Onboarding should be done during the job interview

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Rey Elbo

In The Workplace

We’re trying to improve our department’s capability in hiring given the high turnover rate of our new hires in the first year of their employment. We’d like to change our interviewing strategies to secure the best and the brightest workers and retain them for the longest time. What would you suggest? — Something New.

The owner of a photography studio tells the story of a college teenager who came in with a framed picture of his girlfriend. He wanted the photo duplicated to look like the original. In removing the photograph from the frame, the professional photographer noticed the inscription on the back, written by the girlfriend:

“My dearest Tommy, I love you with all my heart. I love you more and more each day. I will love you forever and ever, I am yours for all eternity.” It was signed “Dianne” and contained the following P.S.: “If we should ever break up, I want this picture back.”

Job interviews are just like conversation between two singles. Interviews and dating are almost the same, except that they should not be treated like “marketing a used car,” says Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute?

This two-way “conversation” is best used to decide if they want to go steady, towards a long-term partnership. More often, the prospective employer (or a male suitor) initiates the process by advertising a vacancy, and if there are interested applicants, invites the applicant to a job interview (or a date.) The interview (or date) includes a “data-collecting process for the employer,” says Bolles, who forgets or may have ignored the fact that a job applicant is also equally interested to discover if there is a mutual fit in the long-term.

More often, this is the root cause of the high turnover of new hires. If you’re the employer, your tendency is to fast-track the onboarding of new hires as you focus more on knowing if the applicants are qualified for the job.

But, this is patently wrong! The job interview should also include enough time so the applicants are informed about the company’s culture, vision and values, career development, succession planning, and the management style of its bosses, among others.

In other words, the onboarding process should be done before hiring the new workers, and not after a hiring decision is done. To save time and effort, it is best limited to the top two short-listed candidates, at least for those applying for key positions. Even if the job candidates say they have no questions after the interview, the hiring manager should insist on explaining what’s in store for them when finally hired.

This is to avoid, if not eliminate troublesome “surprises.” Now, here are some of the important topics that the hiring manager should initiate discussing with the prospective new hires so they would know what’s in store for them:

One is the management style of the organization. Does it foster a highly competitive environment among the managers and workers? How does management treat the ideas or suggestions of its people? How are the managers empowered to make basic decisions? How would you describe the style of my prospective boss?

Two, career development and promotion prospects. What’s the average number of years before an employee is promoted? How does the company assist the workers so they can be assured of promotion? How would you describe the system to ensure that its employees are given a fair treatment in promotion? How would you balance meritocracy and seniority?

Three, performance management system. What kind of performance appraisal do you have? What are the things you’ve considered to ensure the objective implementation of such policy? Is there an appeal system in place for those who are bypassed for promotion? Were there instances in the past of people bypassed for promotion? Why did it happen, in the first place?

Four, employee morale and satisfaction levels. What’s the average turnover rate of employees who are occupying the same position? How about absenteeism and tardiness rates of people working in the same department where I am supposed to work? What’s the basic reason for this vacancy?

Five, manpower situation and succession plans. Why did you not promote someone from within? Why are the workers not qualified to replace the resigned employee? Why can’t they be corrected with coaching and training, among many interventions? Were there instances of an employee promotion due to politics?

Six, status of the organization in the industry. What’s the current standing of the company compared to its competitors? If it is number one, how does it intend to maintain that position for the next three years? If it’s holding the second or third ranking in the industry, how does it intend to secure the top spot in the short-term?

The answers to these questions may be confidential. But there are many ways to skin a cat. You can give broad-stroke answers or paraphrase those questions so they would elicit the right answers from job candidates. They can be rephrased by asking situational interview questions instead.

For example, instead of giving an exact figure for your company’s turnover, you can give a rough figure and emphasize how the organization is much better than its competitors. If you’re not ready to give an answer, simply tell the job applicant that you will discuss the matter in your next meeting.

Just the same, you as an employer (or a suitor) who wants to start a relationship should emphasize how an honest and trustworthy work partnership works to the advantage of both parties in the long-term.

ELBONOMICS: If you’re honest, you don’t have to memorize everything.


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