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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.
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
David Sandler once said, “You can’t teach a kid how to ride a bike at a seminar”.
With that in mind, I personally don’t believe that you can teach someone how to be a great interviewer through a blog post. My hope is, however, that by using a few of these simple tips in advance of your next interview, you can do a much better job than you previously have.
Here are my TOP 4 WAYS TO BE A GREAT INTERVIEWER
1. Setting Up the Interview Properly:
Through my volunteer efforts with EO I was responsible for managing our Event Calendar for 18 months. During that time I learned that every great event that you’ve likely ever been to had great planning at the beginning. Some companies base their entire reputation on it (i.e. Disney). When everything is planned properly it says a lot not only about your company but also significantly increases your chances for success:
- Does the candidate have a copy of the Job Description and our Company Website?
- Have they been called, confirmed and sent directions to our office?
- Do they know how long they will be there and what the schedule is during their time?
- If we don’t share the schedule or expectations, what does that say about us?
- Who will greet them when they arrive?
- What’s the 1st Impression someone will have of our company?
2. When Your Team Plans the Fight, they Won’t Fight the Plan
Be sure that the Job Description, Competencies, and Accountabilities are distributed to all of those who are interviewing the candidate and everyone on the Interviewing Schedule has gotten the chance to review and ask questions. Here’s the Checklist:
- Does everyone have the itinerary for the interviews?
- Have you been selective in choosing WHO will interview people?
- Where will they be interviewed in our office?
- Has everyone received a copy of the Candidate Packet (Resume, Description of the Role, Prior Interview Notes)?
- Does everyone involved know what role the candidate is interviewing for and how/why they are being asked to evaluate the candidate?
3. Have a GAME PLAN with your Interviewing Team:
- Add or delete questions based upon what previous information (resume, Comprehensive Interview Notes, preliminary interview notes) has revealed about the candidate.
- Assign areas of focus for your Interviewing Team so that questions aren’t redundant and everyone is maximizing their time away from their day to day responsibilities.
- Encourage everyone to establish their estimated time to spend on each section of questioning.
- Refresh your memory regarding the sequence and wording of questions to ensure a smoother interview.
- Remind everyone to never, ever write on a resume.
4. Setting the Stage for an Effective Interview once you’re Face to Face:
After a couple of minutes building rapport, let the candidate know about the expected time frame and then sell the person on being open and honest. Topgrading® suggests that you state your purpose and plan in the following way:
- Review your background, interests, and goals to see if there is a good match with the position and opportunities here
- Determine some ways to assure your smooth assimilation into your new position, should you join us
- Get some ideas regarding what you and we can do to maximize your long-range fulfillment and contributions
- Tell you more about the career opportunities we have to offer and answer any questions you have
- Understand your career history, which will be thoroughly verified in reference checks we’ll ask you to arrange with your previous managers
I had the good fortune of hearing Cameron Herold today while I am in Boston for EO’s Entrepreneurial Masters’ Program. His topic was “Leadership at 100 MPH” and a lot of the focus was on hiring with predictability and not making mistakes that really could really hurt your company.
For 2010 we’re proud to sponsor Cameron because we agree with what he teaches to Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders around the world. While I’ve heard him speak a number of times I always get a few new things each time I hear him. Here’s some quick thoughts from today that hopefully you can benefit from:
- Culture’s hard to build and easy to destroy. One of the fastest ways to destroy it is to not fire people who clearly can’t do the job they’re in. Not only that, you’re doing that “problem” employee a disservice by asking them to live on pins and needles while you’re “too chicken” to let them go.
- When you’re hiring someone new onto a team, don’t ever let your team’s “average performance” drop. More pointedly: if you’ve got 6 people on your marketing team and you’re about to hire a 7th, make sure that the person you’re hiring is at least more qualified and better than 3 or more of the existing team members to keep raising the bar.
- Ensure that you’re very clear on what your needs are when hiring and then make sure you can “smell the right person from a mile away”. Cameron used the example of going duck hunting with his grandfather as a child. Early in the morning, as the sun was coming up, small V’s of ducks would appear on the horizon and even as they were just specs a mile away Cameron’s grandfather would be able to tell whether or not they were the right ducks for them. “Nope, put your gun down” he’d say. When pressed to explain why he would clearly describe wingspan, formation of the flock and altitude. The business application isn’t a hard jump to make: it’s easy to get excited when you’re in the thrill of the hunt but you have to be very clear about what you’re hunting.
