Thursday, May 29, 2014
Statement Analysis in Job References
by Peter Hyatt
People are deceptive in most everything in life and wherever there is self interest, there is a choice:
Do I put myself first, no matter what ethical line I cross?
do I tell the truth, and rest upon my accomplishments thus far, knowing that I can still grow as a person?
This is something that is taught to children at a very early age, and it quite challenging to facilitate any necessary change in adulthood. It is also something that will impact your company. A liar, that is, one who will fabricate reality in order to put one's own needs first, will trouble your company in ways you might not have previously considered.
When I was young in school, I attended a private school that operated on the honor system. If one cheated on a test, one was expected to tell the truth, and it was "honorable", culturally at the school, to withstand the repercussion of the offense, with silence. This silence was, culturally, interpreted as dignity and grace.
The cheater was thus able to earn back the respect and esteem he had forfeited in his unethical method of gaining a higher grade then he deserved.
I note that within my own language, the use of the word "culture" twice, with the repetition signifying a sensitivity about the topic.
Why is it "sensitive"?
There is a different standard today as raw competition, that is, unhindered by elements of constraint, is seen differently than it was a generation ago. The "means" are often justified by the end result, and if one has "won", then the victory is not questioned. We see this in the "win at all costs" of defense attorneys today; truth (and justice) be damned, a "w" is all that matters.
Employers should recognize the change and measure the trend even upon reviewing applications and resumes for employment.
I strongly urge that a writing sample be obtained prior to investing the time to interview a future employee, and if such an interview does take place:
1. The interview should be based upon analysis of the written statement (Analytical Interviewing)
2. The interview should contain a scoring system which can be produced in the event a person sues the company for not hiring.
Analytical Interviewing is basically this:
A legally sound interview based upon analysis of a written statement.
It is non threatening, and it is non interpretive. We recognize that each of us has an internal, personal, subjective dictionary and it is the job of the Interviewer to de-code this. In Analytical Interviewing, we avoid interpreting one's words, instead rely upon the subject to explain anything that necessitate explanation, avoiding errant interpretation and miscommunication.
Recently, I was faced with an interesting situation.
A manager in charge of interviewing had said that "Statement Analysis is not legal to use in interviewing."
I countered with the United States Supreme Court's recognition that the "Reid Technique" (a brand name of the generic wording, "Statement Analysis") was, indeed, found to be legally sound, and that in Analytical Interviewing, there is no interrogation techniques, making it non-combative. (Interrogation is interviewing with accusations and threats of consequence).
Rather than respond to the Supreme Court's decision, the manager pointed to his resume in which he was an "Instructor" for the "Maine State Police Academy", and knows what interviewing can be used in training and what cannot be. This sounded absurd to me, which caused me to verify.
Maine does use Statement Analysis in training.
A simple call to the Academy would help me verify the resume's claim.
The Academy informed me that this manager was not an "instructor" for the Academy, but had come to the Academy to, quite basically, tell cadets what 800 number to call in the event that they need the assistance of social workers.
For the manager, this translated into being an "Instructor" on his resume.
It is a lesson for employers to receive: verification.
Companies scoff at reference calling because they know that many applicants simply put down family or friends, even when asked for "professional references" but more so, they scoff because, today, culturally, most companies will not give a positive nor negative reference for an applicant, fearing lawsuit.
No one wants to be sued. It can be costly to defend a frivolous lawsuit and if you are current with reading judge's decisions, you know that some of the most bizarre, legislative like decisions are rendered all over the country. It's unpredictable. Where as once, a person was only a "partial" person, which was later condemned as racist, in some counties in the United States, this same "3/8ths of a person" or "5/8ths of a person" is being used in voting. The bottom line is this: no one wants to be sued, no matter how foolish the claim may be.
Here is where Statement Analysis can shine.
When I call for a reference, 9 times out of 10, the company being called declines to give a reference.
"I'm sorry but according to our policy, we do not give job references. We can only confirm that the person worked for us."
The song begins to play in my head...
"Do you hear what I hear?"
Are you listening?
I'm sorry but according to our policy, we do not give job references. We can only confirm that the person worked for us."
When I hear the words, "I'm sorry" I recognize that they are politely spoken. I like politeness. It shows respect for self and others. When I have a polite person on the phone, I get them to talk and talk will reveal what they know about the applicant.
I hear "I'm sorry" and I listen to the tone and I say things like, "I understand" and "isn't that the way things are today!" and I empathize and make small talk. Once the person on the other line is talking, I am confident I am going to get information.
"We don't give references."
This one is not as likely to yield information. I see it as a "stop sign" but not as a red light. I usually make a comment about understanding and sometimes the person will just hang up the phone. Rudeness is not helpful.
I had one such call, however, that I was able to get information from, which ended up being critical. It was a medical office which, by nature, is used to being "confidential" in conversation, due to laws and statutes, therefore, I commented upon the weather, which made her laugh.
Once she laughed, we conversed.
Eventually she said that the applicant was fired because it was a poor fit, and not because of poor work. It was the type of office in which silence was cherished, and she was a talker, and because she was on probation, she was terminated as a poor fit.
In the job I was calling about, her social skills would be an excellent fit (and they were) and I offered her the position.
I have also had experiences where the company refused to give reference, but was willing to talk, and revealed some dark and alarming information about the applicant and likely spared me some difficulties.
Statement Analysis on the fly means jotting down words that are repeated, and listening carefully for pronoun drops as it is just a few minutes on the phone that might help decision makers stay on a good course. I listen for commitment. In pronouns there are three things to listen for on a short phone call:
3. Drop offs
If the person uses "we", they are speaking for the company. This is appropriate. If you are speaking to someone in HR who is in charge of hiring and firing, the word "we" is still expected but if they use the pronoun "I", it is to be considered very strong.
When one goes from "we" to "I", I always write down this sentence. Whatever it was that triggered the change from "we" to the much stronger, "I", is going to matter in this conversation. When I hear the change, I write down the sentence.
The same is in reverse: if the strong "I" suddenly turns into "we", there is a weakening, a sharing, a plurality, a...a something that has caused a change in the language. Usually an emotion will be joined to this sentence.
I ask questions based upon any change.
3. Drop offs
The missing pronoun means the person has not removed himself or herself from the equation, or in the case of using "we" representing a company, a dropped "we" means that the subject is removing the company from the sentence. This is a very important sentence and should make you think.
You may now have decided, based upon the reference calls
But what about those who attempt to sue your company for not hiring them?
What can a company do to protect itself?