Hiring? Preparation Evens The Odds

Within a month, it’s clear: your newest hire isn’t a good fit for your team, or your company.

She’s smart, nice, and has an impressive resume. Her recommendations shone. Everyone on the team interviewed her and gave her the thumbs up. The odds looked great.

Your leadership development depends on your ability to build a strong team. Now your next hire feels like a bit of a gamble.

Here are a few basic interview tactics that can make a dramatic difference in your results. Hiring managers can use these simple steps to help drive the process. Team members can use them to offer structured input to your manager’s decision process.

Have a well-defined job spec. A good job description describes responsibilities and expected outcomes in concrete behavioral terms. A job spec includes skills and experience that a successful candidate will likely bring to the job.

When a job spec lays out the details with the clarity of a 30 second elevator speech, you’ll source more appropriate candidates, and know what to ask them. Get this clarity before you start.

Understand your culture. At work, culture is often a set of unwritten rules: how we behave, to what we wear, and the language we use.

Culture is visceral. We might consider it to be a touchy-feely attribute, and think we’ll know the right fit when we see it.

This would be a mistake. To find the right fit, we have to be able to articulate the rules and rituals of our culture, and ask questions that identify whether people will thrive in our environment.

When interviewing, craft open-ended questions. The open-ended question is the killer app. And open-ended doesn’t mean haphazard or undirected.

Walk into every interview with a set of pre-defined questions. Each question should target a factor for job success: experience, skill, or ability to fit into your culture.

An example for a client-facing job: “Tell me about a time you disappointed a client.” Someone who has never disappointed a client lacks either experience or honesty. Unreasonable clients and incompetent colleagues may be red flags: those who disparage, blame or make excuses won’t be joining my team. I’m looking for the candidate who accepts responsibility, speaks respectfully about others, and learns from experience.

Pipe down and listen. Interviews are stressful, and open-ended questions may create uncomfortable silence. It’s important to avoid filling this silence yourself. Let a candidate tell you what you need to hear: stop talking and listen.

Every hire is a significant investment, in money and time. 80% of a successful hire is in preparation – without thoughtful preparation, the process is a crapshoot.

Photo:  Gambling – 104/365 by morberg, used under Creative Commons License.

(update, July 2017:  A version of this post was originally cross-posted on Women In Wireless blog, concurrent with a workshop I did for them.  Lol, even the internet wayback machine doesn’t have it any more.)