When I first became a hiring manager, I hired plenty of the “wrong” people. Over the many years I worked as a hiring manager (and then as a recruiter), I’ve refined my hiring process to bring in the right candidate who fits for the team as well as for the job. Hiring the wrong person is awful (for everyone involved), so I want to share some tips so you get the right person the first time out.
Here you go:
- Be clear on the job description. If you know what tasks you need accomplished, you will be that much closer to finding the right person. Knowing you need help doesn’t get you a specific candidate. Be clear on what you need accomplished and who can accomplish those tasks. However, even if you’re very clear on the job you’re filling, you’ll get the wrong person if you don’t ensure that the candidate is also clear. In the interview, do not sugarcoat what the applicant will be expected to do, if hired. Be clear and objective. Don’t scare someone away, but don’t brush off the challenges of the job or overuse the “other duties as assigned” generality (i.e., the more you define, the more successful your employee). People need to know what they’re signing up for. They must opt in. Employees who have a clear idea of what is expected of them and have agreed to all of the pieces of the job will stay longer and perform better.
- Know (and stick to) the minimum qualifications. You should have an ideal candidate in mind. Absolutely. However, it’s also important to be aware of what you can do without and what you cannot. No matter how much you like someone, if he doesn’t have the skills, experience, or ability to learn the job, he should not be hired. Prioritize the must haves, so you start with that. Don’t waste time meeting with someone who does not have those skills or that experience. Period. When you hire someone who doesn’t qualify, you set him up for failure and you set yourself up for a lot of conflict (and, potentially, for disliking him). Don’t do that to him and don’t do that to yourself.
- Think creatively. That being said – think creatively about how you define relevant experience. Not every candidate will have an extensive background in your field. That should not count her out. Does her experience in another field line up? Could her skills transfer over? Keep an open mind, especially when you’re struggling to find the right candidate. I find that customer service experience transfers to any service-oriented profession. For-profit skills can often translate into non-profit skills (like marketing, public relations, sponsorship, development, advancement – different names for similar roles). Also, people who have successfully worked as employees elsewhere, likely have the ability to work successfully at any entry level position. You can train on many of the industry-specific skills and procedures. It’s much harder to train someone on the soft skills: strong communication skills, time management, organizational skills, and conflict resolution.
- Value the mission. I’ve been on a “know your why” kick lately. I think this kick has to do with how powerful a mission statement can be for the success of your company or organization. What do I mean? Well for starters, watch Simon Sinek’s Start with Why TEDX talk to catch up with me. Getting people to understand why you do the work (and be on board with your why) is critical for success. When the going gets tough, employees who are behind the mission will work harder and will stay longer. Interview to that. Make sure you have someone who supports your mission, not just someone looking for a paycheck. You cannot pay someone enough to care about what you do. (And, even more, if you don’t have a lot to pay your employee, you must make sure that you have someone who shares your passion for the work.)
- Consider the team. You are not hiring a list of skills, you’re hiring a person. This person must fit with you as well as any other team members she will be interacting with. Consider the personality fit. Someone can be extremely talented, have all the right skill sets, and amazing experience and still destroy your team. If her personality doesn’t mesh, if her style of interacting is negative or inappropriate, you’ll have an uphill battle to get the work done. A personality that fits, as well as the ability to be a team player must also be on the list of or minimum qualifications, described in #2. Please note, however, that part of identifying this fit is making sure to know yourself and who works best with you. You may require someone to take direction well because you are specific on what you want done. Alternatively, you may need a self-starter who does not need your input or guidance to get tasks accomplished. These are two different styles and require two different employees. You cannot manage everyone, so please hire the people you can manage, not those who you cannot.
- Trust your gut. One of the best pieces of advice I received from a mentor long ago is to trust my gut when interviewing candidates. If your gut says something won’t work – you can question it, but please pay attention to it. Now, some of the gut instincts come after experience with hiring (I now know my employees when I see them). However, I believe another piece of the gut instinct comes from the non-verbal communication that happens in any interaction. If my gut is picking up on something, I need to pay attention to that. Our instincts aren’t always right, but they often are and we should head those warnings.
Teams work so much better when they have been put together with care, collaborate well, can do the assigned job tasks, and are bought in to the mission of the organization. Each member of the team is important, so please consider these tips when you’re hiring.
What do you think? Any additional tips you’ve found helpful to get the right people on your team? Please share in the comments below!
Are you hiring and want to find the right person? I’d love to talk with you: 424.241.3205 or firstname.lastname@example.org