03/25/2013 10:09 am ET Updated May 25, 2013

The Hiring Guru: When Hiring, Look for Products!

Yesterday my wife and I had a laugh about how when she was a small child her mom would let her go down, alone, to the corner store to get a quart of milk or carton of eggs -- that would never happen nowadays. The world is a changed place for so many good reasons and some bad too.

In the hiring world it used to be commonplace to give someone a chance based on trust, a firm handshake and their word, which was "solid as oak." Sorry, Jerry Maguire! Times have certainly changed. From coaches of nationally recognized sports programs falsifying resumes to political scandals and dishonest CEOs, the only way you can tell who the honest, hard-working people are is from their products. Find them, know them and hire them -- people who get things done.

Look for Products

Products are completed actions or activities taken to a final result or a "done deal." In other words, people need to prove having actually accomplished those things they've taken credit for.

I had an interesting experience once when asked to do some consulting for a classic automobile restoration shop. This once-thriving business was really in danger of closing its doors and needed to solve a grave problem.

I asked my client when the shop first started noticing a decline in business. It appeared the trouble began when it hired the most recent employee. He had claimed on his résumé a major car restoration accomplishment. Upon further investigation it turns out that two other applicants claimed to have restored the same car. We had to trace back to the source in order to find the truth.

I called each of these men and started asking some detailed questions about that particular restoration job on which each had staked his claim. One had only applied the decals, one had only worked at the shop hired to do the project, and the other was the genuine professional who had restored that vehicle to perfection.

Who had the shop actually hired? Mr. decal guy had been the lucky candidate. He certainly was a fine employee with his particular skill but he didn't have the depth of knowledge to manage an entire project from start to finish and for that reason the business started failing.

Due diligence will take an employer a great distance. First, ask yourself the right questions so you know the ideal candidate you want to interview. Use phone screening for a couple important questions before he or she interviews, and last, ask about actual products from his or her previous jobs. Then VERIFY them by actually looking or checking with credible references. This careful approach will help pare down the prospects and provide a relevant selection of candidates from which to choose.