December 19, 2012
When I was a corporate executive in the area of strategic planning, I quickly learned a very important lesson – the best way to ensure strategy implementation is to hire the right people into the company. I suppose that’s why I’m always surprised at the casual and often lackadaisical attitude many managers take when it comes to hiring. Look around and what you’ll notice is at the heart of most great companies is an incredibly strong emphasis on the hiring process.
That’s why I almost cheered out loud when I read an Inc. article by Les McKeown, “How to Hire Great People – Every Time”. In the article, McKeown emphasizes that managers should treat the hiring process “as the most important strategic planning your company needs.” Why? Because every new employee will either improve the organization or lower it – and managers should be seeking and hiring employees who will enable the company to grow and to become more profitable.
McKeown provides four tips for hiring great people: 1) Forget trying to ask magic bullet questions, 2) Ensure you have clearly defined what it will take to be successful in the position, 3) Test candidates, and 4) Include others in the hiring process.
Here is why I believe these are excellent tips that, if followed, will help you improve your hiring process so you can find the best employees:
Why you shouldn’t ask magic bullet questions: I was once asked in an interview to explain what animal I would want to be if I were to reincarnate as one. “Really?” I thought to myself. “I mean seriously, this guy wants to focus on outlandish questions instead of finding out if I can actually do the job?” Just say no to magic bullet questions – because there is no magic bullet. Focus instead on getting to know candidates and their experience, knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors, as these will better reveal which candidates are most likely to be successful in the position.
Why you should clearly define the position and requirements: Some managers take a fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants approach to hiring. They write a brief job description for the online job posting and then never look at it again, turning each interview into casual chats. But, surprise! Clearly defining the job and position requirements (education, experience, knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes) necessary for someone to be successful will actually help make the interview process easier. This is because you then have a roadmap to follow for evaluating each candidate against the requirements to determine who will be the best fit.
Why you should test candidates: I hate to say I’m a disbeliever in humanity or think people aren’t truthful, but – oh, yeah, some people really do lie on their résumés. Others like to stretch the truth, a lot. How do you ensure someone has the skills they say they do? Test them. These can be written tests, role-plays, or simulations such as asking a PR candidate to write a press release for a make-believe product or asking a marketing candidate to explain the key components in a marketing plan. These tests don’t need to be elaborate, but they do need to be able to differentiate the candidates who have the necessary skills from those who don’t.
Why you should include others: I never hire someone without including others in the hiring process because I realize my opinion is only one quick snapshot. Having the final candidates interview with others in the company (especially those with whom they will most interact if hired into the position) provides additional perspectives I might not have seen. Those additional perspectives greatly increase the odds of finding the best candidates.
The key aspect I learned about the hiring process over the last 25 years is to focus the most attention on understanding what the person will need to accomplish in the position and then use the interview process to find out if they have what it takes to be successful, including skills, experience and their level of motivation.
In the end, taking a serious and formalized approach to hiring can actually save you time and a lot of headaches. It helps you clearly see the type of person who will be successful in the position, provides a roadmap of questions to ask during interviews, highlights skills to be tested, and delivers input from others that will either corroborate first impressions or highlight disconnects. All of this results in better employee hiring, which leads to improved company performance. Well worth the investment indeed!
Click here to read Les McKeown’s full article, definitely a must read!
Photo credit: Microsoft Free Clip Art