How many hiring managers are out there thinking about adding a member to the team and have a difficult time making an offer because they are just not sure if it is a good fit? There are likely thousands of hiring managers in this predicament because this is a very difficult prospect. Some are concerned that there is repercussion if they do not hire quickly or if they turn away a “qualified candidate.” The fact of the matter is that hiring is a constant process for most of us and in order to be effective day in and out, we must be very confident that every member of the team is meant to be there and they have each been chosen to compliment an already effective team. Like so many other processes we employ in our daily lives as executive leaders of organization, hiring must be executed according to a repeatable process. Yes, I am a strong proponent of process. Method is one way of accomplishing a task, while process is a modular and editable system that drives predictable results. In order to derive confidence in a team and in your own hiring decisions, you must build it into a process that plugs into a larger organizational system. My hiring process has allowed me to build some strong teams that I am very proud of. Beyond the resume review and technical evaluation, the interview process includes three distinct analyses that I will share here. Great teams don’t just happen, they formed by stringent selection and exacting expectation.
CAN I SPEAK CANDID WITHOUT FRIGHTENING THIS CANDIDATE?
Did they actually hear what I said and are they able to respond naturally in a way that promotes further conversation? Of course, I am not suggesting that we revert back to days of old when managers were vulgar and tyrannical. My litmus test here is about getting to the point as I would in any day to day conversation. During the interview, I am looking for an opportunity to say something like:
“That reminds me of something… one reason I like this company is that we are each expected to give 100% every day. It fits my leadership style because I treat my workday much like that of a professional athlete. I show up in the morning leave everything I have on the playing field and I expect to go home exhausted at the end of the day.”
I will then sit back and listen for few minutes. Does the candidate support and contribute to my work ethic? Does the candidate ask questions about my expectation for their work ethic? Another great thought provoker is something to the effect of:
“We are all part of this company for the same reason: to make money. Our shareholders expect to be paid as reliably as our hourly employees. With that in mind, we have to be very creative in the way that we operate this facility so that we keep our commitments to both our employees and our shareholders.”
I am looking for an understanding that operating a business as an owner or as a trusted manager is nothing other than operating a business. This part of the conversation should be very convincing.
WHAT DOES THE TEAM THINK?
A team is just that, a body or group of people who are of similar mind and all headed in a common direction. That said, if we bring a new member into the team how likely are they to immediately compliment the group? Are they going to create a silo that all other team members must beat down or work through? Did all of the team members challenge the candidate on the one or two things that are inherently unique in that organization? As a member of a recent team there were certain qualities required of all:
“We work very hard here, we speak very clearly here, and most of all we are not here for political gain. We are here to do a great job and go home to our families.”
At the end of any interview day for any position on the team, all members of the panel are aware that the candidate will be subject to these unyielding expectations. So what does the panel think? I am not ready to hear recommendations like “he/she seems like a good person” or “we really need to fill this position, what a relief.” I am looking for “I want to work with this person and I think they will fit THIS team very well and here is why I say that…” All members of the interview panel are carefully looking for red flags and will be required to find them and expose their suspicion to the team. This is a critical part of the interview debrief in that all interviews are conducted one on one and each member is free to form questions and carry conversation in a way that allows them to be confident in their recommendation at the end of the day. If there are red flags we have to flush them out and talk about them as a group. Sometimes a red flag is as simple as a technical misinterpretation or as great as a gender bias. Somethings can be accepted by a team and others just cannot be overlooked. It is important to have a team census that the candidate is a good fit for the team. The hiring manager makes the final decision but the team is subject to that candidate every day after that. The expectation must be set by the hiring manager that they are part of a very strict process and that they must be alert and finally, that they will certainly be heard.
DO I ACTUALLY BELIEVE WE CAN LEARN FROM ONE ANOTHER?
In a results driven corporate world there is no time for complacency. We must all be ever vigilant for technique and concept that will move the business to the next level. I learned some time ago that creativity isn’t something to be rewarded at the infrequent surfacing; it has to be one of the defined expectations for continued success. Creativity solves problems and leads to improved process. Creative people are those that are constantly learning. Their mind is open and they are ready for a big idea wherever it may originate. As so many professionals know, it is very lonely at the top. It is especially lonely when you are the only idea generator in the organization. This is the spawn of that notion that the boss must shake things up frequently. I very much prefer to be surrounded by creative people who are learning from those around them and everyone gets stronger and smarter every day. During the interview process, I like to ask questions that inspire the candidate to explain how they were able to overcome a hurdle or close a gap by relying on the team. It might go something like:
“I am so fortunate to be surrounded by a team that helps me solve problems. Could you tell me of a time that you looked to others for a solution?”
A learner will be glad to share the story about the day that they found a solution in the mind of the most unlikely associate and it only happened because they asked for help and they listened to the suggestion. Further, nobody knows everything about any business. It is widely accepted that business is in a constant state of change and we must change to keep up. If you need evidence, just look at the genesis of Amazon, the “online bookstore” of years ago. This means that I, as an organizational leader must be ready to learn something new and stay away from comfort zones. Do I think this potential candidate has learned from previous supervisors? Do I think they are willing to learn from me, and that we can grow as professionals together? Is the candidate confident in their ability to teach me things along the way? Are they willing?
I count myself among the very lucky to have worked with the teams I have been associated with both in corporate America and while serving in the U.S. Military. While the objective varies widely, the leadership and the camaraderie is alive and well. Accepted, hiring is a constant process but building a team is a journey and, done well, something to be very proud of.