Don’t just go with your gut

Hiring is not on the top of the list of activities that most leaders enjoy.  The process is tedious, long and fraught with errors.  If you make the right hire your world will be beautiful – your customers will be happy, your team will enjoy blissful camaraderie, you will glow in the eyes of your manager, everyone will get more done every day – life is grand!  If you make the wrong hire – customers aren’t cared for, productivity goes down because someone isn’t pulling their weight, you spend more time fighting internal drama than getting work done and the result is lower margins.  No wonder hiring isn’t on the top of your “favorite things to do” list!

I’m not a psychologist, I don’t have a PhD in human behavior or organizational development, but I have spent my entire career hiring and getting people hired – and I have observed hundreds of hiring programs in action.  I don’t think you need to over engineer your selection process, but I do think that by being purposeful about it your success rate will be higher.  Here is my approach – feel free to take nuggets at will:

  1. Before you open a position, decide who will be involved in the selection process I suggest a representative of the team, internal business partner, at least one trusted advisor (someone you can count on for authentic feedback that doesn’t have a direct reporting line to/from you) and your manager.  Get these people in a room together and facilitate a discussion about the ideal candidate. What is the team missing today?  What has this candidate done in the past?  What is their education level? Really spend time rolling thru the HR role description for needs – and wants – and make sure you know which is what.
  2. Use this input to craft a high level role description Take time to capture the thoughts and comments you received in the form of an “advertisement” for the position.  Back in the day, when jobs were listed in the classified section of the newspaper, there weren’t sterile internal job descriptions listed – they cost too much – so someone actually took the time to craft an interesting description for publication in the newspaper.  Do that!
  3. Gain agreement from your selection team Once you’ve crafted your advertisement, float it by your selection team to make sure they agree with what you are looking for.  If you all agree on the profile of that person, you can all keep each other honest.  It’s ALWAYS better to leave a position vacant than to hire wrong.
  4. Spend time with your recruiter or talent management folks to clearly outline your profile with them I hope that you have human capital help with your sourcing efforts.  Counting on getting top talent from a job board is like waiting for pigs to fly.  Get help finding candidates and socializing your position so that the right people will see it.
  5. Determine your interviewing steps This is when you decide what questions need to be asked during the interview process and assign your selection team specific areas to focus on.  Make sure that everyone has an “agenda” to follow for their part of the interview so that you can compare all candidates as equally as possible.  It’s also helpful to make up a quick score sheet so that you can collect feedback on each interview.  This form helps keep the interviewers focused – especially inexperienced team members.  From a process perspective I like a short phone interview to start, followed by a single comprehensive onsite interview for those who make the initial cut.  Expecting working professionals to take multiple days off for the pleasure of meeting with you is not the best course of action.
  6. Determine your communication protocol Someone needs to own the follow up and follow thru for each position.  Someone needs to field the calls, keep candidates informed, coordinate schedules and communicate next steps.  Ideally this will be a Talent Manager or the hiring manager.  This role isn’t ideal for an administrative person – they probably don’t have the high level understanding of the role and may not give candidates the attention they need.  This will likely also be the person who negotiates the offer – so building a relationship is important for this role in the process.
  7. Don’t underestimate the power of the counteroffer!  I can’t tell you how many managers have told me horror stories of candidates accepting counteroffers this year.  Everyone is doing their best to retain their top people, so if you are after one of them you need to stay very close to them during their transition.  Inviting them in for team meetings, lunches, happy hour – whatever it will take to begin building a connection so that you will see your new hire into the door.  It’s competitive out there!

I realize that these steps seem pretty basic, but in my travels I’m amazed at how many companies take an unstructured approach to hiring.  They pretty much “go with their gut” and then wonder why they make bad hires.  My feeling is that if you take the time up front to plan your selection, you will save yourself a bunch of cash when you hire a Superstar and they stay.

To your hiring success!

For more information on hiring great talent – and getting hired – visit us here.