Leadership Puzzler: How to Have a Successful Hiring Process

hiring process leadership developmentWhen an employee does not work out, it’s always a disappointment for the company and the employee. No one likes it, we don’t want to talk about it, and we feel like we failed. And it’s expensive! The figures I’ve heard put it at three times the annual salary of the employee, regardless of the length of stay. When you factor in the hiring cost, training cost, loss of revenue, and distraction to the rest of the team, it’s easy to justify this number.

So how do you make sure hiring goes well? Start by reading Chapter 4 of Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle! Available as a *free* download this month here

Let me share a good example of how one company did it well. After years of trying to get the right sales leader for the organization, a small manufacturer decided he needed to do something different. He had 3 failed hires in as many years and was very frustrated and about to give up. (Keep in mind that in a small company, it’s even more important to get the right person with the right values and skills because everyone needs to be firing on all cylinders. There is no room for someone who can’t perform.)

Improving the Hiring Process

This time, the CEO decided to use a different recruiter, one who asked about his culture, his values and really dug into the long-term vision for the organization. At the time, this was about a 50 person $10M manufacturing company. The recruiter probed about what didn’t work about the last three hires as this gave her a lot of insight into the CEO and the company. She then started the process of recruiting for people she thought might be a fit. She sent a couple of people for the CEO to talk with that were essentially “tests” to see if she was on or off the mark. The CEO liked both, but they were not “quite right,” according to him. I sat down with the CEO and asked to be included on one of his interviews and realized one of the problems was his interviewing skills – or lack thereof. He did all the talking and asked softball questions that really didn’t give him any insight into the person sitting in front of him. Remember, an interview is when the hopeful future employee is sometimes the “best” the employee is going to be so it’s a huge missed opportunity not to have them speak as much as possible.

So after the interview, we worked on how to listen more and talk less, ask more behavior-based questions and suspend his judgment while listening to answers. I asked him to have more of a poker face because he was inadvertently directing the interviewee’s answers. For the next candidate, we came up with 10 questions that related not only to the values of the company, but specific examples of how this person had performed certain things or faced certain circumstances in the past. I took the lead on the interview and as luck would have it, it was a great candidate. We asked him back for a dinner interview, (always meet with high level hires at least twice and in different circumstances), and kept the conversation more casual, to get to know him personally a little better.

The CEO was in love with the guy, but I cautioned him to be slow, and to really talk about what success would look like. We also asked the candidate to create a plan for his first 90-180-360 days as Sales Manager and what results he expected. The plan was brilliant and matched what we were looking for so an offer was made. I’m happy to say this person is still with the company and doing very well, 6 years later. The CEO did try to move him into more of an operational role at one point and that did not go well, so he moved him right back to sales. Remember, just because someone is good at one thing, does not mean it will translate into a different area of expertise.

Why did this hire work when all the others didn’t? Several reasons:

  • Excellent recruiting process for the values and skills needed
  • CEO learned how to interview by asking behaviorally-based questions
  • Clearly defined expectations agreed upon

Every hire is different, but the process is the same. If you take your time, follow the steps and look for values first, then skills, you’ll have a much higher likelihood of success in your process!

photo credit: groundswell via photopin cc

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