When you’re selecting new employees for roles in which they’ll be interacting with customers (and, likewise, when you’re moving existing employees into such roles), the approach that tends to work best is to give more weight to personality traits than to previously acquired skills and experience.
The technical, vocational aspects of most positions can be taught to nearly any employee, but personality traits tend to have calcified by the time an applicant reaches adulthood. If you bring on new employees who lack the right personality traits for service, you’re going to find them struggling in their roles every step of the way, even if they are otherwise qualified.
You can try to make people enjoy others, to make them empathetic, or to make them enjoy working on behalf of customers — but it won’t be easy. At best, in fact, it’s an uphill battle. At worst, it’s an utter impossibility.
How to Stop Finding the Wrong People and Start Finding the Right Ones
Before I spell out how to determine which prospective employees have the right traits for customer-facing roles, I need to cure you of the wrong way of going about it: going with your gut.
Your gut instinct for picking the future superstars of customer service is probably not as spot-on as you think it is. Just as most every driver on the road believes their own driving skills to be above average, a lot of managers and leaders believe themselves to have above-average abilities when it comes to identifying future high-performers. As the carnage on our roads and the multitudes of inappropriately selected employees can attest, both groups could use some improvement.
The common yet unwarranted cockiness of leaders and managers is caused by a psychological phenomenon called the “self-serving bias.” This bias causes us to attribute whatever successes we have to our talents and to ascribe any failures we experience to external events and bad luck. As it applies to hiring decisions, the self-serving bias deludes us into thinking we have a special gift for employee selection by making us credit ourselves for good hires while rationalizing our bad hires as flukes.
Instead of going with your gut, try bringing science into the employee-selection process, with the goal of eliminating as much happenstance as possible. Continue reading here…