On Hiring Well

March 29th, 2012 — 5:30am

Hiring well is vitally important to business success. It’s also a skill with a substantial learning curve. Here are a few things I and my managers have been learning about it lately.

See Hiring as a Major Project

It’s a lot of work to recruit and hire a great employee. In most small companies it’s an extra project on top of a manager’s regular workload. This can make it tempting to look at it as something to quickly take care of on the side. I’ve learned it’s more realistic to see it is a big project and give it serious time and attention.

Stack the Deck

Make it a tournament with many entrants and multiple rounds of elimination. We’ve found it’s much easier to compare candidates to each other and choose the best one, than it is to decide if any given candidate is good enough. Our goal is to get down to two finalists that are both excellent candidates for the job. Put yoruself in a position to choose the best of a great lot.

Don’t Give the Benefit of the Doubt

This is hard, because it’s not how we treat customers and existing employees. Hiring is not the time to give the benefit of the doubt. You must take the limited information you have at face value. If the candidate is late for the interview, don’t assume it’s a fluke. It may be, but more than likely it’s part of a pattern of behavior. If a candidate has a troubled history, look for objective evidence that lasting change has occurred. Past mistakes are not a deal-breaker, but a sincere story about turning over a new leaf is not enough.

Keep Digging Until The Story Unravels

There’s a point in the interview process when you’ve gained enough insight into a person to fairly reliably predict their answer to the next question. You’ve figure out their core motivations and seen common themes in how they respond to a variety of situations. I’ve learned if I haven’t gotten to that point, I haven’t interviewed that person well enough. If I can’t get to that point because a candidate is giving vague or inconsistent answers, that’s a red flag.