Friday, March 28, 2014

How to Hire the Best

"And, I sooooooo enjoy my job -- this HAS to be the BEST company -- EVER!!!!"  That was a quote from one of our employees emailing another employee.  It was forwarded to me as an example of one of the things we’ve done right. Can you imagine your employees saying that?  Would you like them to say that?  As a business owner it’s one of the most rewarding feelings to know you’ve created an environment where people can be happy and productive but it’s not just the environment that matters, the trick is to find the people who will thrive in the environment.

“People are our greatest asset” goes the cliché.  While that’s true, I believe it’s the “right people” who are our greatest asset.  We used to be very causal about how we hired.  Sometimes we got lucky and sometimes we didn’t. One of these “not so lucky” incidents took place when we hired someone to write a training manual for new partners.  I reviewed her work after a week and found she hadn’t written anything.  She spent her time on a doodle pad drawing sketches to pass the time. I sat with her and created an outline to get her started.  A week later she still had nothing written but she did have more sketches in her doodle pad as she passed the time. After we let her go, Patrick said we should frame the sketches since we effectively paid her to doodle.  Looking back, I wish we had framed those sketches as a reminder of poor hiring practices. 

People want to do what they want to do.  Earth shattering, I know, but it just so happens that when people do what they enjoy they’re not only happier, they’re also more productive.   A somewhat famous job ad was posted in 1914 by Ernest Shackleton who was recruiting crew members for an expedition to the South Pole.  His ad stated, “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success.”  While this may not sound appealing to you it speaks directly to a personality type.  Shackleton just had to appeal to the people with this personality type and he had a line around the block to sail on his ship.

Set up a profile for the role

 Several years ago we surveyed the top channel managers with whom we worked.  We found they had similar attributes which included “achiever”, “competitor” and a few other notable attributes.  We then set up a profile as we were hiring our own channel manager and created questions around those attributes.  These are open ended questions, not “are you a competitor”” but rather, tell us about a time you won and were recognized for that.  If the person struggles or speaks in generalities they don’t likely have the attribute.  The person with the “competitor” attribute will answer with something like, “and I was on stage in front of everyone and they handed that award to me and I held it above my head while everyone applauded and to this day that’s still the biggest sale that company has ever seen!”   Think I’m exaggerating?  I’ve met three people from the same company who claim to have sold the largest deal.  A person can’t help being who they are and that competitive person is going to excel when they’re put in a position where they can compete and win. 

When interviewing for behaviors rather than looking at past work experience we are more likely to match the right person to the right role and enable them to thrive. 

Testing

It’s easy to “fall in love” with a candidate.  Once you find common interests and backgrounds you may really hit it off.  It’s important to have objective tests to be sure the candidate fits the role you’re seeking to fill and is not just someone you like.  We use the DISC assessment for personality and also the Wonderlic test for aptitude assessment. These are helpful in adding an objective measure and will either confirm or contradict our findings. 

Culture Interview

We conduct a culture interview last.  This consists of a panel of 8-10 people who will interview the candidate to determine whether they’re a cultural match.  We place on the panel a few people we feel exemplify our culture and a few people with whom the candidate will be working should they be awarded the position.  The culture interview helps us:
  1.  Determine whether the candidate will have the supportive attitude we require in our employees.
  2. Gives a voice to those who will be working with the candidate should the candidate be hired.  By making co-workers a part of the hiring decision they are now invested in the success of the new candidate and are more likely to help them in their new role. 
The hiring process is pretty lengthy which also helps us gauge whether a candidate really wants to work with us.  You’d be surprised at how many people self select out of the process.  The rigor of the process also sends a message to prospects that we’re very serious about who comes through the door. 

Our hiring process isn’t perfect and we continue to work on it but we’ve improved our success rate over time.  We counted on luck early on and frankly we got very lucky with the employees we were able to attract.  A lucky streak won’t last forever so this process helps us push luck in our favor in meeting fantastic people and aligning their attributes with their responsibilities. 

It turns out Ernest Shackleton’s voyage to the South Pole ended in disaster.  They were stuck in ice for over a year through periods of complete darkness as their wooden ship was crushed by colliding ice flows. Every person on the crew survived.  That’s the power of putting the right people in the right positions.  I hope wherever you are in your business development that you have a hiring process and come to find that people really are your greatest asset.