A hiring opportunity is one of the most exciting times for your company. Right? Ok, it can be stressful and frustrating…and time consuming! Trust me, I know. I just filled two positions myself and the week that followed felt like one of my more productive weeks in recent memory. “What have I been doing for the past couple of months?” I asked myself. Oh right: hiring two key people for the company. I forgot how much time it takes. But hiring takes time for a reason. It’s one of the most important things that you will do as a leader.
When I think about the hiring process, there are only three things that matter when evaluating a candidate:
- Can they do it? (Ability)
- Will they do it? (Motivation)
- Will others do it with them? (Culture fit)
Read on to learn more about these three steps and how we evaluate candidates at CareerPlug. I’ll also recount some of the mistakes and near-mistakes that I’ve made recently that make me that much more confident in writing this.
#1 CAN THEY DO IT? (ABILITY)
The first, and most basic, question in hiring. Yet companies and hiring managers are often fooled by this step for a few key reasons. First, they do not understand – and clearly document – the competencies that are most important to success in the role. Second, they fail to differentiate between competencies a candidate must already possess versus those that can be developed by the right person. And last, they don’t have a system to consistently evaluate competencies during the hiring process. Suddenly this question isn’t so easy to answer.
Define the Most Important Competencies
It’s easy to produce a laundry list of everything you want in a candidate. But when you work from a laundry list you focus on everything … which is to say you focus on nothing. Instead, document 3-5 competencies or traits that are critical to success in the role.
I was reminded of this lesson recently while hiring for a new director at CareerPlug. I had a list of about 10 things that I wanted to see in this person. When I sat down with my leadership team to discuss the role and our top prospects, we had a healthy debate over which criteria mattered the most. I recognized my own mistake here – focusing on 10 competencies was too many -, and I asked each leader to rank their top five criteria from the current list. We shared our thoughts as a team and decided on a list of the five most important competencies. When we interviewed the right person, it was crystal clear to everyone on the leadership team that we had found our next director.
Do Not Confuse “Can They Do It?” with “Have They Done It?”
When you evaluate someone on a certain competency, ask yourself “Am I requiring this experience because it’s essential from Day One? Or am I requiring this because I don’t want to go to the trouble of training them or feel like I’m making a risky hire?” If it’s the latter, think carefully about this decision. You could be needlessly eliminating a huge segment of the talent pool.
This clarity is particularly important for entry-level roles. These positions, by definition, are starting points in someone’s career. If you limit yourself to candidates who have done the job previously, you are limiting your potential for a truly successful hire.
Assess & Interview for Each Competency
Once you know what you need, develop ways to evaluate it at each step of the hiring process. Let’s say that there are five competencies that stand out above the rest:Is there a way for you to screen some of those on the initial application? This could be obvious if there is a required license, but it can be done for soft skills as well.
Personality and aptitude assessments are an effective next step in the evaluation process. We encourage our clients to give assessments to candidates before they are interviewed. This allows hiring managers to have additional information about the candidate beyond the resume.
No matter what the criteria, it’s important that hiring managers have specific interview questions for each competency. Make sure that the questions are open-ended and focus on a candidate’s experience (“Tell me about a time when…”) or situational judgment (“What would you do if…”). Don’t make assumptions like “Well her resume shows that she hit her sales quota consistently, so she must be assertive” – that’s not good enough. Inspect what you expect.
#2 WILL THEY DO IT? (MOTIVATION)
“Can they do it?” does not mean much if they are not willing to do it. Most people can suck it up and do just about anything for the short term. People have a way of convincing themselves that they can make it work. But one day they just won’t be able to make it work anymore.
Turnover, and all of the work that comes with it, is a productivity killer. It can be a business killer too. You need people who are going to be with you for the long haul, and you need to invest in them and make them an integral part of your team. To achieve this, you need to hire people who are motivated to succeed with you.
The best way to evaluate people’s motivation is to look at where they’ve been and where they’re headed.
Where have they been?
You can learn a lot by listening to someone’s life story. Don’t just rely on the resume for this. Have them walk you through their professional life. We ask candidates to divide their career history into chapters. Ask them about the highs and lows in each chapter and what drove them toward the next chapter. Look for insights and patterns. Why did they leave? How do they talk about their past? Are they taking responsibility for what has happened in their lives, or are they victims?
Can you see what is motivating this person? If you can’t, then how can you know they have the motivation to be successful at your company?
