2014-10-01

Hiring smart

Lisë Stewart

Have you ever been charmed by an applicant? Hired a friend or family member and been disappointed? Kept poor performers long after they should have been asked to leave? Added up the costs of making a poor hiring decision?


Why is our gut feel about people such a poor indicator of success? Most of us want to like the people we meet: We naturally look for positive attributes and try to see a fit where one may not exist. However, in hiring, it is important to reduce our subjective opinions and develop better predictors of future success.


Research tells us that past behaviour is one of the most reliable predictors of future behaviour. Using techniques to uncover past behaviours — a behavioural-based process — will enable you to successfully recruit new team members who can perform well in the job and who fit your organizational culture.


The process begins with the development of a well-researched position description and culminates with a behaviorally-based interview process.

Create a well-researched job description

To create an effective job description, define:

  • Where the position fits into the larger organization
  •  The outcomes of the position and the tasks required to produce them
  • The physical requirements of a job
  • The mental attitudes, unique skills, and competencies required
  • The expected performance standards

The two types of competencies are technical and behavioural. We tend to hire people based on their technical competencies — how long they have been doing a particular task, how much training they have, whether they are qualified in a particular skill, and so on. However, we tend to terminate people based on their behavioural competencies — how they act on the job. To determine your preferred behavioural competencies, make a list of the personal attributes of your top performers or others who have performed well in the job that you are filling. What were they like? Describe their style, values, and attitudes. Now you are beginning to develop an understanding of their behavioural competencies.


Job descriptions should be linked to performance — what the new employees are supposed to do and the standards by which they will be measured. Ask yourself, “If my hires perform well, what results should we see? How could we tell if they were effective?” Now you are beginning to craft some useful performance measures.


Ask the right people the right questionsRecruitment is the process of encouraging the appropriate applicants to apply for the job. Make sure your recruitment process reaches a wide audience. Don’t discount the importance of social media: Many jobs are advertised on Facebook and Linked-In, as well as online sites like Craigslist and CareerBuilder.com. Research the sites that might draw the best applicants for your opening.


In your job advertisement, be very specific about the competencies you are looking for. If you are looking for a high-energy individual who is self-reliant, able to work independently, and make quick and accurate decisions, then say so.


When you interview, don’t be fooled by a charming and friendly applicant. Be prepared with a process that helps you understand how an applicant has responded to key situations in the past.


It is very important to ask the same questions of each applicant ro provide consistency between applicants and increase the validity and reliability of the interview. Develop a list of questions, keeping them short and realistic. Design questions that ask for examples of past behaviour. For example, “Tell me about a time you had to deal with a really difficult customer. What did you do and what was the outcome?”


For each question you develop, make sure you have also determined what you believe is an accurate or effective answer. Judge your candidate against what you have decided is the kind of answer that fits your organization.


Be careful not to use leading questions, as this may prime applicants to give you the answers they think you want. An example of this is: “We think it is important to call customers by their first name. What is your approach to addressing customers by name?” Avoid trick questions or hypothetical questions like: “Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?” These have little bearing on a person’s ability to do the job, unless you are scoring them on creative thinking.


Finally, always respond to all applicants, even if it is just to say that you received their résumé but have chosen other candidates for an interview. Remember, every step of the application and interview process reflects on your company and a chance to build or tarnish your reputation. The recruitment and selection process should demonstrate your professionalism at every turn.


Reprinted with the permission of Lisë Stewart, founder of the Galliard Family Business Advisor Institute and a nationally recognized author and speaker who draws on her 25+ years of experience to share practical advice for ensuring the sustainability of family businesses. For more information visit www.galliardinc.com or email lstewart@galliardgroup.com.

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