- Staying with the aforementioned parable, when Cameron was out duck hunting they’d always bring decoys to go by their blind. To an amateur, a decoy is a decoy. However, to the experienced sportsman, the use of decoys will make or break your time on the water. Choose the right decoys with the proper placement and you’ll have plenty of opportunities but choose the wrong one and you won’t attract a single target to shoot at. Business application: if you walk outside your office and look at the front door and you’re not impressed with the look, what’s an A-Player going to think? If your reception area is unattractive and your office sounds like a funeral home, how’s that 28 year-old superstar going to feel when they show up to learn more about your company culture? The morale of the story: if you’re not using the right bait, you’re going to end up eating really nasty fish or not eating at all.
- Are all of your Hiring Managers fully aware of the background that you’re looking for in team members 2 years from now? If you’re hiring for the people that your company needs TODAY, and with the scorecards of the performance targets they need to hit this month, you’re likely not attracting the A-Players who will move your company forward. Instead, they’ll be the people who will keep your company stable. Are your Hiring Managers guardians of your culture? Are they clearly aware of your company goals?
- Tread carefully during negotiations with top performers and try to avoid including profit sharing as part of their compensation plans. When you’re growing like crazy, profit-sharing can be a great bonus for people for their work but if your key players rely on profit-sharing bonuses to pay their bills and maintain their lifestyle they’ll bail as soon as the company hits any rough spots – and that’s when you’re going to need them the most. Build compensation packages that key team members feel is fair for the work that they’re doing and then have any profit-sharing programs be the cherry on top.
And lastly, Cameron shared the matrix of Jack Welch at GE used when evaluating his teams. Nicknamed “Neutron Jack” for his often rash and emotionally-devoid decisions, he was also widely regarded as one of their very best evaluators and developers of talent. In fact, Jack was the first CEO to implement executive-level Topgrading. This simple 4square was his way of slotting and categorizing talent that he already had on his team. I found it both really easy to understand/remember while also profound.
Here’s the image:
- F = FIRE THEM. NOW.
- C = COACH THEM – THERE’S STILL A CHANCE.
- H = HANDCUFF THEM. MAKE SURE THEY”RE LOCKED UP FOR THE NEXT 5 YEARS.
Tags: A-Player, A-Players, Brad Smart, hire better, hiring, hiring manager, Interview, jack welch, job description, recruit don't absorb, Retention, Scorecard, talent acquisition, Topgrading, topgrading methodology
I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to evaluating talent and Topgrading is about the best way that I’ve ever seen to do it. It’s objective, gives you a structure to follow and makes it easy to judge prospective employees without a lot of emotion.
To keep up with the latest and greatest tips for Topgrading better, I’ve subscribed to Brad’s newsletter. You can sign up here.
His most recent newsletter was fantastic – it was titled “The 5 Best Ways to Judge People”. The most significant parts of that newsletter can be seen below. Enjoy!
When people are just learning Topgrading, it’s easiest to use the A, B, and C categories, to show the dramatic differences. Topgrading professionals are able accurately put people in the right categories. In doing this they actually have three slightly different categories – A Player, A Potential, and Non-A. We define A player as someone in the top 10% of talent for the pay, in your location, in the industry, and reporting to you.
Following are 5 of the best ways I know of to judge people in a fair, objective, legally defensible way:
1. How A, B, and C players differ on key competencies. The following chart is a bit simplistic because not all A players are that great on all competencies and not all C players are that bad on all the competencies. Indeed, in real life C players usually are A players on some competencies.
2. Look for patterns of success. The “magic” of Topgrading comes from understanding, bottom line, how successful a person was in job 1, job 2, job 3, etc., with the greatest weight given to the most recent jobs.
Last year I interviewed a smooth talking executive who had clearly been a superstar in the industry, but the guy had not worked hard for years. He had peaked years ago, was on a decline and frankly the pattern showed he was “over the hill,” someone who had lost his energy, drive, resourcefulness, and passion.
3. Recruit a replacement. This really is the best way to see if your employee is truly among the top 10% of talent available.
