Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Art of Hiring

In our recent Hire Bright and Hungry post we talked about some of the key criteria for making your best hires. Today we discuss specific processes that will help bring the very best into your organization. Keep in mind that local applicant assessment laws may apply with regard to some of the specifics you may choose to subject your applicants to.

Find a Winning Personality
Although personality typing is reputedly employed by about 20% of employers, we haven't used it in any formal way when hiring. That's not to say, however, that we don't take personality into account when hiring. For example, the best sales folk tend to be "pathologically optimistic." Even though we haven't yet found one who's truly pathological, high-energy, positive individuals do seem to be successful in sales and marketing positions. For our support team we had very favorable outcomes with hires who were nurturing, didactic, and enjoyed solving problems. For accounting, attention to detail was the personality type at the top of our list. As for using personality typing to find software developers, don't even think about it; just find out if your prospect can code and gently lure him or her with a promise of free food and clean clothing. But, seriously though folks, the best programmers come in all personality types. Everything else being equal, you can come across a suitable applicant whether they have a personality or not.

Professional Qualification Is Crucial
Next, we devised tests for every position, even for executive applicants. If you're looking to fill a PR position, applicants should be able to write a reasonable press release in a about an hour, given all the facts. A competent salesperson should be able to handle a basic set of objections as they convince you to buy the pen you're holding in your hand, and so on. Don't be afraid to ask applicants to demonstrate that they can do the job. Even if you are hiring a person with no experience, they should be able to read and write, especially if they're applying for an office job. Giving them a copy of your old press release with deliberate errors is a basic minimum; unless, of course, they are a developer, in which case, just give them some coding exercises to make sure they can code.

We strongly recommend that you test all prospective executives. They may have spent years concocting a very convincing narrative, but when it comes to showing the skills they'll actually need on the job, you may be unpleasantly surprised. Obviously, if you discover that applicants can't do the job, it's pointless for either side to take matters further.

For some industries professional certifications, background, and drug screening may be mandatory. Check your local legislation to find out if this applies to your organization as well.

Finally, now that you've ascertained that all the gold feathers are in place, go ahead and interview that future golden goose. They've invested enough time to prove themselves; now it's your turn.

Did You Find the Missing Piece of the Puzzle to Fill Out Your Team Fabric?
Get together a few folks across the team: a manager, future team members and possibly a few cross-functional team members; make sure they come armed with questions to cover the basic ground: work history, response to criticism, hobbies, etc. And get in to as much detail as possible to better understand applicants' individual drivers. Don't forget to de-brief your hiring committee after the interview. Questions help to ensure that you don't just get the "seemed-like-a-nice-guy" response as your interview feedback – that's pretty much useless in terms of hiring criteria. As your team gets larger, and the task of hiring gets delegated elsewhere, make the same basic principles with regard to hiring continue and continue to evolve in line with your changing organization.

Human beings have a knack of spotting when there's something incongruous about an applicant; even though they might not immediately be able to put their finger on it. Try to get at it and understand what it is. You may be able to find out more by following up on applicants' references and reviewing their social media history, but don't rely on these sources alone. If something bothers you, don't be afraid to go with your gut feeling.

You may think you had found the missing piece of the puzzle. Not so fast! What have you done to convey this vision to your star applicant and get their buy-in to come on-board? Getting them to say "Yes," will take some additional effort but it is well worth it!

Don't Leave Them Hanging!
Once you've got all the information and everyone's on the same page about moving forward, don't torture the applicant with months of anticipation :). Just make the offer. The title of this article is a deliberate misnomer. There is an art to spotting and bringing out the best in applicants at an interview, but the actual assessment of the applicants is a process that a company has to develop and apply consistently – and to all the applicants – if it is going to satisfy its unique hiring needs.

What applicant assessment practices do you use to make your organization stronger?

Rachel, Dan, & Dmitry

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