There are few, if any, functions a manager performs that are more far-reaching than deciding who does, and who does not, get to play on the team.
Hiring a worker is, in some ways, like shopping for any major purchase – a house, a car, or a suit of clothes, for example. There’s rarely any advantage to making a hasty choice. Just like the major purchase, it’s reasonable to assume you’ll have to live with this decision for a good, long time. It pays to be deliberate and methodical about it, even if it takes a little longer.
One reason many managers are ultimately disappointed with some of their hires is that they get the screening process backward. Rather than starting with values and attitudes, they jump right to skills and experience. Instead, our advice is to screen first for values and attitudes, and then for everything else. You’ll notice I didn’t say screen only for values and attitudes. But start there. Because I don’t care how talented, experienced, or technically qualified a person is for a job, it’ll never work if their values and attitudes are not compatible with the organization, and the job.
When we ask managers to think about the people they’ve hired…and then fired in their careers, the overwhelming majority concede that in most cases, they’ve hired for skills and experience, but fired over a bad fit of values and attitudes. So, why not turn the process upside down? Screen first for values and attitude, and then, if they make that cut, continue the process. If not, offer them your best wishes. But not a job.
Of course, to ensure a more valid and legally defensible process, you should work from a legitimate list of “must have” and “want” characteristics for each position you’re screening for. And then scrupulously rate each candidate based on these standards.
It’s so important to do your homework on each job you’re looking to fill. What behaviors and other attributes predict success with a particular job? Will the person be interacting with customers over the phone? If so, set up an opportunity to speak with each candidate, on the phone, before even pursuing an interview. If their telephone manner isn’t compatible with the job, this is never going to work. Don’t waste their time, or yours. Maybe the job means they’ll have to do a lot of written communication, perhaps by email. Send them an email, and see how they respond, then determine whether or not you have a basis to continue the process with them. Now, the interview.
The candidate isn’t the only one who benefits by being prepared. So do you. You’ve screened them, studied, not just scanned, but studied their resume, and you’re ready to spend some time talking with them, in person if possible, about the possibility of their coming to work for you.
You’ll be in a much better position to make the right decision if you’ve taken the care to become familiar with the person’s background, qualifications, and special attributes.Set aside enough time for the interview. Keep in mind that this interview is probably a big deal for them. They’ve made special arrangements to be there. They’ve been looking forward to it. They’re hoping to put their best foot forward. And while you certainly don’t owe them the job, you do owe them the consideration to be fully prepared for the interview.
When conducting the interview itself, treat every candidate as you would a guest in your home. Be respectful of their time. You want them to be comfortable, and to be glad they came in for the interview, even if they don’t ultimately wind up getting the job.
Remember – Your organization has an employment brand. Each candidate your company interacts with represents a window, with a mouth, into your organization. Even if the candidate isn’t hired, you want them to have a favorable impression of your organization, in part, because it’s clear that organizations with a positive employer reputation attract a higher caliber of applicant than those whose employment brand isn’t so great.
Finally, we have to realize that, even if you follow all the steps we’ve outlined here, you’ll make some mistakes and sometimes hire the wrong person. Maybe you didn’t ask the right questions. Maybe the person misrepresented themselves in the interview. Any number of things could happen that would lead you to hire someone who simply isn’t cut out for your organization, or for the job.
We like the advice of hotelier Bill Marriott, who has said, “Get good people and expect them to perform. Terminate them quickly and fairly if you make the wrong choice.”
As soon as you realize you’ve made a hiring mistake, help the employee make as painless an exit as possible. You owe it to them, to their co-workers, and to your organization not to prolong a bad situation any longer than necessary. Let the person resign, with honor, if possible. But let them find a relatively painless way out. Keeping an employee who should never have been hired in the first place is the single greatest fraud managers commit against new employees.
Hiring – it’s one of the most important functions any manager has. It’s gotta be done well. Hiring the right people for the job, people who fit the organization by virtue of their character, values, and attitudes, and who have the right skills and experience for the job, is the first step in creating the potential for their success, and through them, the success of the organization.