After you have argued with your employee, complained about unsatisfactory performance, and heard 1,000 excuses, the simplest way to see if there are better people is to actively recruit them. This can be done secretly, but go through all the Topgrading hiring steps including talking with former bosses.
Over the years I’ve heard it hundreds of times: “It became very easy to replace my employee after going through the Topgrading hiring steps, because I became absolutely certain my excuse-making employee was a C player, and I had three A players very willing to join me at exactly the same salary as my C player.”
4. Never stop building your recruitment networks. As a Topgrader, you know the best way to recruit is by staying in touch with 40 A players you’ve worked with and also stay in touch with 20 “connectors,” people who know a lot of A players.
But in addition to using your networks to recruit, staying in touch helps you figure out if your team consists of A, B, or C players. As you chat from time to time with A players you’ve worked with in the past you hear about their accomplishments, what they pay people, the standards they set … and when you share your frustrations with a certain employee, your network will give you feedback that your expectations are too high or too low.
5. Assess employees using Topgrading methods. You might already know that my first consulting engagement with General Electric was to improve their success promoting people. They improved from 25% to well over 90% success, and the internal assessment methods are almost identical to Topgrading hiring methods. Two trained interviewers conduct the tandem Topgrading interview and instead of talking with outside references (for hiring) they talk with bosses, peers, and subordinates in the company.
Tags: A-Player, A-Players, Brad Smart, career history, chris mursau, Fame, Family, Fortune, Fun, hire better, hiring, Interview, recruit don't absorb, Recruiting, Scorecard, smarttopgrading, talent acquisition, Topgrading, topgrading methodology, TORC, virtual bench
Doing a quick search in Google for “common interview questions and answers” will yield you 25,100,000 results.
I’m not sure what’s more surprising: the results or the questions that people typically ask in an interview?!
A few years ago, I had the unique opportunity to join an organization called EO. One of the first things they require you to do upon joining is go through a full day of “Forum Training” in which you get interested to a bunch of fellow Entrepreneurs and you also learn how to no longer offer opinions or advice. It really messes with your head – even today, after 5 years of practicing, I still find myself struggling to avoid hearing a challenge a fellow member is having and not offer feedback based on my opinions. As a society it’s present in our lives from the moment we can crawl and reach out for things like power outlets, hot stoves, etc. ”Don’t touch that!” we yell as parents. Yet, as our children get older and ask, “Why not, Daddy?” it’s sometimes hard to justify why we told them not to do something.
…focuses more on process (what is happening) than content (what is being discussed). The emphasis is on what is being done, thought and felt at the moment rather than on what was, might be, could be, or should be.
Gestalt therapy is a method of awareness, by which perceiving, feeling, and acting are understood to be separate from interpreting, explaining and judging using old attitudes. This distinction between direct experience and indirect or secondary interpretation is developed in the process of therapy.
Put more simply, by sharing my experiences and how I reacted to a situation that previously happened to me is much more valuable to a colleague than what I would do if I were in their shoes at that moment. In other words: opinions are worthless.
Mary Schmich wrote an OpEd piece in the mid-90′s titled “Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted On The Young”. In that was a very appropriate quote:
Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.
To bring this idea back to the focus of this blog, how to help you HIRE BETTER, I’d offer the following random questions from that Google Search of 25,100,000 results:
- What’s your biggest weakness?
- What motivates you to do a good job?
- How are you when you’re working under pressure?
- Are you a team player?
- How long would you expect to work for us if hired?
Can you guess the common theme in every one of those questions?
The answer: EVERY ONE OF THEM CAN BE ANSWERED WITH AN OPINION
One of the ways that we’ve made our process so consistent and effective is that we don’t allow people to share their opinions in interviews. Opinions in an interview are, simply, worthless. As a hiring manager you’ll find that you’ll have a LOT more success if you are asking questions that require someone to share with you how they behaved in a situation. We actually use a lot of the questions from the book Topgrading to assist in our evaluation of talent. Here are some examples:
- What are a couple of the best and worst decisions you have made in the past year?
- Describe a situation or two in which the pressures to compromise your integrity were the strongest you have ever felt.
- What are examples of circumstances in which you were expected to do a certain thing and, on your own, went beyond the call of duty?
