Delivering the Systems and Expertise You Need to Confidently Make Great Hiring Decisions
I’m always hunting for ways hiring managers to more accurately determine who to hire that DON’T involve the requirement of being a better interviewer. In the past I’ve suggested that you should look at obvious traits like obesity and smoking addictions. I recommended that you look at the credit history of someone to determine if they know how to stay true to their word.
With that in mind, I found the most interesting article the other day about the Ivy League Advantage. It was the summary of work completed by a young Sociologist from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. She concluded, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”. Here are some of the highlights:
- “Elite professional service employers” rely more on academic pedigree than any other factor. For recruiters, it’s prestige that counts, rather than “content” like grades, courses, internships, or other actual performance. That’s because if you got into a “super-elite” school — which essentially means Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Wharton (University of Pennsylvania), and Stanford — you must be smart.
- Why spend effort looking for “that one needle in the haystack” at a “safety school” like the University of Michigan or, heavens forfend, Bowling Green, when the run-of-the-mill Yalie’s still a prince. Even “second-tier” Ivies like Brown, according to Rivera, are suspect for the top firms.
- While going to a super-elite gets your penny loafer in the door, that isn’t enough. Rivera says it’s leisure pursuits that seal the deal. Employers use these as “valid markers” or “proxies” of a candidate’s “social and moral worth,” all the more so for time-intensive sports that “resonate with white, upper-middle-class culture.” Think lacrosse, squash, crew, and field hockey. Skip football, basketball, and soccer. And no sport at all suggests “nerd,” which correlates to future “corporate drone.”
Conor Neill, a close friend of mine and a prominent Entrepreneur in Spain, wrote this short story below for the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s blog. It’s a great reminder of just how important attitude is in hiring.
Two men, Bill and Frank, begin working at a hotel the same day. They are intelligent, educated and ambitious. The manager of the hotel greets them and hands them both doorman uniforms. They are to begin opening and closing the doors, helping with bags, flagging taxis, etc.
Bill thinks “Doorman? I am worth more than this! I could manage this hotel better than the current guy.” But he doesn’t have an alternative offer and he needs the money, so he does the job anyway. He maintains a pained grimace on his face and deals with customers and other staff in a negative way because he is “better than this.”
Frank, in contrast, thinks “Okay, doorman. It’s not what I had in mind, but hey, I get to spend some time outside, get to meet the customers, and I’ll learn about how this hotel works.” He sets to work with a smile on his face and finds that he quite enjoys the small challenges he faces as a doorman at such a prestigious hotel.
After six weeks, a position at the front desk opens up, and the hotel manager immediately thinks of Frank. Frank is promoted and immediately brings his positive attitude to the front desk of the hotel. Several years later, Frank is the hotel manager. He leaves late one evening and there, opening the door with a hard-wired grimace, is Bill.
Is it luck, or is it fate? Bill will spend forever in a job that he hates and Frank will love every job that he is given. This story is such an inspiration, because it encourages me to always stay positive about my responsibilities and to find the reward in every remedial task. When hiring staff I spend more time exploring attitude and self-motivation than I do exploring capabilities. I also spend time looking to direct my employees toward challenges that are motivating for them.
When it comes to running a business, I’ve learned it’s not just about the results, but the work you put in. That’s where successful people thrive.
A couple of months back I interviewed Patrick Thean about the success he’s experienced in building scorecards for new hires. He provided some great suggestions of the metrics he’s used along with the real-life example of presenting a scorecard to a prospective hire to help her “opt out” of the interviewing process because she determined she wasn’t capable of the job.
- You failed (as the Hiring Manager) to clearly articulate what you needed someone to do
- You failed (as the Hiring Manager) to tell the new hire what you needed them to do
Having a scorecard is a HUGE first step in making sure that you’ve put in the time to define what will determine success for someone who’s just joined your team.
Last month (January ’11) I had the opportunity to meet Pepe Charles from MAP. He’s an expert in helping organizations develop what they call “VITAL FACTORS”. You won’t be surprised to learn that these vital factors are another name for…wait for it…scorecards.
I asked if they’d be willing to share their proprietary vital factors with you as readers of this blog. They graciously said yes and so you can find a very robust list of things that you can measure across departments and skill sets here.
The day that I heard Pepe speak about these vital factors he brought something up that really stunned me (and I was also a bit embarrassed for not having thought of it myself earlier). There’s a very high likelihood that you’ve heard of the acronym SMART for goals. It commonly accepted that the acronym stands for:
- S: Specific
- M: Measurable
- A: Attainable
- R: Realistic
- T: Timely
What Pepe suggested was that the A (typically referred to as attainable) should actually stand for AGREED TO. What a revelation!
