In business, the term care is generally applied to the business-client relationship. It has given rise to unwieldy terms like customer care associate for the people formerly known as sales agents.
High-character employees, however, care not only about their clients but about every relationship they have in and beyond the workplace. Their secret weapon is that they also care about, and for, themselves.
The following questions and suggestions may help HR managers evaluate a job candidate’s commitment to care.
Why do you want this job?
At a leadership institute I attended at the Gallup Organization in Lincoln, Nebraska, I heard the late, great under Donald O. Clifton describe how a successful airline decided which applicants to hire as flight attendants. If the applicant said things like, “I want to see the world,” or “It sounds like a lifestyle I’d enjoy,” they were not accepted. These were candidates who viewed the job in self-serving terms.
The top-ranked candidates were those who conveyed a passion for serving others. As a passenger, wouldn’t you want a flight attendant who genuinely cares about helping you make the best of what can be a stressful, unpleasant experience? Working for an airline brings lots of terrific perks, like free trips and buddy passes, but they’re the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.
High-character employees serve their clients, they serve their bosses, and they serve the mission of their organizations. They’re neither selfless nor self-serving. It makes sense for HR managers to listen carefully when job candidates or current employees seeking a promotion explain why they want a certain position.
Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty at work.
Years ago I was shopping at a Publix supermarket in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. As I was checking out, I mentioned to the cashier that I needed an item but couldn’t find it. She walked around from the cash register, headed down one of the aisles with me, pulled the item I needed off the shelf, and handed it to me.
The total time elapsed couldn’t have been more than a minute, but she truly went the extra mile to help me find what I needed, and I still tell people that story at my keynote speeches on high-character employees. Guess which supermarket I’m going to the next time I’m in Ponte Vedra?
As a manager, how would you deal with employees who come to work with the flu?
A radio station employee I’ll call Howard woke up with the flu one day, yet his supervisor required him to come to work. Howard couldn’t do his job well, and some of his colleagues — including a national radio host — got sick. Being treated simply as a means to an end prompted Howard to leave his job.
A caring manager would have told Howard to stay home, get some rest, and return when he was feeling better. Such a manager is concerned about the sick employee, the employee's colleagues, and the company’s ability to serve clients well.
That's the kind of manager I’d want on my team. How about you?
This is the third in a series of blog posts on how to hire high-character people. The first two were How to Hire Honest People and How to Hire Accountable People. Next time, we’ll look at what it means to be a courageous person and how to evaluate this quality in job applicants.