Are we doing it wrong?
When you’re looking to hire a new employee what do you look for? Are you getting what you want? Does it seem like success in hiring is more like a roll of the dice? Yes, sometimes it is. Honestly, few of us (if any of us) are actually, really good at interviewing and selecting the best candidate for the job. If you think you’re great at it, I think I have a bridge………………… Seriously, though, there are things we can do to make the outcome more successful and a bit less left to chance.
It seems to me that we often focus on the wrong things. Sometimes it’s existing skills over potential for development and cultural fit. Other times it might be “talent” over personality. Do you care if you get a highly talented, but completely obnoxious and unmanageable employee? You should care, because either you’ll have to repeat the whole process soon, or the rest of your staff will be miserable for a long time. Which price are you willing to pay?
You have to know who you’re seeking before you’ll know if that person is sitting in the chair across from you in an interview. Define the position and the best person for that position before you start interviewing. Make up your “ideal candidate” list and refer to it often. Ask questions that will reveal if this person fits that list.
Fit vs. Function, Talent vs. Character?
In our changing business world – whether evolving technology or methods of service – is it reasonable to think that anyone will possess all the skills now that may be required 5 years from now? Instead, look for traits that fit your organization. Whether those traits are exceptional communication, creativity, organization, attention to detail – whatever they may be. Skills are important and necessary, but not in a vacuum.
Part of defining the position and the person is knowing what your organization’s values are, what your culture is and then assessing an applicant’s ability and readiness to actively meet those in the day to day of the job. Focus on communicating those values during interviews and assessing a candidate’s ability to live those values. Ask behavioral based questions that will elicit what you need to know to make an informed decision. Of course, continually communicating your values to all employees frequently, and leading by example will help you to maintain a workforce that meets your needs.
Is the candidate as interested in seeing your organization succeed as she is in her own success? I think this goes to the heart of someone who really believes in your mission (your product, your service). A “me” first attitude is not likely to get you the results you really need. We all need to think of ourselves, our needs – but not to the exclusion of all else. A related characteristic here is accountability. Is the candidate giving examples of taking responsibility and being accountable? Or, is he tending to slide blame toward a manager or co-workers? Being accountable and taking responsibility for our own actions (failures and successes) really is thinking outwards, of others, rather than thinking only of ourselves.
Now vs. the Future
Failing to anticipate your organization’s future needs can cause you to make impulsive and short-sighted hiring decisions. Understanding your organization’s current needs and where it's headed can positively inform your hiring decisions. So, before seeking new hires for your team, think about how applicants might meet existing needs but also any potential for fulfilling future needs. Hiring for the long haul is certainly more efficient and cost-effective than simply filling a current gap.
It’s all too easy to have a laundry list of desirable skills and traits and then end up spinning our wheels because we can’t find the “perfect” candidate who possesses them all. However, it’s equally as easy – and possibly more damaging - to “settle” on someone based on a few parts, instead of considering the whole. Skill and experience are vital to most jobs, but you should never fill a job out of desperation. Taking the time to assess the complete fit of a new hire can spare you a great deal of pain.