In summary, I now have 3 reasons why someone you’ve just hired won’t work out:
- You failed (as the Hiring Manager) to clearly articulate what you needed someone to do
- You failed to tell the new hire what you needed them to do
- You failed to come to an agreement with the new hire on what they needed to do
Sure, there are some experts out there who will tell you that you can always hire A-Players, but I’m not one of them. Considering 54% of all hires are mis-hires (according to a 2000 Fortune Study) we clearly have a problem in America.
The content for discussion today comes from Global Learning Resources CEO Kevin Wheeler. He suggests that great performers tend to emerge over time, rather than appear fully formed at the interview. According to Kevin, there are four ways to improve your hiring and development systems.
1. Don’t look for “A” players, because you don’t really know who they are. Those that you think are the best, the brightest, or the smartest may not be. The problem in looking for the best is that you are always using criteria that are suspect. The fatal flaw inherent in all competency systems is change. What has been successful or what is successful in a particular place may not be in another.
2. Provide development opportunities broadly for everyone and reward and promote those who take advantage of the opportunities. If we believe that talent often emerges where we least expect it, we cannot afford to limit development opportunities only to certain levels or types of employees.
3. Have recruiters aggressively monitor and source internally. Most of the very best talent comes from within and from below. We are all enamored with the outside “guru,” and frequently pass on the person right in front of us who is equipped with the skills, the cultural understanding, and the motivation to excel.
4. Look at selecting people for broad-based competencies. We should be looking to hire people with motivation to learn, with team experience and success, with cultural compatibility, and with a basic technical skill set that can be developed by experiential opportunities and good mentoring. We need to move away from rigorous narrow competency definitions and reliance on experience as an indicator of performance.
Do I disagree with anything that Kevin has shared up to this point?
If you’ve read this blog for awhile and have implemented even 10% of what you’ve learned, you SHOULD have an issue with this last statement of his: “A” players are hard to define and impossible to recruit consistently.
In case you haven’t noticed, the hiring freeze that seemed to overtake the our nation over the last 14 months is thawing, just in time for Spring.
Here are a few of the articles that I’ve noticed in the past few days that suggest it’s time for you to pay attention and get your act together because it’s going to be time for you to start RECRUITING instead of ABSORBING…soon.
- Upstaged by Younger Rivals, Google aims to Get Hip again [LINK]
- Demand for Programmers has returned and Start-Ups are out of luck [LINK]
- Microsoft is spending 10x that of Apple to Recruit and still struggles [LINK]
- There are more than 1,000 Job Postings with the word “Java” in them on Monster [LINK]
- The same keyword results in >8,000 on CareerBuilder [LINK]
The next BLS survey isn’t due until February 4, 2011 but the statistics will continue to hold true, while there is a nationwide unemployment rate of between 9-10%, the unemployment rate for college graduates is around 5% and about 2% for married college graduates.
It’s time to get your game faces on or you’re going to be forced into hiring people in the very bottom of the barrel.
And if you haven’t checked it out GlassDoor yet, you should. Your current and former employees are talking.
You’ve been warned.
In addition to blogging here I also contribute content to Recruiting Blogs. A slightly modified version of my recent post “How to Prepare for a Topgrading Interview” drew quite a few comments but there was one in particular that I felt deserved some additional attention.
I really believe in the principles of Topgrading, and have cited it along with Brad Smart many times in my own writing, but the candidates I’ve seen subjected to CIDS interviews have NOT had wonderful or even fair experiences. I have three issues with CIDS:
1. It doesn’t apply context. The behaviors analyzed in a CIDS interview can be from 20 years ago, and don’t get asked in a way that aligns with the current goals for the position. I advocate performance objective based questions that elicit the specific skills and experience needed today from the candidate, in the context of the specific job, not in a vacuum.
2. CIDS provides too much ammunition by which to DESELECT a candidate. Not every behavior or lack of behavior from someone’s past is relevant to what is needed today.
3. CIDS interviewers are often inexperienced, and don’t know how to really use the tool to best advantage.
Here are my thoughts in response to Mark:
1. The behaviors analyzed in a CIDS interview may be from 20 years ago but it’s the interviewer’s fault if they allow the discussion to drift into conversations that don’t necessarily align with the current position. On top of that, the basic questions that are used in every position are critical information that you’d want to know about someone – regardless of if the experiences are 20 years old. Example: What was the #1 thing you regret about not accomplishing in that role?
2. At HireBetter this is a discussion that we have a lot. Recommending someone for hire takes courage. It’s nearly always easier for a Hiring Manager or outside consultant suggest that inaction is better than action. Roosevelt nailed it in 1910 when he said [paraphrasing] “It is not the critic that counts. The true credit belongs to the man in the arena.” With that said, if a Hiring Manager has done their homework, they’re clear on what they need someone to do and they conduct a proper CIDS interview, they’re going to be more prepared to make a hiring decision than with any other kind of interview that I’ve seen conducted.
