Saturday 10 December 2016

Problem Solver: A good personality can go a long way

Published 03/11/2016 | 02:30

Feargal Quinn
Feargal Quinn

Q: I NEVER seem to be able to get the right type of staff into my business and I have made a few mistakes in the past in judging people. Could you give me some tips on interview skills?

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A: At the peak of Superquinn's popularity, when the economy was in a better place, when we would advertise vacancies for a new Superquinn branch we could have had up to 3,000 applications for 300 jobs.

While a certain percentage of these would not be suitable, we made a point of running large screening interviews.

A team of up to 25 senior personnel from both HR department and our store operation would take up position at desks in a large open-plan space in a hotel that we would have rented in the local area. These screening interviews were largely designed to help us assess the personality of the person applying.

First and foremost, we looked to see if the person had the ability to smile and be pleasant. After that it was a bonus if they had some technical skills. Anyone who met the criteria for a good strong personality and was perceived as consumer-friendly, was automatically short-listed for a face-to-face interview with our personnel department.

I was often amazed at how few people passed that simple assessment on personality and likeability.

Obviously you may have technical requirements for your business and require applicants to have a certain skill base.

That is all acceptable, but perhaps you are not placing enough emphasis on the personality and attitude of the person you are employing. You can always upskill someone but you can't give them a personality implant.

Q: I RECENTLY opened a speciality food shop and café. Around 90pc of my sales come through the café and I'm not sure what to do about the shop element of the business?

A: There is a great Irish quote "Éist le fuaim na habhann agus gheobhfaidh tú breac"… "Listen to the sounds of the river and you will catch the trout". Your customers have decided that in the location you are based, a café is more suitable for their needs, rather than a speciality shop. If you had said to me that the sales were split in a different way, perhaps 60/40, I would be encouraging you to work on the retail shop side of the business to grow the sales, however this seems to be a very definitive statement by your customers.

I would recommend you look again at the layout of the overall area and condense the shop element in favour of adding in more seating and possibly food counters.

By enhancing the café element, you will possibly be able to grow sales even further and in addition you can look at increasing your range of "grab and go" products, which would make it easier for those on short lunch breaks.

Never be afraid to reverse a decision if your customer feedback is telling you that you have gone in the wrong direction.

Send your small business questions to himself@feargalquinn.ie

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