Five Things You Can Do to Hire Smart

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December 4, 2016 | Bill Catlette | HCI

People the world over are watching intently as a new U.S. presidential administration goes through its staffing up process, taking notes and names as to who’s in, who’s out, who’s on the fence, what the relative merits of each candidate are, who’s calling the ball, the list goes on. One can only hope that the behind-the-scenes process used to vet and select candidates is as serious as the reporting of it.

While all this goes on, thousands of other jobs, real jobs, regular jobs are being filled, quietly, without the hoopla, and, dare I say in too many cases, without much thought or preparation.

In his new book, The First Two Rules of Leadership, author David Cottrell suggests that, “the greatest liability any team faces is having the wrong people on the team.”  Cottrell goes on to point out that having one or two well-placed “wrong people” on your team can wreak more havoc than anything that a competitor might wish for you. So, how do you get fewer of the wrong people, and more of the right people on your team?

1. Resolve today, this instant, to become a better recruiter. Thankfully, as in so many other aspects of life, good recruiters are made, not born. There are two kinds of recruiters: Those who practice good recruiting habits, and those who wish they had. Armed with preparation and devotion to some good habits, you, too can become a good recruiter, and wind up working with a higher percentage of A-players.

2. Change your recruiting frequency and pace. Most managers wait until a position vacancy occurs to initiate any recruitment activity. On the surface, that seems to make sense. After all, why would you expend activity recruiting for a position opening that doesn’t exist yet?  

That’s a bit like saying that you want to have fresh-caught fish for dinner tonight, and then waiting until you’re hungry to start fishing. In all likelihood, you’re going to wind up either eating the bait or going hungry in that scenario. Put a little differently, what is the likelihood that the perfect job candidate is going to have some white-space on their resume at the exact moment that you have an opening?

What I’m suggesting is that managers should regularly spend time scouting talent for their team and the larger organization so that when openings arise, you’ve got both fresh sources and some potential candidates already in various stages of engagement. Having something of a head start also suggests that your judgment will be less compromised by urgency when an opening arises.

3. Spread the work. Involve others throughout all phases of the process, especially people whose differences and strengths will balance your perspective. Strive for having a minimum of two, preferably three active voices in the selection process.

4. Use Valid Screening and Selection Methods. As early as possible, determine the must & want hard qualifications and qualities that will drive your selection decision. Pay equal attention to job specs and organizational fit characteristics. From that list, construct a behaviorally anchored interview trac that features a primary group of questions to be asked of every interviewed candidate, leaving room for ad-hoc follow-ups. A sample guide can be found at http://contentedcows.com/our-books/finding-great-people.

5. Be Smart. If you’re going to go to the trouble of meeting someone for a job interview, the least you can do is to prepare well for it. Block out ample time, taking steps to be free from interruption. Turn off the multitasking! Be ready to do the hard work of listening and taking good notes. Immediately upon concluding each interview, rate the candidate against your pre-determined selection criteria.

Lastly, please remember that you stand only to lose by treating job candidates with the arrogance that pervades most recruiting processes. Instead, take pains to treat every candidate as though they are, or some day might become a customer.