ROANOKE, Va. — I have always referred to finding the right replacement employee as an art form instead of a clinical process.

I have never found an exact formula that if used would always turn out with the best possible employee for a particular job, but as I traveled along my management journey, I heard of many tricks that some of my fellow managers used. These tricks seemed to work for them.

I can remember visiting with a well-known laundry manager in Indiana. She met me in the front lobby of the hospital and asked me to follow her to the laundry.

The distance from the front lobby to her department was considerable. This manager walked at a very rapid rate and I struggled to keep up with her. Once in the laundry, the manager smiled at me and said I had passed her first employment test. She then explained that when she picked up a potential employee from the employment office for an interview she would walk quickly back to the department.

If the potential employee kept up with her, that was a very good sign. If the job candidate failed to keep up or fell more than several strides behind her, then the candidate would not be considered. She wanted a potential employee who demonstrated the ability to move at a fast pace.

Because large-scale laundry work is unlike what most people are used to, I used to always start the interview process with a tour of the laundry showing the potential new employee what the laundry was all about. This always accomplished one of two things.

The first objective was to watch their reactions when exposed to the environment and culture of the laundry. The second goal was to see if any of the existing staff knew this particular individual.

Potential employees who asked questions about the various pieces of equipment and the process passed this part of the interview. Those who looked uncomfortable during this phase would normally not want the job.

The best work references will come from members of your current staff. If the potential employee has been a good worker and was reliable at their former jobs, then the existing employees will let you know.

If, however, they were a problem employee at their former work site or had trouble getting to work, then your existing staff will not want them on your staff and, again, will let you know.

I always put good attendance high on my list of desirable traits in a new employee. Even the most productive employee cannot help if they are not at work. 

I always asked a person how important they thought attendance was in being a good employee or asked them what the most important trait of a good employee would be. Those that said attendance was very important always got top marks from me.

Modern management techniques recommend using questions in a job interview that cannot be answered with a yes or a no. The more the question will elicit a lengthy response the better. The object is to have the employee share their feelings and previous work experiences with you.

Questions like “What was your favorite part of your previous job?” followed up with “Why was that your favorite part?” can help you understand your potential employee.

I can remember one day when my plant manager and customer service manager just finished interviewing a potential driver. They said they had never had a job candidate do such an excellent job at answering all their questions. They said he was simply too good to be true.

So I asked them, “Are you going to hire him?” They said yes, and I reminded them that he appeared to be too good to be true. They admitted that is how they felt but decided to ignore their feelings and hire him anyway. They came to regret that decision.

Today we have come to realize that a good long-term employee can be found when the potential employee is not only a good fit for the job, but the company is also a good fit for the employee. It is a two-way street and we must be careful to make sure we make the best possible decision. The only thing that is worse than having an open position is having the wrong person in that position.

Develop your skills in the hiring process. Know what you need in an employee and develop an interview technique that will make sure those needs are met.