Give up right now on the chance of ever delivering a consistently excellent customer experience, if you are unwilling to hire differently. This is where it all begins—either good or bad. Yet, most producers hire quickly and without any regard to how the person will fit into their culture or if he is able to interact successfully with external customers.

A bad hire can remain in their job for a long time. The consequences and cost of a bad hire are huge, mostly because we exit the employee slowly. I've seen it take years. Typically, problematic behaviors are dismissed because the employee is doing the mechanics of the job okay and manages to get to work consistently.

However, behaviors that poison the internal culture also negatively impact the external customer experience. Not being a team player, negativity, gossiping, undermining, blaming—all of these destroy morale and are felt by the customers.

Here are your rules for hiring winners.

1-Take Your Time and Use a Meticulous Process

Why does it take us two years to exit an employee who is not working out and two days to replace them? This is an avoidable sink hole.

It is imperative to sideline the urgent pleas to "get somebody in here fast" and follow a meticulous process to hire the right individual. That process must include an initial interview with HR, and an interview with the person who will manage the newly hired individual, the department head, and several team members.

Team member interviews are critical to selecting the right individual. When team members are part of the process, it is more likely they will welcome the new employee more enthusiastically.

Assessments can also be used to predict culture fit. These tools are plentiful and helpful.

2-NEVER Hire from a Pool of One

If your goal is excellence in performance, then, no matter how good a candidate looks, contrast him with at least three to four other candidates just like you would do if you were hiring a new CFO, COO or CEO. The prevailing thought unfortunately is that when hiring for an entry level or even mid-level position, it doesn't matter that much. Au contraire mon frère. Too often a referral is given, an interview is held and a new employee is hired—just like that.

3-Hire for Attitude AND for Skill

The day of the interview is the candidate's best day. He gets up that morning and dresses specifically to impress you. He comes armed with a big smile on his face, a firm but not too firm handshake, and answers all of your possible questions. His resume has been designed, just for you and the job you posted.

If he is not disarmingly pleasant and positive on the day of the interview, do not even consider him. What will this person be like when he wakes up with a headache and has three projects due? Attitude is everything. If this person is going to work with humans, hire for attitude AND for skill.

4-Hire to a Customer Service Skill Set—no matter what the position

Unless the person you are hiring is going to work in isolation, like on Mars, it is imperative to consider how he will interact with human beings. In addition to attitude, consider a few other important qualities. Create a list of "how would you handle this situation?" scenarios and see how he responds. Look for the ability to:

  • Handle upset customers
  • Communicate respectfully
  • Be spontaneous and flexible
  • Resolve problems
  • Be empathic

Hiring the right person demands following a rigorous process. Step out of the process and you may step into some drama.

Joan Fox is a customer experience consultant to the ready-mix industry and a popular conference speaker. Telephone 513-793-9582 or email joan@joanfox.com.