Three Secrets to Making the Right Hire

Posted on | April 6, 2010 | No Comments

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Losing good people—and onboarding their replacements—are very expensive and potentially disruptive events, so you want to make good hiring choices and keep those good employees. Following some simple steps will facilitate good hiring practices and avoid conflicts and difficulties down the road.

Here are some surefire ways to choose well:

1. Clarify expectations during the interviewing stage: One of the most significant indicators for successful hiring is how well your expectations match those of the employees. Be scrupulously honest about the job they will be doing. Give them a very clear picture of:

  • The job they will be doing
  • The organization’s status, both positive and negative
  • Challenges they will face
  • What you, if you are the manager, are like to work with.

In return ask them to do the same. Acknowledge that everyone has his or her own strengths, gifts and learning edges or weakness. Explain that you would rather be prepared then surprised. You might even share one of your own shortcomings as a model.

Then ask, “What are some of the places where you need help?” Ask them to tell you three things you need to be aware of about them. Do not leave it open, like “tell me some of your weaknesses.” Giving them a number to tell you makes it easier to answer.

Having that knowledge gives you a better idea of what to expect when they come to work—or you may discover a quality you are unable to work with.

2. Pursue targeted reference checks: This is getting harder and harder to do. Past employers may be limited in what they can tell you. But I recommend that you try. Make a list of the qualities or skills that are most important to you before you make the call. Ask the previous employer to give you examples of how the person demonstrated or did not demonstrate those qualities. Ask them to rank the prospective employee from 1 to 10, in terms of how often or well they demonstrated those qualities. Push hard to have the previous employer tell you what the person needs to work on. If you anticipate certain problems or challenges ask the employer how the person handled these kinds of situations.

3. Interview for accurate information: Some experts say the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Behavioral interviewing is a great method because it is geared at getting people to tell you what they have done in certain situations. Performance-based interviewing, on the other hand, focuses on setting up situations that are typical of the job and asking the candidate to tell you what they would do. I would recommend you try both methods, in addition to asking more traditional open-ended questions. (Just be sure the questions are not answerable with a yes or no.) Here are some examples:

  • Behavioral interviewing: Ask them to tell you about a time that they had a problem (you can say what kind) and how they handled it. For example, tell me about a time you had a problem/conflict with a boss. How did you handle it? Use examples that might test for the qualities you are looking for. Just be sure to ask them to be very specific: what did they do and how did it turn out? You can also ask them to tell you about a time when something didn’t work out…and why not.
  • Performance-based interviewing: Use real scenarios. Think of some situations that may happen or have happened on the job and then ask them how they would handle it. You can craft the scenarios to get at judgment, work ethic—almost anything. But they should be reflective of situations the person might encounter.
  • Generational-based interviewing: Given that the younger workforce is bringing in new expectations, you need to be sure to spend time on these issues. Include questions about where they see themselves in five years. Given that the younger generations are more likely to see job changes as a positive, ask them their personal philosophy of career building. How do they plan to build their own career path? Find out what would keep them in the job. Ask, “If we wanted to keep you over a long period of time, what would you need to feel comfortable and happy in your work and that you were growing in your career?” Ask them about work-life balance. How do they see that balance and how might it show up at the job? How do they like to be supervised? What would their ideal supervisor be like? How do they like information given to them? What does an ideal organization look like to them? Do a little research on the generational differences to feel prepared with some additional questions that fit your situation.
  • Values-based interviewing: Ask them to describe their proudest moments and what their pet peeves. If you listen to their answers you’ll get their values pretty fast.

I often recommend at least two interviews. People tend to let their guard down in the second interview. Multiple interviewers are helpful as well. Be sure the prospective employee gets to meet the people they will be working with as well. If at all possible offer to pay them for a day and have them spend time in the office. This is invaluable because they get to experience the work and the culture—and you get to see them in action.


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