Delivering the Systems and Expertise You Need to Confidently Make Great Hiring Decisions
I’m a HUGE St. Louis Cardinals (and baseball) fan. It struck me with a huge amount of disappointment when the Redbirds announced that they had voided a contract that they signed with a 16 year old from the Caribbean who they had been working to sign for quite some time.
Why would they void a contract after beating out a dozen other teams and offering $3.1mm (a record for the Cardinals in signing an Amateur)?
Because, as it turned out, his Agent lied about the fact that the young man had a degenerative eye disease that was robbing him of his vision. They hid it in the hopes that he could get signed fast enough to just start playing and put the money in the bank.
Yes, I understand that most business owners and hiring managers aren’t dealing with salary numbers anywhere near the millions BUT, if someone’s been unemployed for a period of time, has a mortgage that’s overdue and has bill collectors calling every day, how honest do you think they’re being during their interviews?
Some things that you should be closely evaluating to be sure that you’re getting as close to the truth out of prospective employees during the evaluation process:
- Do your Job Descriptions give away too much about the job? In other words, if it was a personal ad, does it explain too much about your likes and dislikes so that someone could “fake it” on a first date?
- Are your interviews structured and planned in advance? If you’re making up your interview questions on the fly based on the answers you’re getting, are you getting to the meat of what you need to learn about a prospective employee or are you having great discussions about all of their strengths and letting them withhold their weaknesses?
- Are you conducting INTENSE Reference Checks? I’ve gotten a ton of positive feedback from a blog post from a couple of weeks ago about how to dig in during the Reference Process. Without really pushing to talk with previous hiring managers, are you getting the truth from candidates or just their half of the story?
- Are you running Credit History Reports on candidates to evaluate if they’re in such dire straights that they are more likely to tell you whatever you want to hear?
People in tough situations will often be pushed to do things that they normally wouldn’t do. Many times, we’ve seen that this includes bold-faced lies during their interviews and on their resumes. A prime example: just this past week we had an applicant suggest that she had 10 years of Business to Business Marketing Experience. She had such a good story that an inexperienced interviewer probably would have ‘bought’ it. Because the Hire Better Team Member who was interviewing her knew how to dig in further it was discovered that her 10 years were really only 9. And that B2B experience: working as the Office Manager for a Flower Shop that had a local relationship with 1-800-FLOWERS and a $500/month budget for Google AdWords.
Bottom line: expect the best from people but, especially in this kind of economy, don’t just accept what you’re hearing as the truth.
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
If you’ve been reading this blog with any regularity you ‘ll know that I’m a big fan of Dave Kurlan. His blog and much of his company’s focus is on how to do a better job assessing sales talent before you hire them. What he also focuses a lot of his time on is making people better salespeople.
On June 3, Dave wrote a blog post entitled, “Salespeople and Requests for References“. He wrote the blog because a prospect he was hoping to sell his wares to asked him for references before they would agree to complete the transaction. It caused him to step back and analyze why someone would ask for references.
I read the post and gathered something entirely different from what he was hoping to get across. That was: this absolutely explains why a potential employer would ask for references as well! Geoffrey Smart, in the book WHO, suggests that 25% of what you’ll learn about someone will happen during the reference process. Even knowing that, when I surveyed a room of Entrepreneurs last week that I was talking with, nearly all of them admitted to hiring someone without ever asking for references and a full 100% of them said that they had, at least once, asked for references and then never called them.
Here are some of Dave’s points from that Blog Post. Do any of these apply to you as a hiring manager (in the context of the interviewing and selection process)?
Why would people ask for References?
- they are skeptical of your claims or promises;
- they weren’t referred to you by someone they know and trust;
- they haven’t previously bought from your company;
- they don’t understand what you sell;
- it’s their nature to ask (they always do that);
- they must invest more money than they had planned or feel comfortable with;
- they want to learn what it’s like to do business with you;
- they want to learn if there is anything to beware of;
- they prefer to be sold by your references, not you;
- they are simply using the reference request to put you off.
Tags: ask for references, Baseline Selling, Dave Kurlan, geoff smart, hire better, Interview, Objective Management Group, recruit don't absorb, Reference Check, talent acquisition, Topgrading, TORC, who the book
It’s a couple of years old but I’m a huge fan of Guy Kawasaki and I was recently reminded of his blog post while I was reading other information online. It’s from his personal blog called How to Change The World.
He called it The Art of Recruiting and he makes a number of great points including: Hire Better Than Yourself (which is so much harder than most people are willing to admit) and Check Independent References.
We get asked a lot how you can go about checking independent references. The easiest way that we’ve found is to utilize the Topgrading technique of career history review. Included in their career history form is something called TORC which stands for Threat of a Reference Check. By simply asking the question, “And who was your manager there? And what will they say when I call them?” you can get a lot more information out of someone. A simple example of how this works: I was on the phone with a candidate this morning who was sharing with me all of the wonderful things he had accomplished in his current role and couldn’t even think of a weakness he had until I asked the aforementioned question. Suddenly I’m hearing about the deadlines that he missed and the way he and his manager never really got along. Don’t be afraid to push hard on someone whose career history you’re not really buying in to. And check references…