Entry Interviews Keep Hires on Track

CHICAGO (TheStreet) -- Most of us have been through the awkwardness of an exit interview while preparing to leave a job. Should you let loose with all the reasons you're really quitting, or keep your comments neutral to avoid burning bridges? In the end, the whole meeting can seem somewhat pointless. The time to fix a dysfunctional workplace is before people head for the exits.

What if the process were reversed? If you were asked for input when you started your job?

Entry interviews for new employees strengthen feelings that managers care and set the stage for a mentoring relationship.

That's the thinking behind entry interviews, aimed at newly hired workers. If this is the year your business starts hiring again, such interviews are worth considering as part of your welcome-aboard process.

When employees join a company, they have certain expectations of what their job will entail and how they'll work their way forward. If day-to-day tasks don't match those expectations, they'll end up discouraged and disengaged.

Now consider an alternative. Within a few weeks of starting a job, the employee sits down with the boss one on one to discuss how things are going. After the meeting, the boss doles out responsibilities or offers personalized rewards for meeting benchmarks. The employee sees that the person in charge takes their wants and needs seriously.

The result? A more loyal worker.

Adam Grant, an associate professor of management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, has studied how entry interviews can be used to integrate employees into workplaces. "They can strengthen employees' feelings that managers value and care about them, which is an important driver of satisfaction, performance and retention," he says. "The interviews can also set the stage for developing a mentoring relationship with new employees, which can support their learning and development."

Grant once consulted for a medical clinic whose call center suffered serious customer-service lapses. He found that the vast majority of workers had taken the job because they thought it would be a good entry point for a career in health care. But as time passed with no firsthand exposure to the industry, workers grew steadily more resentful and careless.

Once the supervisors realized the problem, they were able to devise a reward system that gave productive employees a chance to shadow medical staff and attend educational sessions. But how many patients did that clinic lose in the time it took to set the situation right? Entry interviews would have revealed the employees' motivation from the beginning.

Of course, an entry interview is only as good as the person leading it. To draw out useful responses, Grant suggests managers ask the following questions:
  • What do you hope to get out of this job?
  • What projects have you found most meaningful in the past?
  • When you think about what's most important to you, what key values come to mind? What goals really matter to you at work?
  • What do you wake up in the morning looking forward to doing?
  • When you've been highly motivated in a past job, what was it that drove and inspired you?

Throughout the interview, an environment of trust is key. Employers will only get relevant information if new employees believe they can be open and honest. Depending on business structure, companies may ask hires to meet with more than one manager. If they've expressed an interest in a field that a company outsources -- such as PR -- they could sit in on a strategy meeting.

How soon should the interview be held? While it can certainly be scheduled during a hire's first week, some companies wait 60 or 90 days so the employee has a chance to become familiar with the company.

The important thing is to show that the entry interview is a two-way street. Companies should let the hire know collaboration is sought to make sure the job is satisfying. Setting a standard of open communication from the start sends a powerful message.

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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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