3. It doesn’t take much for someone to learn how to conduct a CIDS interview. However, as I shared in my response to #2, from what I’ve witnessed a poorly conducted CIDS interview is still significantly better than an “on the fly” interview that doesn’t have a structure, purpose or plan.
Bottom line: Mark brings up some good questions and CIDS interviews do have some shortcomings but, in my opinion, there’s not much else out there that will give you a better understanding of if the person you’re interviewing is right for the role you’re looking to fill.
The EO Network recently launched a blog entitled Overdrive. I follow this in my RSS Feed and today it rewarded me with an article that I’m sure you’ll appreciate heading into a New Year.
This external content was provided by Dr. Todd Harris, a Director of Research at PI Worldwide.
INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL INFLUENCES ON PERFORMANCE
Organizations throughout the world have increasingly adopted team-based work structures. Consider the following points.
- As many as half of the Fortune 500 use teams in some part of their operations.
- Studies of managers show that they spend 30 percent to 80 percent of their time in team meetings.
- An insurance company found that their average executive spent two out of every five working days collaborating with small groups.
- As many as 11 million meetings occur daily in North America.
Most models of the organization of the future are premised on teams surpassing individuals as the primary performance unit in the company. Clearly, changes in the world of work such as advances in information technology, globalization, hyper-competition, knowledge-based work, and worker empowerment will mean the workplace of the future will be much more collaborative than its predecessor.
Unfortunately, many organizations have found that teams are not a universal panacea. In fact, academics and management consultants often cite a “50-percent failure rate” for teams, in that half of work teams fail to achieve their goals. To perform well, a team must surmount three hurdles. It must (1) exert sufficient effort to accomplish the task at an acceptable level of performance, (2) bring adequate knowledge, skill and ability to bear on the task work, and (3) employ task performance strategies that are appropriate to the work and to the setting in which it is being performed. Performance on these three “hurdles” will be influenced by factors that are both “internal” to the team and factors that are “external” to the team.
- Task Structure: Is the team task clear, and consistent with the team’s purpose? Does the team have a meaningful piece of work to do for which members share responsibility and accountability, and that provides opportunities for the team to learn how well it is doing?
- Team Composition: Is the team well staffed? Is it the right size, given the work to be done? Do members have the expertise required to perform the task well? Do they have sufficient interpersonal skill to function collaboratively? Are team members so similar in background and perspectives that there is little for them to learn from one another? Or are they so different that they risk having difficulty communicating and coordinating with one another?
- Core Norms: Expectations of what is “acceptable” team behavior tend either to be “imported” to the team by members or established very early in the team’s lifespan. Articulating these “norms” ahead of time via a “team charter” or “team vision statement” can be very helpful, and should cover areas such as how the team will make decisions, communicate and evaluate itself.
External team factors to consider include:
- Reward System: Does the company’s reward system provide recognition, reinforcement and compensation that are contingent on team performance? Are rewards administered to the team as a whole or to individuals within the team? Does the reward system truly encourage team members to work collaboratively?
- Educational System: Is training or technical assistance available to the team for any aspects of the work for which members do not already have adequate knowledge, skill or experience?
- Information System: Does the team have ready access to the data, tools and other resources that enable superior performance?
- Organizational Culture: Does the company for which the team works have a collaborative culture that genuinely fosters and supports teams? Or is it a culture that still promotes and recognizes individual achievement? Do the company’s top leaders really “buy into” the concept of teams?
Those who create, lead and evaluate work teams in organizations should focus their efforts on these internal and external factors that support effective team performance.
Those who have heard me speak publicly or have been clients of HireBetter are very familiar with my insistence that Job Descriptions are largely worthless when written by starting at the beginning. What I encourage people to do instead is to consider the Outcomes first.
The exercise goes a bit like this: at this time next year, what will this person have accomplished that will make you consider them “successful“. To drive the point home further I like to use this example:
You’re going to take this new employee out to dinner at either (a) the nicest restaurant in town or (b) Applebee’s. How will you decide the right destination when looking back on their performance?
The running joke that I’ve always chuckled about in my head is, “Does Applebee’s even exist any more?” As it turns out, it does. I found myself in Wal-Mart earlier this week with my kids redeeming gift cards from Grandma and I snapped this picture while checking out.
Food for thought:
- How would a superstar feel about you giving them an Applebee’s/Outback Gift Card as a Holiday Bonus?
- Would a bureaucrat and time-waster feel the same way or would they be thrilled at the gesture because it meant you knew their name?
P.S. If you’re remotely interested, here’s a link to download Applebee’s Nutritional Information – ouch!
