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MANAGING STAFF

Five personalities to weed out when hiring for staff positions

Just as important as being able to do the work and being willing to do the work is having a personality that fits the job.

Five traits can spell disaster in law firm staffing. Those five traits can cause severe friction within the staff. They can stymie the work. And they can undermine the administrator.

Here’s a definition of each plus the detection questions to ask and the answers to listen for in interview.

And when asking those questions, you should listen for silences. Each question requires the applicant to admit a flaw in behavior. The longer it takes to respond, the more likely that person is manufacturing an answer.

1 Riding on coattails

First are the coattail riders, or the people who steal credit for other people’s accomplishments.

The department is cited for good work and the department head stands up and takes a bow without mentioning anybody else’s contributions.

Coattail riders talk about successes in the first person singular, never plural. It is always a matter of, “Thanks, I worked really hard on that.”

No so, however, when there’s a mistake. They have no problem sharing the recognition.

How to find out who fits the mold? Ask these questions:

-Tell me about your most important accomplishment and how you achieved it.

If there’s no mention of how somebody else contributed to the accomplishment, take it as a tip-off. Few people achieve their greatest accomplishments by themselves.

-Think of the worst boss you ever had. What made that person your worst boss?

The response to look for is interesting, because people don’t realize that the characteristics they detest most in others are usually present in themselves.

If the first question is answered in the first person singular and the answer here is, “My worst boss never gave anybody any credit,” that`s the clincher that the person is a coattail rider.

2 Smoke, mirrors, but no action

Next are the smoke-and-mirrors people who move fast and talk fast and give the illusion of being productive while actually doing very little. All the commotion covers up the absence of productivity.

It`s a great ploy for somebody who doesn`t want to work. Look busy, and the manager is hesitant to assign additional projects.

It`s a great ploy too for somebody who doesn`t want to be held accountable for the work, because it makes the manager hesitant to ask for progress reports lest the interruption impede all that`s going on.

Smoke and mirrors promise to do things that never deliver. When confronted, they deny conversations and say they never got the materials they needed to do the job.

The telling questions:

-What`s the toughest situation you`ve ever faced? How did you deal with it?

The answer will always be that the situation was caused by somebody else. What`s more, the way the individual dealt with it will show nobility, or “I was a victim, and I did something selfless in response. I took one for the team.”

For example, “I was working on a project that meant a lot to a lot of people when my supervisor took me off it and gave me another project. I couldn`t let those people down, so I got both done. I had to work 35 days in a row, but it was worth it.”

By contrast, a straightforward person will have taken responsibility for the situation and come up with a solution.

3 Entitled to the job

Then there are the what-have-you-done-for-me-latelies. Those people are simply entitled. They don`t have to earn what they get. Everything should be handed to them free. The big question:

-Tell me about a time when you felt undervalued or that your accomplishments went unappreciated.

Everybody feels undervalued and unappreciated from time to time, but most people are better, not bitter, because of it.

Look for a response that shows the candidate is solution oriented and can turn a difficult situation into a positive perhaps Ì didn`t get a promotion, but I should of done a better job of finding out what I need to do to get it.

An entitled person won`t have learned anything but will be indignant about not getting the recognition.

4 Playing the power game

Next are the power players. Those are the people who give an administrator real grief because when something doesn`t suit them, they go to the partners.

Face to face, they`re all smiles and agreement, but behind the scenes, they complain and manipulate to get what they want, and they`ll undermine the administrator in the process.

Some people like their victims to know who stabbed them in the back. Not so with the power players. They prefer to be invisible. In fact, they have to remain invisible so no one can thwart their missions. The weed-out question:

-Tell me about a time you had a problem with a supervisor and had to go over that person`s head.

A good answer is “I tried to solve it with the supervisor directly.” Even better is that the person told the supervisor about the next step so the supervisor wasn`t caught unawares.

The wrong answer is one that shows no effort to confront the supervisor with the problem before going to the next level. That`s tattling. It`s using craft to get one`s own way.

A worse answer is that the applicant talked to other employees about the problem and then took everyone collectively to the next higher level. Watch out. That person incited people to overcome whatever the supervisor was doing.

5 A wrong job for an intellectual

Finally there are the intellectuals. They aren`t dangerous people. They are a great benefit to many jobs. But not in a staffing position.

They get stuck on theorizing and analyzing and conceptualizing instead of on performing. To them, cerebral ponderings are productivity.

Everybody else equates productivity with outcomes, but they can`t see their way clear to any outcome at all until the concept is thoroughly fleshed out.

Ask them a question and they want to cover every possible angle and come up with a score of answers.

Ask them to speak to a group for two minutes and they want to plan for two days.

They are great strategic planners and they are great evaluators, but don`t expect them to produce in a crisis. They are not good in the heat of the moment. For a staff job that requires high productivity under pressure, the last person is to hire the intellectual.

-Tell me about a time you felt you were inappropriately pushed into something.

The telling answer is one that says the candidate was rushed into making a recommendation or a decision and didn`t have a time to think it through.

Beware too of a complaint that something had to be done extemporaneously.

And the same for a response that the person was caught off guard by or didn`t do well because of an emergency deadline.

-What would you have preferred?

For the intellectual, the revealing answer will be, “I wish I’d had the chance to analyze the situation,” or “We should have considered all the possibilities.”


Editor’s picks:

Surviving 7 types of nightmare personalities


Four tricks to improve the hiring process


5 proven ways to spot and avoid hiring potentially “toxic employees” … and what to do if you already have them


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