Categories : Management Training


Utilities with new positions to fill face two problems – an overwhelming number of applicants and the challenge of hiring the right people.

With so many people competing for jobs, applicants may say what they think the human resources department wants to hear to get the job.  And while utilities strive to hire good people, they need to ask themselves if they are hiring people who care about their customers.

Following are some tips on how to create a customer-focused staff.

What Is the Job? What are the skills your prospective employees must have to do the job and which skills are the most important from your point of view?  Talk to other employees at your utility who are already doing the job or who would be working with the new hire.  They likely will have an opinion on needed skills.

Try Depth-Perception Interviewing.  This type of interviewing will enhance the hiring process.  This technique focuses on capturing behavioral information that illustrates capabilities and performance related to specific job competencies.  A good predictor of future behavior is past behavior and depth-perception interviewing will help you find it.  Create a list of questions that will give you insight into how a job applicant performed in the past in a business environment.

Measure the Candidates. You need to rank your candidates with a scoring system for the competencies you seek.  A ranking of 1 could mean the candidate lacks the necessary skills and a ranking of 5 could mean the candidate has a high level of competency.  This helps you avoid hiring based on first impressions.  Applicants who are great at impressing someone are not necessarily good at doing a specific job.

Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill. Southwest Airlines hires people who enjoy helping others and then gives them the technical skills they need to do their jobs.  Most companies look for someone with experience in the industry, but Southwest is more interested in having employees with a desire to help people.  The airline knows it can train new employees to do their jobs.  Southwest has one of the best customer-service records in the airline industry.  If you are hiring people who will interact with your customers, you want someone who cares about your customers.

Buy A Personality Profile. It’s expensive to hire a new person.  Unfortunately, the average company spends 30 percent of an employee’s salary to replace them later for reasons such as inability to learn skills and dissatisfaction with the job.  In other words, hiring mistakes can lead to firings.  A personality profile tool can help develop a better understanding of each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.  There are a number of these tools available in the marketplace.  Some companies have their best employees take the profile and use that information as a benchmark.  Personality profiles can help you determine if someone is a good match for your utility.

These tips will help you hire the right people for the job.  But when it comes to customer service, the bottom line is this:  will this particular applicant care about your customers and enjoy working with them?


David Saxby is president of Measure-X, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based measurement, training and recognition company that specializes in customer service and sales skill training for utility companies.