Want to Hire Great People? You Need to Read This First.

Last week I sat on a judging panel at the University of York in Toronto, assessing business cases presentation the students prepared as the end of term project.

I have to say I loved the experience. To see the passion, knowledge, and degree of preparation of the young talent was inspiring.  Those young leaders will be out of school this spring looking for their dream jobs and careers for which they have been preparing for the last four years. They don’t have a ton of real-life experience but still make some great employees.

After you read the blog below, you will know how to find the best of them.

A bit of stats.

According to Bersin by Deloitte the average cost of hiring and training a new person for your business is $4,000. And this is you doing everything alone form A to Z, without the use of any talent acquisition companies. Their fees vary between 12-25% of new hire’s annual salary. And if you invest time and effort into training an onboarding new employee only to have to let them go after 1-2 months, you’ve essentially wasted the entire investment.

“Acquiring the right talent is the most important key to growth. Hiring was – and still is – the most important thing we do.” Marc Benioff

That is why it is essential to set out the right processes and get good at finding and hiring great people. There are many books written by people smarter than me on how to recruit. However, I over the last decade I have interviewed and hired more people that I can count. And I want to share with you a few key practices that I have found to be vital in recruiting the best talent.

Embrace Diversity

Living in Canada, especially in the Greater Toronto Area is a privilege and an advantage especially when you are trying to hire people. The pool of talent from diverse backgrounds, with various skills and outlook on things, is just amazing.

“If you exclude 50% of the talent pool, it’s no wonder you find yourself in a war for talent.” — Theresa J. Whitmarsh

In my corporate career, I have a Team of 25 people representing almost all continents of the globe, speaking many different languages and bringing different points of views to any problems we have to solve. That makes us strong, effective and innovative.

 Embracing diversity on your team from all sides: gender, race, life philosophies or faith will enrich your business and help it grow. When you do that, the talent pool is pretty much unlimited.

Look past the technical skills

Very often, especially in more specialized industries, the interviews tend to focus solely on the candidate’s technical skills and experience. The so-called “soft skills” are overlooked. But in my opinion, the technical expertise along with integrity should be the basis of evaluation, i.e., permission of entry for your job competition. You should also consciously specify the requirements for technical skill in a way they are adequate to the type of position you are hiring for (entry level vs. more senior).  Don’t make the position out of reach for younger generations if it’s not necessary.

The research has shown that the person’s emotional intelligence is a great predictor of their professional success esp. in leadership positions.

Some of the competencies falling under EI: self-awareness and self-regulation, service orientation and teamwork.

If you are hiring for an individual contributor position, the ratio of technical skill to soft skill can be lower ex. 60% to 40% but soft skills still play an essential part. Why? Because no matter what, in today’s economy of disruption your best employees will need to collaborate with others, work with your clients and not be afraid to speak up to raise any issues they notice or present you with a new great innovation they thought of.

Now, if you are hiring for more senior role that on top will have people management responsibility, your lookout for EI capabilities needs to be even more focused. The success of a great leader is determined 80% by their “soft skills” and 20% by technical knowledge and experience.

Interviewing candidates for soft skills is hard. They are not as easy to point as technical expertise and usually require more time to asses — the time, which you do not have a lot of when interviewing. To start you off with some ideas on how to screen for EI capabilities, I have prepared a hiring guide outlining six strategies you can use to set up your hiring process with a Bonus of 30 questions focused on testing for soft skills. Click here to get it

Asses the candidate as a whole

You always want to look at and hire the people as a whole person, not only a set of skills you have in mind and are looking for.

That is why it is always a good idea is to see the candidates more than once and have them interviewed by a few people. Ask someone who has a knack of picking people that work out and become good team members to help you out.

When you are preparing to interview the candidates, assign the roles to each person helping you with the process.

For example, someone can focus on technical skills and experience, another person on soft skills, one on character, and another just on body language, facial expressions & overall preparation of the candidate.

Such a strategy will allow placing the attention of each interviewer on specific things and avoid everyone looking at the same aspects of the candidate and overlooking others. After each part, debrief and if the person hit some of your requirements out of the park, in the next interview focus on those that still need some drilling.

Moreover, talk to people with whom the candidate interacted with before and after the interview, for example, the receptionist or maybe an employee who gave a tour of the office or showed the washroom. The way candidates behave outside of the “official” interview setting will also give you a lot of insight and information about them.

Don’t overlook the flags, trust your gut and dig deeper

If you went through the interviews, are down to one or two core runner-ups, but you are still not sure about them, pause and think. Don’t just hire because you need someone or because you convinced yourself that their experience and technical knowledge is so great that you will not be able to find anyone else like that. Desperate hiring someone because you need a person against all the flags you saw and ignored always backfires (belive me I made this mistake :)).

Therefore, before you make the final decision that will cost you lost time, money and frustration dig deeper. Maybe you can ask the candidate to do a personality test that will help you point your fingers on the underlying issues. Perhaps you can “sleep on” the decision for a couple of days and talk your concerns through with other interviewers again. You can also bounce your thoughts against someone else whose judgment you trust but has not seen the person.

In the end, ask yourself this: Was the person authentic or their answers seemed rehearsed? Were you able to get to know them a bit as a person, their character and to only “a sum of skill”?

Now, if after all this you are still not 100% sure, have guts and DO NOT hire. Walk away from the candidate no matter how great they seem. Every time I hired a person like this, they never worked out, and I had to let them go. If you think about it, it is simple – during the interviews, you see the candidates for a relatively short period. And when you see them, they are on their best behavior – they want the job! So, if they raise flags in your mind now, what will happen when you hire them, and they spend 40 hrs a week at your workplace? Most people can present themselves well for an hour or so; no one can be “perfect” for 40 hours a week. That is why assessing each candidate as a “whole” including their character and fit in your culture, is so important.

Go on a whim and give a chance sometimes

On the opposite spectrum of the “gut feeling” that the candidate you are interviewing is not the right fit, there is an internal battle to give a chance to the candidate that might not have all the hard skills you’d see in the ideal hire but you know is smart and hungry enough to excel at the job.

Sometimes we are hesitating in deciding between two candidates: one with a great experience, an impressive resume and just an OK interview; and the other with great attitude and fit for your culture, and decent technical skills but not as good as the other candidate.

My advice is, give the latter one a chance. If someone is smart and hungry enough to learn and excel at the job, they will!

Yes, you will need to support them, but is it realistic to expect that a new person you just hired (internally or externally) will be 100% ready for the role from day one? Of course not! No matter who you pick, they will need to be trained and learn some aspects of the job.

If you give people a chance, you found yourself a dedicated and loyal employee who will o out fo their way to prove to you that you chose well.

How do I know? Because I was one like that myself and I also hired some of my best employees through this practice. I will share more of this personal story in the next week’s blog, so stay tuned!

What is the moral of this advice then? 

That there is talent all around you. You just need to open your eyes and mind to find it. And when you do, hire and lead them well. You will see that your business is not only going to thrive and deliver the results you are looking for (or more!) but also will be a great fun place to work for.

“In diversity there is beauty, and there is strength” – Maya Angelou

Thank you, and I hope you enjoyed the read!

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