Work History and Hiring!

· by Herb Dew

Herb is the CEO of HTI. He founded HTI in 1999 along with John Knight and David Sewell, and remains heavily involved in the organization today.
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When I am teaching my employees how to hire more effectively we spend lots of time reviewing different selection tools and discuss at length interview strategy and techniques. I realize that I also need to spend more time emphasizing a strong look at a person’s work history. Now that seems obvious, right? But I am not talking about just dates and accomplishments….but actually looking at the work history as a snapshot of how they will likely act when employed by us or one of our customers.

If a person has three jobs over the last five years and each time they left say it was because they found a “better opportunity”, do I REALLY think HTI is that much better? I love “us”, but the applicant in question exhibits a quality of always looking elsewhere, so am I really going to get something different? Probably not.

If I am discussing their work history and they have had some tough bosses, and therefore made some moves, am I that much BETTER a boss? Or is that person just critical of who they work for? Likewise with money, if they are always unhappy with what they were making elsewhere won’t I also face that concern, regardless of what I do? Probably.

Etc. etc. A trend is likely a pattern.

Work history is a trend that can be looked at to predict future behavior. Yes, some people can change. And no, one job error does not cause me to judge the person unworthy. I like people that have had failures and learned from them. We all have had them.

But a trend is a trend. The number of times I have spoken to someone who was sharp but had a work history that made me uneasy has been often. Some of my worst hiring decisions (and lessons) have been ignoring their history and acting on my “instinct”.  And the employee ended up unhappy or underperforming for exactly the reason they struggled previously.

Look at work history closely for patterns. Ask a lot of questions in an interview about obvious patterns surrounding teamwork, relationships with superiors, job changes and their failures. You will learn a lot if you’re looking and listening closely!