February 16, 2011

Separating the sheep from the goats during an interview (part 2 - Responsibility)

In a previous post I wrote about the different qualities we look for in an employee. Although "Learnability" is a very important one, it is closely followed by "Responsibility" and "Social". In this post I will elaborate on "Responsibility" and how it relates to and actually complements "Learnability". 


Responsibility is all about getting things done and delivering quality at the same time. Getting things done or finishing the job alone is not enough. You do not want people to operate in an uncontrollable way and make short cuts just to deliver. They must at least respect some basic rules set by your company or the industry you operate in to govern things, so that they will be accountable for as well as getting things done as for finishing the job in an acceptable and standardized way.

There are a lot of people with a high learnability who just never get things done. This is definitely a no go, even PhD students for whom learnability is more important than for anyone else have to deliver. 

How do you test if someone gets things done? This is not simple, but the first indication can already be found in the CV. How long do they stay on a project? Is it feasible to actually deliver something useful during that time if they only stayed on the job for a short time? If you are not sure, ask it during the interview. How do they write/talk about their previous projects? Does it sound like they have actually finished something? (eg. I made... I completed... I wrote... I delivered...). During the interview, also ask if they encountered any problems after  finishing the project. How did they handle those issues? Were there any follow-up projects they worked on, etc...

The fact that someone get things done, does not mean (s)he should take short cuts all the time to deliver. Some people work very fast because they take short cuts, but the quality of the work is very low. The delivered work is way below any acceptable standard and especially for larger projects, this will hurt a lot at some point in the (near) future.

This can easily be tested by checking their work methods. Have they followed well known procedures? Can they deliver proof that what they've done are up to or even above industry standards? See also my previous post about how Toyota has build a culture of stopping to fix problems to get quality right the first time. Not every company has a culture like this and it might be hard to find out if somebody works towards quality if it is not supported by the companies they worked in. To find out if these candidates would be able to deliver quality, you should check if they at least know about the industry standards and what they would to ensure they can be met. The latter is again closely related to their learnability.

At some point, people must be given the responsibility to deliver quality and must be given the means to proof the quality. It is only then they can be taken accountable for the quality they deliver. Getting things done and delivering quality seem contradictory, but if you take the quality part into account from the very beginning, you'll gain a lot in the long run.

So cut the crap and find people who can get things done that meets quality standards! That is what we do!

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