How to Detect Rudeness in Applicants

The baby cries and calls mom from a bed

I had been standing in the pharmacy line for about ten minutes and was next to be served. Just as I stepped up, a middle-aged woman slipped in front of me and said to the pharmacy tech, “I just need to drop this off,” handing him a prescription.

“This gentleman is next in line,” said the tech.

“I know,” said the woman, “but I just need to drop this off.”

“I can’t accept this prescription without checking to see if you’re in the system,” explained the tech.

“I know,” insisted the woman, but I’m in a hurry and I just need to drop this off.”

The tech gave me that pleading look that said, “Would you mind if I dealt with this rude woman?”

I nodded and he checked her in. “Thank you,” he said after she was out of range. “That happens a couple of times a day.”

Outside of wanting to rant about those who lack courtesy, this incident reminded be of something I’ve taught employers for years: How applicants behave and what they do once hired can be considerably different things. All the interviews and assessments in the world will not reveal this. When the person’s in a rush, how is she going to treat those around her? When she’s feeling pressured, how will she treat the customer? When she’s in the last ten minutes of her shift, what will she say to that person who’s going to delay her departure?

So what do you do? Here are three suggestions:

First, arrange to have applicants come in contact with strangers. This can be as simple as having the receptionist try to chat them up. Does the applicant respond with understanding? Does she empathize? Perhaps instead she treats the receptionist with a dismissive, “I’m better than you,” attitude. Those are the ones to watch out for.

Second, keep them waiting. No one likes to be kept waiting. But some of us deal with it better than others. Does the applicant grow impatient? How does he deal with the delay? Does he chat up the receptionist, find something to read or review information about the company? Maybe he sits there and stews or asks what’s going on every five minutes. Who would you rather have on your team?

Third, place them in a situation where they have to perform. This strategy requires the most time and effort. But it is also the most effective. Have applicants go on a “scavenger hunt” by collecting documents or information from several people within the firm. This will force them to establish a brief rapport with each one. Place them in an office with an in-basket exercise and have people call and interrupt them with questions and requests that range from the informative to the inane. After an hour of this, you’ll get a feel for how they handle distractions, irritations, confusion and the like.

Notice that all of these strategies deal with nuance. But it’s the nuanced behaviors of others that can get under our skin and can cost us money. Is all this worth the investment? You decide. You’re making a thirty- to fifty-thousand dollar decision by hiring someone.

Are these ideas fool-proof? Of course not. But they will go to some length in revealing the potential behaviors of those upon whom you will relay once they’re on the job. After all, most people don’t get fired for a lack of competence. They are released because of the attitudes and behaviors that those around them consider unacceptable.

Show’em – Do’em – Watch’em

Two Women In Computer Room Where One Is Assisting The Other

I overheard a supervisor train a new employee on merchandising a display of lotions and ointments. I could tell she was busy and had other places to be. Yet this training needed to be done so she was doing it. You know the situation.

The employee listened intently at first, but became overwhelmed by the number of steps involved, the instructions on how to tell which product went where and the consequences if it wasn’t done correctly. The supervisor didn’t mean to train in this manner. She had the best of intentions. I’ll bet, however, that she will end up retraining this individual sometime in the next two weeks or so.

As I stood there watching, I was reminded of the age-old three-step principle of “show them how – do it with them – watch them do it.” This seemingly simply technique is deceptively difficult, not because it’s complicated but because it requires discipline.

It is easy to underestimate the amount of time required for on-the-job training. Since we are already skilled at the job, it’s natural to think, “How hard can this be?” Then there’s the assumption that the trainee will catch on right away. Wrong! When was the last time you got a new skill completely right on the first try? Finally, it is tempting to multi-task while training. Surely, you can clear e-mail, answer others’ questions and train a newbie at the same time. Right?

Sho’em – Do’em – Watch’em requires focus and follow through. You show the person how to perform the task. Then you do it with them. Then you watch them do it. When all three steps are completed, the training has been successfully introduced, grounded in practical application and reinforced by being observed. Additionally it instills a modicum of confidence in the trainee.

This three-step principle will never cease to be an effective strategy for on-the job training, but only if the trainer takes the time and has the discipline to follow-through. Sometimes, you just have to go back to the basics.