One of my favorite conversations with a client went something like this:
Client: “Why do you have a question on the interview guide asking ‘What activities did you participate in during high school?’ Why is that relevant?”
Me: “You won’t know until you ask.”
A week later
Client: “So I was in an interview and decided to give it a shot: ‘What activities did you participate in during high school?’ He was quiet for a second and then said ‘None’. Wow. I get it now.”
Where are you headed?
Once you understand where they have been, shift your focus to where they are headed. What do they want to accomplish in the next five years of their life? Of course, you want to know about their career goals – but you really want to know about their other goals in life too. Don’t take the goals at face value. Dig a little deeper to find out why this is important to them and how it would make them feel. Here’s where you’ll find their their true motivation.
This information that they have given you is a true gift. You now know what they want from life. You have a way to keep them motivated. And imagine what will happen once you help them achieve it. You could end up with lifelong, loyal team members.
Check for Alignment
The last question we ask in the motivation interview is “Based on everything that you know about us and this opportunity, will this position at our company allow you to accomplish all of these things that said you want to do in the next five years?” If it won’t, will they really be the right fit for your team?
#3 WILL OTHERS DO IT WITH THEM? (CULTURE FIT)
This one is non-negotiable for companies that want to build a truly great culture. Some companies fall into the trap of making culture fit exceptions for high performers. This is a direct route to a toxic culture. Look at what has happened at Uber. Measuring culture fit can be tricky. One mistake I often see is defining culture fit as “who looks like us?” Going down this path often leads to a lack of diversity on your team and a failure to build a healthy, inclusive company culture.
Start with Your Core Values
People work better together when there are shared values between them. Make sure your interviews incorporate questions around values. Don’t have well-defined core values yet? Stop reading this right now and work on them.
Here’s the great news: The right candidates will become that much more attracted to you if they can see that the company has similar values to them. We make our our values very visible during our hiring process and we frequently hear top candidates call out our values-driven approach to hiring as a key factor in choosing to apply with us.
Understand Their Work Preferences
Does their work style match up with yours? Do your people move fast and worry about details later? Then think twice about hiring someone from a slow, bureaucratic company. Do you have an active, open office environment? Might not want to hire that person who needs a quiet office to get anything done. Casual dress policy at work? The professional with a closet full of corporate clothing may feel totally lost.
A job shadow is a great opportunity to address this, but ask open-ended questions about their work preferences first. Otherwise it’s easy for them to get caught up in the moment and say that everything looks great.
Get Your Team Involved
Don’t rely solely on your own judgment – give your team a voice. This empowers your team and shows that you care about their opinion, provides a different perspective and helps shed light on anything you may have overlooked, and gives them a vested interest in making this hire a success. If the team goes to bat for a candidate, you can hold them accountable to bringing their best to the new relationship.
THIS SOUNDS LIKE A LOT OF WORK!
You’re right. It is a lot of work. But it’s nothing compared to the work created by hiring the wrong people. Think about all of the headaches and extra work your bad hires have created for you and your team. The worst part is that these wrong people took up seats that could have been taken by the right people. Imagine the impact that would have had on your business.
Here’s the best part: When you invest in hiring the right people, these “right people” take notice and become that much more attracted to your organization. Your hiring process becomes your competitive advantage. We recently hired a couple of people who were working at some great companies, and I know that our hiring process helped us close the deal. One of them said to me: “I feel like I got to know myself better during this process, and that makes me that much more confident that this is the right place for me.”
WE HIRE TOO MANY PEOPLE TO MAKE THIS WORK!
CareerPlug has the luxury of hiring slowly, with only a handful of new hires each quarter. Most of our employees are full-time and salaried. But that does not mean that these principles cannot be incorporated into any business. There is such a thing as a long-term, part-time employee. We have had interns work for us for four years straight through college. The right people don’t job hop, even when they are earlier in their career. You may need to make some adjustments to make it work for your hiring process, but you can do it. Imagine if you could reduce your turnover by 25% or more as some of our clients have. What could that mean for your business?
WHERE TO START
Take the first step by committing the time and energy to improve your hiring process.
- Review your current process and make sure that you are evaluating Ability to the best of your ability
- Add an interview to assess Motivation (Where they’ve been and where they’re headed)
- Make evaluating Culture Fit an objective, values-based process – not just a gut feeling
- Download our ebook – The Four Essentials to Build a Superstar Hiring Process – for more strategies and best practices