Hiring for Success – Part One

Many of us that grew up in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, grew up in an era where our parents believed that hard work was the definition of success. My father spent weeks away from home, on the road, as a high level sales rep for an international firm. I would sit in awe listening to him relating stories of how he closed millions of dollars in contracts. I grew up in a professional performance culture.
 
One thing I did not grow up in, was a close knit family culture. So, when I had kids of my own connection with them was forefront. I chose to go camping, pick them up from school when I could, and be there when they needed me.
 
Some people would say that, as a society, we over-corrected and youth don’t know the value of work ethic, anymore. However, in my years of coaching and organizational development consulting, I can honestly say that with the vast majority of my clients, workplace performance issues come down to two issues:
 
1) Hiring the right person
2) Managing your team well.
 
Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some of my coaching insights, and providing some tools for you to use in your hiring and performance management practices.
 
Today, I’m starting with background and insight.
 
1) The Cost of Turnover and Bad Hires
 
If you have ever made a bad hire, you can probably list of lots of impacts that person had on your workforce, typically the list includes:
 
1) a lack of completion of tasks,
2) resistance to management and guidance,
3) generalized erosion of performance,
4) increased costs related to sick days, and extra staffing
5) general malaise in staff attitudes
6) lack of workplace communication
7) protection over personal work outcomes and erosion of team cohesion
 
Many workforce impacts can be exponentially expensive, meaning that the longer the issues drag on, the more it costs team output. I usually strongly suggest using the standard 90 day protocol, and making hard choices, as soon as you feel discomfort with the hire. Often your gut feeling is right on the money and as long as you have done a good job on-boarding (we will cover this in a couple of weeks), then the fit is probably not great.
 
2) What is Fit?
 
I went to the store the other day to buy a new shirt. I browsed the aisles knowing generally what I wanted; short sleeve, button front, light colour, collared…sort of a “summery style”. As I browsed along the rows of shirts, I slowly began to eliminate some: wrong color, too heavy, too small, too large, too….. green. Then I found the rack, the style and the colour I wanted. I pulled the hanger off the rail and held up the shirt. It looked good. So, I took it to the change room to try it on.
 
This is almost exactly the process many business owners or managers use when selecting new employees; They carefully construct a position description, determine the skills, education and experiential factors they think they want. Then they set some conditions and expectations and go to the market place to see if they can find what they want. When the flood of resumes comes in, they sort through the myriad of candidates to find an exact match, do an interview and then make the decision to hire.
 
Going the changing room to try on my potentially new shirt is, in many ways like interviewing candidates. It all looks good on the surface but how is it going to fit? Employee fit is the based around the same concept: It’s about trying to see if they not only look good on paper, but will be good in the position and FIT with you, your team and your culture.
 
Without actually trying on a new employee what can you do to determine if the FIT is acceptable?
 
Here are seven tips:
 
1) DON’T focus on teachable skills such as how I answer the phone, or fill out forms, they can learn things like that, if necessary.
 
2) DO interview effectively asking about special skills or knowledge that comes with experience. A great way to do this is to ask about past experiences and what they did in “that” circumstance.
 
3) DO look deeper than the answer. Before you ask any questions, know what you are looking to hear. Don’t necessarily look at the answer as much as you look for abilities.
 
For example; Asking about how they responded in a complex situation could lead me to provide you with an understanding of my ability to:
  • problem solve,
  • be diplomatic,
  • learn from issues and work well with others.
 
The more abilities you look for the better fit you find.
 
4) DO ask Open Ended Questions that explore but don’t define answers. Typical openings for open ended questions are:
  • Tell me about a time when…
  • What happened the last time you…..
  • Describe how you will……
 
These questions demand more of the candidate and give you better quality answers.
 
5) DO ask about “other stuff” – personal interests, hobbies and activities. By asking about what excites them, you will be able to gauge levels of enthusiasm. If they can’t bring that enthusiasm to answers about thier interests, imagine how it will be in thier job.
 
6) DO check references. Ask great questions about how they fit, what the work ethic was like, and why they were a good employee they hated to lose.
 
7) DO trust your Gut. We instinctively form impressions of others by how our “gut” feels – a simple way of saying, the subtle behavioural and body language cues that provide evidence of who we are to others. Malcolm Gladwell calls the process “thin slicing” and says it’s amazingly accurate in highlighting levels of sub-conscious discomfort. If something feels off, it’s your “gut” telling you to double check. Listen to it, because if they don’t feel right now, it will only get harder in an employee/employer situation.
 
Finally, and I’ve said this before – take the time to hire properly. Because at the end of a long shopping trip I’m sure you, like me, have found a shirt that when you try it on looks like it was actually built for a super short person with over length arms and a lopsided spine.
 
You probably stand there staring in the mirror asking “What happened?”
 
Next week, I will delve into how to create a position description, and an Ad that will attract the right candidate.