Last week Major League Baseball was rocked by an incredible story that screamed “Blog About Me!”. Cliff Lee, an 8 year veteran pitcher who’s had the chance to play in Cleveland, Philadelphia, Seattle and Texas, was the most sought after free agent of the off-season. The Rangers, who had his services for a mere 15 starts (plus the post-season) were so enamored with him that they attempted to “break the bank” to keep him in Texas. The Yankees, who have more money than any other team and like to throw that money around, offered him the second most lucrative contract for any pitcher in the history of the league (second only to their other starter, C.C. Sabathia). Lots of other teams had visions of sugarplums as well thinking that they had a chance.
In the end, Cliff Lee shocked everyone and returned to Philadelphia. A “dark horse” that didn’t even show up on the radars of any of the sports writers, Lee accepted LESS money ($50mm less to be exact, from the Yankees) to come back and play with the teammates that he really liked.
“You can definitely sense the fact that these guys step up and are up for a challenge and rise to the occasion and come up big when they need to,” Lee said before the 2009 World Series. “It’s not just one or two guys, it’s everybody. It’s a special team. To win the World Series (in 2008) and be back just proves that fact. There’s a lot of confidence here. Everyone expects to be successful.”
His former (and now current) teammate Raul Ibanez did a nice job of reinforcing what Lee was saying:
“We have a bunch of guys who are not concerned with getting attention,” Ibanez said. “They just want to win and they don’t care if they get the credit for it. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you have that mind-set, and that’s not by accident.
No one doubts that Cliff Lee is a special, special talent. What else can you deduce when a single guy shows up and changes a team’s entire track record? Some examples:
- In 2008 Cliff arrives in Philadelphia and they win their first Championship since 1983. They returned to the World Series in 2009.
- In 2010, after a mid-season trade, he arrives in Arlington and helps the Rangers reach their first World Series in Team History.
What can you learn from Cliff Lee, Philadelphia, Baseball and the Yankees? Culture really does make a difference. Below, I’ve included a video (one of many) that were created by people who LOVE this guy and are so excited to have him back in Philly – quite a different story from a place like NYC where the money’s great but the egos are huge, the spotlight is brighter and the pressure is exponentially stronger.
One other thought: Jack Daly shared with me that people who make a Career Change typically regret their decision twice in the first 30 days of being in the new role. If you had someone great who left your organization recently for more money or for more spotlight, you might consider calling them and taking them to lunch just to catch up. You just might be surprised how many times the grass wasn’t greener for them on the other side of the fence and, with just a bit of urging, they’d happily come back.
Author’s Note: The song that accompanies this video is explicit – and I’m not going to apologize.
I found this interesting: in the past couple of months the top keyword search strings that lead people to this blog were often about preparing for a Topgrading Interview. The irony is that you can’t really “prepare” for a Topgrading interview. Yes, journaling about your career history, reflecting back on the praise you received or the criticism that challenged you, thinking about your Boss and what you liked or disliked about them – these are all good ideas.
Author’s Note: A couple of months ago I blogged on the dumbest interview questions that people ask and pointed to some of the websites where you can review those questions (and read the canned answers that make candidates sound really sincere).
What’s so different about the Topgrading interview is, from my experience, that it not only inspires candidates to be honest but forces them. My mother taught me that lying is really tough because you have to always remember what all of your previous lies were. As those lies pile up you really end up in a tough place.
That early lesson has proven itself to be very helpful. When I’ve worked with some clients directly and helped them conduct a 4 Hour Interview, I’ve picked up a few things that seem to apply across all industries:
- Executives can easily dupe you in a 30 minute interview
- They can often lie their way through a 1 or 2 hour interview because they’ve likely been on the hot seat before
- In hour 3 it’s fairly easy for the Interviewer to recognize if the Candidate is lying or has a track record of blaming others, not delivering on commitments, etc.
- By hour 4, the Candidate is “naked”. They’re either (a) being honest and feel more trusting of the non-judgemental atmosphere or (b) they’ve lost track of the fabrications they made up 2 hours prior and are wrapped up in a web of lies so large that they’re exhausted from trying to keep up with themselves.
With all this said, the Topgrading Interview is also the fairest and most objective interview I’ve ever conducted or observed. Its structure (Comprehensive, In-Depth, Structured or CIDS) is straightforward, no questions come out of left field (“Why are manhole covers round?”) and it gives the Candidate the chance to brag about themselves as equally as they reveal their mistakes or times of regret.
Wrap Up: If you’re being asked to take part in a Topgrading Interview, go in with a clear conscience and a willingness to show vulnerability. But above all: BE HONEST.
P.S. Just in case you have ever been asked the question “Why are manhole covers round?” and you want to be argumentative, you might use this picture below to build your case. — JD