Editor's note: Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues--everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.
A reader writes:
Do you have suggestions on how to screen for employees who will have absenteeism problems and not show up for work?
I work in a call center. Most of the folks we hire know what that type of environment is. And yet we still end up terminating people on a regular basis for not showing up for work. It's extremely frustrating!
We do everything we can to make it a fun place to work, and whenever we do hire, we have people recommending that their friends apply, so I like to think it's not the environment.
Well, first, no hiring process is perfect. No matter how thorough your screening processes, you can't screen out attendance problems with 100 percent accuracy. However, there are a lot of things that you can do to minimize the issue:
1. Really probe for motivation when you're interviewing people. For instance, you can ask things like, "Tell me about the workplace you were most satisfied with. What made you so satisfied? What about the time you were the least satisfied?" You're looking for people who talk about getting satisfaction out of productivity and results and a feeling of accomplishment.
You should also delve deeply into candidates' past work experiences--getting them to walk you through a past project in detail, with lots of follow-up questions. If you do that, you're going to start getting a sense of what drives the person and how they think about work.
2. In the interview process, talk explicitly about your company's culture and values. Talk about having high standards, a strong work ethic, and a commitment to results--because some candidates will self-select out if they're not a good fit with that environment.
For instance, I'll sometimes say this to candidates during interviews: "One thing to know about our culture is that we hold ourselves to high standards. We strive for excellence in everything we do, and the work ethic here is higher than anywhere else I've worked--you won't see anyone hanging out on Facebook during the day, or spending an afternoon goofing off in the kitchen. And we're direct about addressing it when things aren't working out. Some people absolutely love that, but it's not for everyone."
Candidates who will fit in well with that culture become excited and more invested in the job prospect at this point, and candidates who aren't good matches tend to reveal that through their responses or drop out on their own.
3. Reference checks can be extremely helpful at ferreting out this kind of thing. Aside from asking straightforward questions about attendance and reliability, find ways to make it "safe" for references to give you the truth about the candidate. For instance, you might ask something like this: "Some people are at a point in their careers where work is a top priority and they're really throwing themselves into it with enthusiasm. Other people are looking more for a 9-to-5 job that pays the bills, but it's not a passion for them. Both are legitimate approaches. Where would you put Bob on that spectrum?"
Now, all this said, there are some jobs where the nature of the work means that there's just going to be a revolving door element to the staffing. Call centers are a prime example of this. You should still do the sort of screening I outline above, and also be very transparent during the hiring process about what candidates can expect once working there, but to some extent, in call centers and similar environments, this may be part of the package.
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.