- Describe a complex challenge you have had coordinating a project.
- When was the last time you missed a significant deadline?
Upon review, what do all of these questions have in common?
They require the candidate to answer based on their experiences.
The Bottom Line: if you’re asking questions in an interview that allow for someone to offer their opinion, there’s a high likelihood that they’ve been to a lot of the 25,100,000 websites that Google returns when you go hunting for common interview questions and how to answer them so you sound like a superstar. But for job-seekers, there isn’t a single website they can go to that will give them the answer to a question that requires them to share their past experiences.
While there are a lot of people who will argue that past experience is NOT the greatest indicator of future success, you, as a hiring manager, often have the choice of either relying on those past experiences or listening to someone’s rehearsed answers and opinions instead.
Tags: A-Players, advice, Advice is a form of nostalgia, behavioral-based, Brad Smart, career history, chris mursau, EO, hire better, hiring manager, Interview, Scorecard, smarttopgrading, talent acquisition, Topgrading, topgrading methodology
Today’s blog post comes courtesy of Brad Smart, the author of Topgrading. I remember reading his post in September of 2009 and thinking how powerful it was. When going through my list of topics for what made the most sense to blog about this week I realized that this was as timely and quite a bit more profound than anything I had come up with. He and Chris Mursau, the Vice President of Smart & Associates, write a great blog that you should definitely read on a regular basis.
I’ve taken the liberty of shortening the article down to apply more to a Hiring Manager than a job seeker so that you’re aware of the kinds of challenges that an A-Player might be having in clearly articulating how and why they’re exceptional.
A players are remarkably … um … inexperienced at job hunting, and they are remarkably inept at it.
C players, however, are nudged out of jobs and companies and they become masters at getting the next job. C players also become masters at imitating A players. They’ve read many books that teach them how to make their resumes look better and how to answer interview questions.
In this economic downturn thousands of companies have folded and hundreds of thousands of not just under-performers but high performers, A players, are out looking for jobs. The unemployed are from every industry and there are quite a few super sharp people out looking for work – sometimes for the first time in their career.
Here’s the problem: C players become masters at imitating A players; their resumes are full of hype and conceal negatives, and their interviewing behavior is well-rehearsed. So on the surface C players look like A players. And the poor A player who is looking for a job doesn’t know how to convey – “Hey, my resume is truthful and so is everything I say in interviews.”
Throughout their careers, A players needing a job have simply gone to their network and asked for connections to hiring managers. That historically has been a very productive method. “Birds of a feather …” and when A players contact their networks and say a super sharp A player they know is available … hey, job offers pop up.
- Rewrite your resume, tooting your horn. Keep it to 2 pages and list ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND SUCCESSES. I’ve looked at hundreds of resumes since the economic slide and I see A players being TOO HUMBLE. Don’t include much about responsibilities and don’t state your career objective (save that for the cover letter). Don’t puff yourself up – stick to the facts. But make it clear when YOU accomplished something and not just the team, of which you were a member.
- Rewrite your cover letter. Cover letters are usually boring and canned. Speak from the heart, say what you’re looking for, but here is the key…
- Make it clear that your bosses in the past decade would give you rave reviews. If you have received overall performance ratings that are tops, say so. Humble A players rarely do this – too bad because C players don’t do it for a different reason (it ain’t true that bosses gave them top ratings!).
- Offer to arrange personal reference calls with your former bosses (and subordinates and peers, too). Only A players CAN make such an offer and actually follow through, but again they are too humble. In the past their network got them a job and they knew that others were singing their praises, so they were simply their usual understated self. In this economy if you won Olympic gold metals, you’d better display them if you want to get on the team. It frankly impresses the heck out of recruiters and hiring managers to read and hear that your former bosses would praise you and that YOU do the work of arranging the phone calls.
- Don’t accept low pay. In the past few months I’ve seen some companies take advantage of people they are recruiting and hiring, knowing that even A players are desperate. Trouble is, when the economy improves, A players who KNEW they were worth more than what they were paid, leave. Companies you would want to work for won’t try to cheat you in the short term.
