BY LIN GRENSING-POPHAL
The world is certainly full of “professional interviewees” who are adept are putting their best feet forward during the interview process. That can make it a challenge for HR pros, recruiters and hiring managers to see through the smoke and mirrors to identify candidates who really possess the skills and competencies they espouse. Particularly for community banks, where the ability to provide exceptional service to community banking customers is critical, accurately identifying those candidates who will exhibit high levels of customer service on the job is a must-do. But how?
Have a Clear Focus on What You’re Looking For
J.T. Westendorf is managing director at Angott Search Group which specializes in the executive recruitment of banking and financial services professionals. “Finding the people that have the ability to build and maintain relationships is critical for banks that are looking to fill roles that require great customer service skills,” says Westendorf. Those skills, he says, are tough to teach. “You can teach someone the ins and outs of banking, but you can’t each those exceptional service skills,” he says. That’s why he recommends considering top candidates from outside the banking industry. “There are a lot of industries where exceptional service skills are crucial for an individual to be successful,” he says. “Those service skills can certainly be transferrable to banking.”
In banking there are a number of positions, or roles, that require service-minded thinking. It’s important, though, to clarify exactly what service-minded means for each of these roles. Be specific. What particular traits, characteristics or actions are you looking for in top candidates? Then screen for those traits and characteristics throughout the hiring process. Importantly, this should involve more than simply asking questions—questions that, in most cases, candidates will have anticipated and rehearsed for.
Examples of Hiring Innovation
There are a number of examples of how various companies have taken sometimes unusual steps to assess candidates’ soft skills—their ability to get along and interact with others well, their ability to think creatively, their sense of humor, etc.
Southwest Airlines is known for its strong customer service culture, which is arguably somewhat quirky. Flight attendants are known to tell jokes, sing songs and go to great lengths to entertain passengers. Whatever the role, Southwest wants to make sure that it’s hiring the right people One way it has done this in the past is to invite candidates in to make a presentation. It’s a group setting with other candidates present. Unbeknownst to the candidates, though, Southwest isn’t evaluating the presentation or the candidate’s speaking ability. What are they evaluating? The reactions of the other candidates in the audience! Are they being attentive, or are they working on their presentation or looking at their cell phones? Are they giving positive affirmations to the speakers by nodding, smiling, etc. If the answers are yes, they’re in the running. If not, they’re off the list.