How to Hire Engaged Employees

peopleEmployee engagement seems to be the buzz phrase these days. But what is employee engagement and how recruiters and hiring managers identify it in the hiring process?

There are many definitions of what employee engagement is, but I think the most workable definition is the following:  the emotional commitment of an employee to a company’s goals as evidenced by the employee’s contributions to the company’s success.  An engaged employee cares not only about his or her next promotion or paycheck, but also about the company and its goals and thinks about how he or she can be a part of achieving those goals.

Frequently, companies conduct satisfaction surveys to measure employee engagement; however a satisfied employee may or may not be an engaged employee. Just because an employee is happily showing up to work and is not unhappy with his or her work environment, does not mean that employee is going to spend time after their shift thinking about making a better product or show a willingness to work until midnight to complete a project without being asked.

The interesting thing is, as much as we all want engaged employees, engagement is something the employee has to offer: it cannot be ‘required’ as part of the employment agreement. So how do you identify during the interview process those employees who are more likely to be engaged employees once they begin to work for your company?

Here are three things to focus on during your interview process:

Interview  for intelligence and a desire to learn:

When interviewing a candidate, make sure you focus on the applicant’s intelligence and their ability to learn new things and get excited about learning and applying their new-found knowledge. Ask questions that help you assess whether the candidate possesses — not only a formal education — but sufficient brainpower and intellectual curiosity to be a top contributor in a company that’s going to call for nonstop learning. Look for a desire and an ability to learn and develop, even from mistakes and setbacks. Ask about feedback they’ve received on “projects gone bad” and what actions they’ve taken as a result. Ask if a candidate has engaged in continuing education in his or her field or, whether he or she has worked as a mentor or teacher to share their expertise.

Hire for a positive attitude and passion

Great attitude and passion for work in your employees is one of the things that will differentiate your company from your competition. Employees with positive mental attitudes bring to the table, not only their technical skills, but they also bring a contagious passion and energy. In an interview these candidates stand out in many ways:  they appear energized, excited and genuinely interested in their jobs. They are fired up when describing their projects, they grab opportunities outside of their immediate scope of work and they have a broad range of interests outside of work.  Ask your candidates about periods of stress and frustration with their current or past positions and listen to whether they were able to maintain a positive view of their company and their job despite challenges they may have encountered. Probe the negative experiences and hardships of these candidates and watch closely how they react both verbally and in body language when describing these difficult work experiences.  An optimistic attitude in the face of adversity is essential, especially for leaders and employees in fast growing and even faster changing organizations.

Determine ‘culture fit’

It’s not just what you know, but also how you fit in the culture that results in enhanced performance. Cultural fit involves distinct characteristics that can be difficult and often impossible to teach or develop. During the interview, it’s not only critical to determine if the candidate possesses the right knowledge and technical skills to be a good fit for the job, but also if they possess the right attitude, expectations and beliefs to be a good fit for your district culture.

Seems like a lot of work? Yes, but absolutely worth it. Engaged employees are more invested in their company’s performance and are more creative and conscientious employees. The good news is, engagement is contagious even down to your clients that sing your praises and are grateful for the service that your engaged employees provide.

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Inga Kulberg Tesler
Inga Kulberg Tesler is a seasoned Human Resources and Talent Acquisitions executive with 15 years industry experience of managing high performing recruitment and HR organizations. She has a reputation for progressive philosophies and best practice implementation of organizational development plans, employee engagement and recruitment strategies. Inga is the Senior Director of Talent Aquisition at Walmart eCommerce.