Brad writes that he’s interviewed more than 6,500 people over the years as his basis point for the credibility of his thoughts. I’d make the argument that I’ve seen more than 100,000 resumes in my career and maybe 0.1% of them were well written. Takeaway value = far too many hiring managers who made snap decisions about candidates based on just a resume even though resumes have a high likelihood of not telling anywhere close to the whole story about someone.
Tags: A-Players, Brad Smart, C-Players, chris mursau, hire better, hiring, hiring manager, Interview, job postings, resume, smarttopgrading, Topgrading, topgrading methodology, TORC, unemployment, unemployment rate
This past week, one of our Clients was presented with a difficult situation: through working with the Hire Better Team and allowing us to follow our Methodology and engaging in the theory of Topgrading, we acquired so much information about an Executive Level Candidate that it almost resulted in the Candidate NOT being offered a position.
How could this happen?
I’m going to reference a lot of what is now widely referred to as the “Allegory of the Cave”. What follows is from Wikipedia and, while it’s a little verbose for a single blog post, it’s worth a read. I’ve summarized my thoughts right below this entry.
Inside the Cave
Socrates begins by describing a scenario in which what people take to be real would in fact be an illusion. He asks Glaucon to imagine a cave inhabited by prisoners who have been chained and held immobile since childhood: not only are their arms and legs held in place, but their heads are also fixed, compelled to gaze at a wall in front of them. Behind the prisoners is an enormous fire and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway, along which people walk carrying things on their heads “including figures of men and animals made of wood, stone and other materials” The prisoners can only watch the shadows cast by the men, not knowing they are shadows. There are also echoes off the wall from the noise produced from the walkway.
Socrates asks if it is not reasonable that the prisoners would take the shadows to be real things and the echoes to be real sounds, not just reflections of reality, since they are all they had ever seen or heard. Wouldn’t they praise as clever whoever could best guess which shadow would come next, as someone who understood the nature of the world? And wouldn’t the whole of their society depend on the shadows on the wall?
Release from the Cave
Socrates next introduces something new to this scenario. Suppose that a prisoner is freed and permitted to stand up. If someone were to show him the things that had cast the shadows, he would not recognize them for what they were and could not name them; he would believe the shadows on the wall to be more real than what he sees.
“Suppose further”, Socrates says, “that the man was compelled to look at the fire: wouldn’t he be struck blind and try to turn his gaze back toward the shadows, as toward what he can see clearly and hold to be real? What if someone forcibly dragged such a man upward, out of the cave: wouldn’t the man be angry at the one doing this to him? And if dragged all the way out into the sunlight, wouldn’t he be distressed and unable to see “even one of the things now said to be true”?
After some time on the surface, however, Socrates suggests that the freed prisoner would acclimate. He would see more and more things around him, until he could look upon the Sun. He would understand that the Sun is the “source of the seasons and the years, and is the steward of all things in the visible place, and is in a certain way the cause of all those things he and his companions had been seeing”.
Return to the Cave
Socrates next asks Glaucon to consider the condition of this man. “Wouldn’t he remember his first home, what passed for wisdom there, and his fellow prisoners, and consider himself happy and them pitiable? And wouldn’t he disdain whatever honors, praises, and prizes were awarded there to the ones who guessed best which shadows followed which? Moreover, were he to return there, wouldn’t he be rather bad at their game, no longer being accustomed to the darkness? “Wouldn’t it be said of him that he went up and came back with his eyes corrupted, and that it’s not even worth trying to go up? And if they were somehow able to get their hands on and kill the man who attempts to release and lead up, wouldn’t they kill him?”
The relationship I’m hoping to make here is that when a company initially begins to consider Topgrading, it often results in companies quitting before they even get started (note: @Topgrading protects their tweets but our request was approved). It’s hard, it takes a significant amount of time and it isn’t for the faint of heart. But when it is implemented effectively, what a company is able to find out about prospective candidates can sometimes be so overwhelming that it’s like the prisoner who steps out of the cave and walks into the Sun.
In the case of this Client, their existing interview process was really good. But it was designed to determine if candidates were cultural fits and didn’t really dig much deeper than the surface. When they were able to see the results of a full 4.5 hour Tandem Topgrading Interview that included personal challenges, a full career history and in-depth self-analysis and critique by the candidate around weaknesses and things that frustrated them, it was almost too much. Their old process would never have unearthed about 75% of what came out of the Topgrading process and, armed with this new information, they agonized over the final decision.
