place to work, a place where they should want to work (even you don’t think they are right for your company). Believe it or not, even people you decline to make an offer to can refer others if they have been treated well along the way.
It’s important to remember that an interview is an opportunity to relate and inform as well as to judge and evaluate. It has become too common to categorize co-workers as people we work with, not real people who actually matter.
This co-worker category allows us to diminish the importance of our colleagues as people and relate to them only as a way to get work done. I hear people say all the time, “I don’t have to like the people that I work with,” and so it has become more and more common to hire people that know how to do the job, but not necessarily someone with whom we want to work.
People who study how happy and engaged people are at work have begun to call the poor state of employee morale a business crisis, but it seems to be just as big a human crisis. Being treated as a cog in a machine has to play a big part in this. It’s not hard to understand why people count down the days to the Friday every single week. You know what that same research tells us is different about a lot of those people who are really connected to their work? They have a connection to someone at work. They have a person at work who treats them like they matter.
We live in an age of hyper-competition where there is a drive to get as much from every dollar, minute and person as possible. As competition continues to ratchet up, the best companies will win because they are great at what they do and understand that to have the best employees they must create a great place to work from the first interview forward.