Think of how many times you've hired a new employee because he or she seemed to be bright with a lot of potential. And then, six months later, you're left wondering how you managed to hire someone so incompetent or lazy or grouchy.

We continuously hear complaints about "not being able to find good people." If you have the same complaint, we have some suggestions. Our experience suggests that the manager is often the source of the problem. The most frequent cause is a poor hiring decision resulting from an inadequate interview. Or the manager has failed to provide clear direction to the new hire.

Many managers also fail to take advantage of recruitment opportunities like job fairs. With a bigger pool of applicants from which to choose, you're more likely to find the right candidate. Poor hiring decisions usually come from the hope that you will get what you think you see. It's surprising how many managers devote less than 30 minutes with a job candidate to determine whether he's the right person for the job. That may seem like enough time. It isn't, however, when you consider the problems and costs associated with trying to remove a poor performer.

Think back to the interview. Double-check yourself on how you drew conclusions. We have a tendency to look at people, listen for a few minutes, and then judge who and what they are.

What made you think the applicant had potential? Was it because you saw yourself in him? But did you do all the talking in the interview? What were you looking for? Skills and experience? Great, but you can't stop there. Studies have shown experience and skills alone do not determine success in the workplace. Managers with good hiring track records would rather hire someone with the right personal qualities and develop any missing skills. They know it pays to spend time finding the person with good work habits, communication skills and the ability to get along with others.

If you want to hone your interviewing skills, several videos are available. One we'd recommend is "More Than a Gut Feeling," which provides tips that deliver immediate payoffs.

If you're sure your interviewing skills were on the mark, then it's time to examine whether the new employee has received the direction he or she needs. Did you throw your new hire in, spending minimal time explaining your expectations? How much time did you devote to showing him how you want things done? Too often, managers approach new employees with the old sink-or-swim method.

To find out whether you’re dealing with a drowning employee, ask him or her to explain the position's responsibilities. Does the employee have a clear grasp of the job? Determine whether there's a need for some additional training or perhaps just more direction from you while the employee gains confidence.

In any case, make your expectations clear. Then, make certain you provide what the employee needs. When you spend time to ensure the new hire knows what to do and how to do it, you save the time you would have spent filling the job again.

Take the opportunity to improve recruitment efforts and to sharpen your interviewing skills. You'll improve your success in finding the right people to staff your rental operation. But remember, that’s not the end. It takes direction from you to turn a good hire into a good employee.

To improve your effectiveness, take action. Try our suggestions and we bet you can find and keep "good people."

"Dr. Wally" is a columnist, commentator and speaker specializing in work and workplace issues. His columns and commentaries are carried in the Richmond Times Dispatch, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and syndicated to 15 other newspapers. He was a speaker at the Car Rental Show in October.


What Qualities Do RACs Look for in New Hires?

When looking for new employees, it's important to assess how well the job applicant would interact with both customers and coworkers. Rental agents need to have empathy for customers and to take pride in serving them as part of the rental team.

"Dollar Thrifty's primary goal is to hire individuals who will fit in with the team at our location and with the overall culture of the company," says Rich Halbrook, executive vice president of administration for Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group. "We believe we can train for specific skills and areas of knowledge, but spend our greatest efforts on hiring for attitude."

Enterprise Rent-A-Car prefers hiring college graduates interested in a career in management. Ideal candidates possess strong leadership qualities, concern for customer service, and the ability to juggle several tasks at once.

"Enterprise looks for decision-makers and problem-solvers who enjoy a team environment and like to have fun at work," says Christy Conrad, assistant vice president of public relations. "Because Enterprise has a promote-from-within culture, those employees hired as management trainees will be the future leaders of the company."

For example, Chief Operating Officer Pam Nicholson began her career at Enterprise in 1981 as a management trainee. She rose through the management ranks and now oversees the activities of 58,000 employees.

Car rental companies agree that the most valuable employees are flexible, can respond to the unexpected, and will go out of their way to keep customers happy.

"This all centers on a concern for others, the ability to work in teams, to go above and beyond the call of duty to service our customers," Halbrook explains. "And to take on tasks that are not part of their job description, but that just come up during the course of the day -- like waiting after closing time on customers who are on a delayed flight."

That's why interview questions need to draw out answers that reveal aspects of the job applicant's personality.