Hiring The Best People

Almost no task is as important as hiring the right person for the right job. It is important because if you hire the right person everything afterwards becomes relatively easy. However if you hire the wrong person everything afterwards becomes literally a nightmare.

However in a sense no matter what we do, no matter how well we prepare for giving an interview we will never be able to completely eliminate the risk that is inherent in taking on board a new employee. All that we can do is try to reduce this risk by having a rather more systematic approach to interviewing which is neither too emotional in content, “I like him”, nor too theoretical, “let the HR Department do it”.

Below are some quick points as to how you may reduce this risk:

Before the interview:

  1. Think through the assignment carefully for the job often a job description does not change
    through the years but the assignment will change from year to year. The person and the assignment must fit each other.
  2. Do not think,” what can this person do or not do?”, but “what are the strengths each candidate has and are they the right strengths for the assignment?”
  3. Do not concentrate on weaknesses. You cannot build performance on weaknesses, only on strengths. If one candidate has the best strengths for the assignment he or she gets the job, irrespective of his or her weaknesses.
  4. Try to hire people “ahead of the growth curve”. This means that as well as the candidate being suitable for the current position that is available they must also be suitable in the future when your company/department grows. How will that role develop and is the candidate capable of the future responsibilities?
  5. Take your time, never rush. In fact start interviewing now both informally and formally even if there is no current position to fill. Take the time to get to know people that if the opportunity arises you may go to directly to offer the position, after six months one year of knowing them.
  6. Read the CV carefully. Do not wait for 5 min before the interview time to read the CV. This will in the first part demonstrate that you are highly unprofessional and if the candidate is a high performer he or she will simply walk away.
    • You are looking for accomplishments, not the positions reached nor the responsibilities. Only what they achieved while they were in those positions.
    • Do not look only for people with expertise in your field, as people with good accomplishments can transfer those skills to your industry.

During the interview:

  1. Set the bar high. This means that you are always looking to employ a higher standard of person every single time you employ someone.
  2. Always begin with the idea that your answer is no. If you start with no and they convince you during the interview that it is a yes, you will have probably found the right person.
  3. Use the very same questions for each candidate otherwise it becomes difficult to analyse different people using different questions. But what questions?
  • What business news or sector news have you been following lately?
    • Follow-up the answer quickly to check on knowledge, too many people these days are superficial with the knowledge. You are looking for someone who has interest in the business sector of your company.
  • What is the latest book you have read? What did you like about it and what did you learn from it?
    • Does the person want to improve themselves? You are looking for them to say a professional book or a book on development. If they answer with a fictional book this might be fine if they then talk about the characters in the book. To be effective work you must be interested in other people and so someone who talks passionately about the characters in the book will probably be interested in their fellow workers
  • Tell me about your accomplishments?
    • These should already be in the CV. If they are not then you need to be careful about this person. But if they are in the CV already all you are trying to ascertain from this question is whether the person is capable of speaking for a certain length of time on one subject as this is an important skill for anyone but especially managers and executives.
  • Tell me the angle between the hands of a clock when the time is 10 to 1 (12:50)?
    • A small test of mental arithmetic which is not as easy as it first seems.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to tackle XXX. How did you do it and what were the results?  
    • The XXX is a recent success or failure in your own company. Do not tell the interviewee that it is a true situation! Listen to their replies may be you can learn something from them, just think you go to interview someone and you come away having learnt something new. Fantastic. This question is great because you have the knowledge of the situation it is not abstract and so you are able to verify the quality of the person’s response. Ask two or three questions like this

The Bottom Line

Although we cannot completely eliminate the risk with hiring new people we can approach this most important part of our role in a systematic way which will render our decisions easier and made with more clarity. However never forget that after hiring the person if they fail it is your fault and not theirs! If they are not suited for the role then find them another role within your company that would suit them. Do not keep productive people in the wrong role. Change it, make them happy and you can make more profit.

Mark Olding

26th April 2012

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