I went to the Greater Cleveland Middle-Market Forum last Friday and had several fascinating conversations with many great entrepreneurs about what their biggest challenge is in getting their business to the next level. The number one concern for them is how to hire the right people to keep growing the business successfully. Almost every entrepreneur I spoke with had a horror story about a time when they hired the wrong person for their organization. They felt that their bad decisions may have cost their organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.
As of this month, I’ve been in management roles where I interviewed and hired great employees for thirty years. Where does the time go? I’d like to share several ideas that can help you get the best people on your team. It worked for me and my clients and I’m certain it will work for you.
The first secret of hiring great people is knowing what you’re looking for before you start the hiring process. I’ve seen many great managers hire the wrong person because they did not know what they wanted this person to do. Take time to consider what responsibilities this person will have in your organization. Many great sales managers fail to understand the differences between their organization and the general market.
Take time to look at what traits the successful people on your team share. Today, there are many great organizations that can help you assess your current team to uncover key success factors that may not be apparent as you look at your team. Another idea is to consider when hiring is how this individual will fit into your current team. Will they complement your current team members and also bring new capabilities to your organization? Sometimes when you hire to add new skills, you miss why this person might struggle in your organization. It’s no one’s fault. The culture might be too entrenched or the people struggle with the politics of being the transformation person on your team. You will be more successful by setting clearly defined goals and responsibilities when hiring someone new. The more effective you are before the hire the more likely success for your hire.
The second secret of hiring great people is to do a culture check. When working with high energy teams, I’m often surprised when the hiring manager comes back with an individual who looks great on paper but lacks the focus and drive required to succeed in their new role. You would be better off discovering if the person has the required energy for the job. Working in a startup is different than working for IBM. Many big hiring misses come from not exploring how the person will thrive in the new environment. One of my favorite tactics I use is I interview people at the end of their day. I want to see how they can get up for an interview and how focused they are when meeting me at 6:00pm. This also allows you to get people who can’t get away during the day to interview for the job. I find most people I interview over dinner are more relaxed and casual and I can get a much better read on who they really are. Interviewing can be stressful and I want to know who the person really is before moving them on in the interviewing process.
The third secret is don’t oversell your opportunity. You need to attract the best people for your organization, but if you’re doing all the selling you may not get the best person for your team. When I sell my opportunity I want them to sell me on themselves, as well. I may add stress to the conversation by saying I’m talking to other candidates and I want to make a decision quickly. I want to see how people respond to a faster paced tempo. This usually does the trick by getting them to think about if they want the job or not. Depending on what position I’m interviewing people for, I may have them take an online assessment to help me better understand who they are. In most cases, I share my findings with them to see how coachable they are. In most situations in my career, I’m a player coach, so it’s critical that my team members are able to take and give during critical situations in the business.
The final secret I’ve used is I do my own reference checks. I know it takes more time, but I find that it’s better to dodge a bullet than take one. I have mastered the art of the low key reference check. I’ll share how I do it in a future blog. I can tell you will be amazed at what people will say on reference calls when you remove the pressure.
If you do these simple steps, you can increase your hiring success rate by 90%. Tomorrow on our sister blog, Developing Serving Leaders, I’ll share some of the secrets Richard Branson uses to hire and build a great organization. See you tomorrow.