Techniques for making a sustainable hire
I’ve had a number of conversations this month with hiring managers who feel like their interviewing techniques aren’t getting the desired results. One CEO in particular said, “We aren’t doing a good job of interviewing for the long term. We’re getting to the baseline skill level, but we aren’t finding out if they are career-minded and loyal.” That’s a common challenge, especially if you’re understaffed and facing deadlines. You tend to find the best available in the first 5 days and make the offer, regardless of long-term possibilities – not an ideal situation.
The current market has a bunch of great talent, so settling for a non-ideal hire, especially if you are a small company, is unnecessary. Making these quick hires can be extremely damaging as they may end up costing you more time and resources to re-hire and re-train. Rather than taking that chance, take the time to get the right hire the first time. Here are some thoughts on interviewing for a sustainable hire:
1. Interview with intent
You learned this in B-school. Do your homework up front to save yourself headaches at the end. Unfortunately, most hiring managers interview without any planning. I am always amazed at stories of hiring managers taking their “first look” at a candidate’s resume when they walk in the door for the interview. This is not going to make for a very productive interview for either you or the candidate. If you want to find out whether this person will really work for your company, plan your line of questioning beforehand. Look for places in their resume that you want more information from. Write down the behavioral questions that will help you extract the critical information you are after. This way you will get more in depth information rather than just skimming over the basics.
2. Set the tone
At the beginning of the interview process let each candidate know that this is a two-way street. It’s important that you hire for the long term growth of both the company and the employee. Make sure she knows that if at any point during the process she feels anxious or unsure of the company or the role, she should let you know. This very simple transparency up front will completely change the tone of the interview and get the candidate thinking more about whether this is a long-term fit for them as well. Trust me!
3. What is their story?
I like to start every interview with one simple question. “Tell me your story.” Here is why: I discover what is important to them; I get to listen to tone, voice and grammar; I can see if they can communicate effectively without changing direction or going on a tangent; and finally I learn more about where they came from and how their career path led to today. When candidates are asked open ended questions like this, you get more critical information than the canned response that so often occurs with “stock” questions.
4. Evaluate competence
This is the more straightforward part of the interview process. I am fine with whiteboarding, having a group technical discussion, a pair programming exercise or even sitting them down to a computer to solve a pre-defined problem. Make sure you have some activity or question planned out that will give you a glimpse into their true ability. Don’t just rely on what they say then can do, make them show you.
5. Assess character
This is harder. This is also where your behavioral questions come in handy. I like asking questions that relate to something that’s really happened in the company. This gives me some insight – will he solve the problem like we did? Does he have a better idea that my team didn’t think of? Does he have any character traits that won’t fit in with our current culture? I believe this part of the interview should take at least as long as the competency portion.
6. Uncover the drivers
What makes the candidate tick? What are her personal values? Why does she like the work she does? What is the secret to her success? If she was sitting in your chair today, would she hire herself? Again, you should record your questions in advance to make sure you are holding yourself accountable for a thorough evaluation. Knowing in advance what motivates people can help you ascertain whether they will stay with your company for the long haul, or whether they are only there for the moment.
7. Turning the tables
Candidates who are truly interested in the position have lots of questions. I have tested this theory over many years. Lack of questions equals lack of interest. The candidate who comes with a written list and is excited to run through it is serious about this process – and will be serious about their work.
In the end, you are in the people business and “people are messy.” However, you can prepare and evaluate based on the competency and character you are after. And, you can both decide if this is a union you choose to formalize – for the long haul.
Credit for the title of this article goes to Matt Engel – a very smart leader with an incredible budding company – I anticipate he will be VERY successful!
For more ideas on hiring for sustainability visit us here!