Delivering the Systems and Expertise You Need to Confidently Make Great Hiring Decisions
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
It’s not often I’m floored by the comprehensiveness of a Blog Post simply because too many people write them with speed in mind or just for Search Engine Optimization.
Today I was floored.
Gina Kleinworth is one of the Team Members at HireBetter. A significant amount of her role here is being responsible for combing the web every day to find articles that reinforce our goal of helping companies confidently make great hiring decisions. (Are you following us on Twitter? You should – we invest a lot of time in making you a better leader. We’re Tweeting 2-3x per day under the moniker of @HireBetter.)
Gina found an article today written by Auren Hoffman on his blog Summation. It’s title: “Why hiring is paradoxically harder in a downturn“. Its subtitle is what I chose for this blog post’s title: “Noise goes up but the quality remains the same”. You can also read it on the Huffington Post.
His comments rang true with me again and again as I read the blog 3 full times. Here are some of the points that he makes throughout this well-written post (read it, seriously):
“Great people are more likely to be employed with a company since a great person is often over 3 times as productive as a good person. Joel Spolsky argues in Smart & Gets Things Done that an A-player is anywhere from 5-10 times as productive.”
“In troubled economic times, anyone can get laid off, but a disproportionate number of layoffs tend to fall on C-players. This is because they are the lowest performing people in a company and there generally are more C-players at a company than any other caliber. Note that this isn’t always true, as evidenced with Yahoo!, a company that has recently experienced many layoffs but doesn’t have many C-players. In Yahoo!’s case, majority of the lay-offs fell on B-players and even some A-players. Yahoo! is an exception and is an exceptional company — most large companies, however, are chock-full of C-players.”
“There are A-players that are MORE likely to leave. Tough times often paint companies into a corner and force them into maintenance mode rather than continuing to innovate. Great players love to innovate and usually NEED to innovate. It’s usually very hard to keep these type of A-players caged-up and thus this presents a big opportunity for recruiting.”
“Great people are often first to leave sinking ships. They don’t feel they need to stick around for a severance because they are confident they can always get another job.”
“Unfortunately, it is really hard to tell the difference between an A-player, B-player, or C-player just from a resume. Which means you need to engage with candidates and therefore you’ll have far more candidates to deal with given this economic climate. My guess – for a standard job announcement, you’ll have three times the number of C-players applying, twice the number of B-players, and the same number of A-players.”
Tags: A-Player, A-Players, auren hoffman, B-Player, C-Player, hire better, hiring, hiring is hard, Interview, joel spolsky, Recruiting, Scorecard, talent acquisition, topgrading methodology, tweets, Twitter, unemployment, unemployment rate
The Austin Technology Council held a CEO Roundtable on May 18th about “How Healthy is your Organization’s Culture”? The featured speaker was Dr. Carol Kallendorf, the Founding Partner of The Delta Associates. I made a commitment to Tweet more often and so I maintained a Twitter Stream throughout the whole event. If you’re not following me on Twitter, why not?
The event wasn’t an exceptional one as the featured guest has been in business of telling companies what they do wrong for over 27 years. Further, no matter how pointedly people asked her questions she had a political answer that wasn’t based on experience and instead, sounded like rhetoric. At the end of the event we all got handed a piece of paper (how very Baby Boomer) of the 10 questions you can ask to assess your organizational culture. While the document wouldn’t surprise you even if you were from Mars and didn’t even know what culture was, there were a couple on there that at least bore repeating:
- What are the issues that tend to align your Executive Team? What about fractionalize it?
- To what extent do the people in your organization have shared goals, vision or fate?
- Could your employees explain to their family members what it is that they do within the company that contribute to its success?
- Do people at all levels in your organization know what business you are in, how you make money and who your customers are?
- What’s your culture for handling mistakes and failure? What would your employees say is the culture for handling failure or mistakes?
- Do people like to come to work?
- How big a priority is culture?
Again, nothing earth shaking or really insightful but they ARE thought provoking. Can you make any changes today inside of your company that could represent a baby step in the right direction?
Tags: alisha ring, Austin, austin technology council, brian wong, carol kallendorf, change management, culture, delta associates, drive culture, Fame, Family, Fortune, Fun, hire better, talent acquisition, tweets, Twitter