Do the people you hire turn out to be as talented and engaged as you expected them to be? Reflect for a moment on the challenges you have experienced as a consequence of getting hiring decisions wrong. Have you lost time, energy, resources and momentum by selecting candidates who fail to deliver?
Your ability to grow, retain, inspire and leverage people is profoundly influenced by the quality of the selection decisions you make. Here are five essential ways to hire great people who are willing and able to perform at the level you need them to.
1. Understand the role and person you need
Before you start your search for candidates, take the time to fully understand what and who you are looking for. Review or design the job by identifying the roles and responsibilities of the position, as well as your selection criteria. Having a position description will help keep you focused on what matters most throughout the process.
Recognise the non-negotiable outcomes you need the person to achieve and challenges they are likely to encounter. Identify the capabilities and character traits needed to be successful in the role and your business. Think beyond technical skills to the knowledge, experience and behaviours that will enable someone to be an effective member of your team.
2. Apply a consistent approach
A consistent approach throughout the hiring process will unquestionably impact the quality of decisions you make. Most importantly, it will enable you to accurately assess candidates relative to one another, as well as to provide a fair opportunity to everyone who applies.
A consistent process begins with a clear view of the approach you will take. For example, what steps in the process will you ask candidates to participate in? Will you conduct phone interviews? How many face-to-face interviews will you conduct? When will reference checking occur? Interview guides that include questions aligned to your selection criteria are essential tools that will help you assess staff consistently.
3. Assess cultural fit
Identify the values and behaviours you need every new member of your team to bring, and ask questions that expose the candidate’s alignment with each. Read between the lines and observe attitude when reading application documents, conducting interviews or completing reference checks. Assess the candidate’s priorities, philosophies, beliefs, prejudices and motivations.
Consider the likely impact the candidate’s approach to doing their job and dealing with others will have on their success, and that of the team. Never ignore concerns you may have about cultural alignment. The way people choose to behave defines the extent to which they effectively apply their talents. Unless you believe someone is likely to behave successfully, don’t hire them.
4. Assess competence
Search for evidence in the candidate’s career history that they have the ability to achieve the outcomes they need to. Ask that they demonstrate when they have successfully been able to apply their knowledge, skills and experience within a similar context. Provide a clear view of the core objectives, responsibilities, challenges and complexities of the role, and explore their motivation to take on the job.
Assess technical and intellectual abilities by asking candidates to participate in assessment tasks such as testing, presentations and case studies. Take steps beyond discussing the candidate’s level of competence to testing them through practical application. Give candidates reasonable time to prepare but also test the depth of their capabilities by requiring that they ‘think on their feet’ and resolve challenges in the moment.
5. Assess career fit
Among the most common challenges for managers is retaining people for a reasonable period of time. Explore each candidate’s motivation for applying and assess the extent to which the role you have to offer is a good next step for him or her. For example, hiring someone to be a team member when they are eager to move into a management role is likely to impact their engagement, performance and ultimate tenure. Any candidate who sees your role as a stepping stone to where they really want to be is likely to leave if a more attractive offer comes along.
Karen Gately is a leadership and people-management specialist, author and a founder of Ryan Gately, a HR consultancy.