This all goes to show that Topgrading is really about the best methodology available today but it has to be adopted by an entire organization and not rolled out piece by piece alongside a rudimentary assessment and interviewing process because of how hard it is for people (Executives and Front Line Employees alike) to digest the stark differences that they must try to balance when making final decisions.
Tags: @hirebetter, @hirebetterceo, A-Player, A-Players, allegory of the cave, Brad Smart, executive level recruiting, Fame, Family, Fit, Fortune, Fun, hire better, hire better methodology, hire better systems, hiring, hiring manager, Interview, plato, recruit don't absorb, Recruiting, Scorecard, smarttopgrading, socrates, talent acquisition, Topgrading, topgrading methodology, TORC, wikipedia
I got a reference phone call yesterday by a temporary staffing firm who was inquiring about someone who worked for a previous company I was involved in. I’m not sure why I got this call, nor was I expecting it. The poor woman on the phone sounded exhausted and defeated even before she asked me the first question. I found myself wondering, “What box on a piece of paper is she trying to simply check off to say she’s completed this task?”
Two weeks ago I tweeted (are you following me? I’m @HireBetterCEO) about how significant we’ve found Reference Checks to be in our evaluation process for prospective employees both for the Hire Better Team and for roles within our Clients’ companies. The statement I made was that we typically can glean about 20% of what we learn about someone through the reference process. I got a lot of questions about this statistic. I wish I could take credit but it was actually Geoff Smart who was the first person who helped me figure out that references are a lot more than just asking about dates of employment and whether or not someone is rehire-able.
Here are some examples of what we’re seeking during a reference call (and don’t be shy – we ask for permission but don’t apologize for wanting these calls to take up to 30 minutes):
- Why did you hire him?
- What were the top 2 or 3 biggest Outcomes that the Previous Manager hired John Doe to achieve?
- Did he achieve them?
- How much direction did he need at the beginning and during their tenure to be successful? (a GREAT question for both micro-managers & hands-off managers)
- What things did you witness that frustrated John?
- How did he mature during his time with you?
- What advice would you have for me, as his new manager, for on-boarding him effectively and getting him productive quickly?
- Likewise, what advice would you have for the people that will report to him to maximize their relationship with him?
If you’ve ever asked a previous manager, “What were John Doe’s weaknesses?” and gotten the answer of, “You know, I can’t think of any…” it’s because you’re not asking correctly. Everyone has weaknesses and if you’re not validating them in the reference process you’re going to significantly slow down your on-boarding process. A better technique: document the self-admitted weaknesses of a candidate during their interview and then re-position the question that you pose to the previous manager to sound more like this, “Mr. Manager, John shared with me that he felt like his biggest shortfall while working with you was that he struggled to prioritize his time and that it resulted in him missing some pretty key deadlines. Would you agree?”. By showing that previous manager that you’ve established enough rapport to have acquired this kind of information from the candidate, you’ll find that the previous manager is much more willing to talk not only about that stated shortfall but also about other areas of weakness and, if you’re really good, follow-up by asking, “How did you see John address this weakness while he worked for you?”
And one last tip: during your interview with a prospective employee, ask them who their previous managers were. Write down those names & titles and then, when you’re ready to move to the next step of evaluation with that candidate ask them to make an introduction that former manager on your behalf. We found it’s even better if the candidate CC’s you on the email to that previous manager. Brad Smart (Geoff’s Dad and Author of Topgrading) calls this process “Truth Serum“. I couldn’t agree more!
Finally, a parting shot meant as a challenge: because you’re now empowered to get so much more information out of the reference process, are you comfortable telling a prospective candidate who says, “My previous employer has a policy of not providing references” that YOUR company has a policy of not hiring people who can’t introduce you to their previous manager as a reference? In all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve NEVER seen a situation where an A-Player hasn’t maintained a great relationship with their managers of the prior 10 years.
Tags: @hirebetterceo, A-Player, A-Players, Brad Smart, conduct reference checks with past managers, gepff smart, hire better, hiring, Interview, Reference Check, smarttopgrading, threat of reference checks, Topgrading, TORC, tweets, Twitter, who the book