Almost every exec and manager hires people – even in the flat organizations common today. Yet few do it well, and many put it down low on their list of favorite things to do.
It doesn’t have to be that way, and there are four simple steps you can take to make the hiring process easier, go smoother, and make better hires. This post is the second of the four steps to take. It’s no accident, by the way, that a good process usually brings good results. This series is about getting a process that produces great hires. Some of the technical stuff of how to interview a candidate is covered in greater depth here and here and there’s also tons of material – some of it quite good – on the internet about the ins and out of questions and legal issues associated with interviewing.
Step 1 here covered a basic prep step that’s often bungled, and is critical to ensuring that the your hiring goes well. This post is Step 2: Everyone (Other Interviewers) on the Same (Interviewing) Bus.
If you’ve ever had the experience (check one) of having a bad date, a bad movie, a bad meal, or a bad vacation spot that a friend enthusiastically recommended, you’ve experienced one of the two pitfalls with having other interviewers involved in assessing candidates: people see things differently. While there are a ton of reasons (like different perspective and helping you avoid the mishire of your career) for having a number of people interview candidates, it helps to have eveyone on the same page – or in this case, same bus. (And there a a number of reasons to have candidates meet different people at the would-be employer, but that’s grist for a future post.)
And why same bus, and not same page? Because you want everyone doing the same stuff, but also moving in the same direction.
It also helps to have interviewers committed to hiring someone with the skills and background you’ve identified. I’ve seen a ton of candidate searches go south when other interviewers thought they knew better than the hiring manager regarding what was important to see in candidates. When I ran staffing at Barclays Global Investors, for example, we had a GC whose idea of “works well with others in a team” meant that the candidate bloodied your nose, but didn’t knock your teeth out. Needless to say the types of candidates she liked often differed from other senior managers.
Here’s where one of the two places where the criteria developed in the preceding post Step 1 – Be Clear About What You’re Seeking comes into play. Using that criteria – along with the ways in which the skills, traits, abilities get evidenced – gets your interviewers aligned. When they assess someone, for example, they are using the same criteria, and using it in the same way to view how the criteria gets evidenced / displayed / expressed.
The second key is to ensure that the folks on your interview team are supportive and engaged to help you hire the candidate you’ve profiled. That same senior manager mentioned above had a habit of torpedoing candidates because she either thought the position didn’t need to be filled, or thought different criteria should be deployed. In either case, having someone like that on the interview team is a formula for disaster.
One good way to anticipate and avoid the issue of having your candidate search self-destruct is a couple of simple steps: when you ask people to interview as part of any panel ask them if they can assess the candidate according the criteria and qualities you’ve developed (“Any questions on these? Do they make sense? Can you support hiring someone with these criteria?“) and can they reasonably assess those qualities (“Are you comfortable / confident you can assess a candidate on these qualities?“)
It sounds dorky- but it works.
My staffing crew at BGI closed 38 of the 40 searches assigned to executive recruiters (retained AND contingent), a hit rate at 95% that’s 25% above the typical success rate for executive search, and a number that I suspect BGI hasn’t come close to repeating since. How? Apart from reducing the number of search firms from the many to the few, we asked vendors one simple question before we engaged them on a search, “Are you highly confident you can execute well on this search?” Vendors who said yes got the engagement. Vendors who said no and took a pass got rewarded for their candor by returning to them for future searches.
It’s in this same vein that hiring managers should ask people who are interviewing for positions for which they are hiring, “Are you comfortable assessing candidates with these criteria?” and “Are you supportive / aligned / in agreement with the criteria I’m seeking for this role?” If there is disagreement about the need to hire the role, or the position description, or the hiring criteria it is better to know it up front than have candidates get sabotaged. As in a lot of things, an once of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure, and it’s far cheaper as well.
There are any number of nuances that this post doesn’t cover that you might want to consider, such as splitting up who covers what on candidate interviews. Within common interview formats – the 30 minute or 50 minute interviews with 1-3 people – there is inadequate time to deeply cover all the qualities for roles that have mid-to-fair amounts of complexity (bridge toll takers, yes – accounting managers for a decent sized staff, maybe – SVP’s of Sales, never). It makes sense to split things up, and then to debrief in a way that the candidates get assessed well.
So there’s your first two steps to hiring brilliantly:
- Be clear about what you’re seeking.
- Get everyone on the same bus.
Next step? Step 3 – Run talent acquisition like it was an important part of your business.
I’ve been in the people (and teams) coaching business for over 25 years , both as a coach to managers and teams and also as someone directly responsible for hiring thousands of people through roles running large staffing / recruiting operations. From that experience I have a pretty good sense of how and why people get hired. Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive and team coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above.