Making the decision to bring in a new person onto your team is an extremely important decision, especially in our economic times, where you don’t have the budget (or time) for a poor hire.
Done poorly, hiring the wrong person can be an extremely expensive mistake that could set you back months and potentially do long-term damage within your team, to say nothing of the external stakeholders that will be negatively affected. Therefore, I’d like to give you a little bit of advice on what I feel are some essential ideas and tools around hiring right.
In essence, the quality of the people that you hire and retain on your team will be the single most important factor in determining the long-term success of your organization. The cliché that says that people are your most important asset is misleading. Actually, your best people are your most important asset; your “C & D players” are your biggest liability, so you need to be very careful and effective in how you go about hiring new employees.
Below are key points I counsel business owners or hiring managers on the hiring process:
Firstly, create a “must have” shortlist of the cultural attributes, skillsets, talents and the attitude you are looking for in the new hire. These are for the most part nonnegotiable; it doesn’t matter how much you like the person, how cool you think they are, how great they seem… this is the short list of key skills/attributes that anyone who fills the job must demonstrate. Ensure you create this list before you interview anyone, before you get attached to anyone, before you get emotionally connected and invested in any candidate.
From there, create a list of several attributes that would be “nice to have”, items that are above and beyond the core must haves, but might be a benefit to your organization. For example, a candidate comes from your industry you are already in and knows the cast of characters in the business.
And last, jot down a few qualities that would be a “bonus to have”, but are truly icing on the cake. For example, a candidate that will bring a specific knowledge of an ERP system that your organization is considering implementing.
So to recep:
1. Must have
2. Nice to have
3. Bonus to have
All candidates that are considered for second interviews need to meet all of the “must have” items on your list. Specifically, they must be a good cultural fit. “nice to have” and “bonus to have” attributes/skills are far less important. Don’t make the mistake of using “nice to have” and “bonus to have” as a tie breaker between candidates. Go back to your “must have” and re-rank the candidates there first.
Secondly, have you developed fundamental interviewing techniques? Some businesspeople I’ve come across are ill equipped at doing a thorough job of asking thought provoking interview questions and knowing what to look for in a candidate. The lists you have created will help you form an agenda for asking questions, but the key here is for the candidate to spend the vast majority of the time talking while the interviewer(s) taking exceedingly good notes, watching body language, and asking additional probing questions.
Unfortunately this is almost the exact opposite of the way most interviews go, with the interviewer going on and on about how great the organization is, how great their culture is or how great their products are… and not focus on questions that would truly let them understand whether the candidate is the right person for the role. So have an extensive list of excellent questions prepared before the candidate is sitting in front of you and then use that list to guide the entire interviewing process.
Thirdly, have other senior members from your team involved with the interviews. If you are hiring a candidate who will be heading up a department, (say, the VP of Finance) get the head of another department, (VP of Sales and Marketing) to get involved, especially after the first round of interviews. This will give you another perspective on the potential candidates’ cultural suitability for the role and allow prospective candidates to spend some time with the people they will be working with as peers. This will also allow you to showcase your culture of people you have within the organization.
Following that, work style assessment tests are useful in filling in the gaps of where your questions did not probe deep enough. Assessments like Myers-Briggs or DISC Profile will aid in making sure that they truly do possess the skills they are advertising and that they will likely be a good fit for your culture. Also, assessments will help you understand how they need to be managed and the optimal communication style they respond to best.
Finally, call every single reference provided and ask them a few questions about the candidate so you can get additional feedback; again, this is where good interviewing training will come in handy, because there is an art to asking the right sort of questions to references, who are often reluctant to be totally honest about any negative issues with a candidate.
If it is a senior position, I encourage you to do a great deal of due diligence, call their former employers as well and get as much information as you possibly can about the candidate before you hire them.
Hiring the right person for a key executive position can make a major positive impact on your business; hiring the wrong person can do long-term damage to your organization. Determine if the candidate falls in line with your “must haves”, ask the right questions to dig deep and get the information you need to make the best decision, involve the positions’ peers in the interview process for a second perspective on the candidate, have the candidate complete a work style assessment to determine if there are any gaps you may have missed in the interview and lastly, call their references, this can be the most vital tool in learning how they will work within your organization. Following these key steps can offer you the assurance that the candidate you have selected will be your “Right Hire”.
A Blog by our Joe Gagliardi, FCPA, FCMA, ICD.D, Managing Partner