Finding excellent employees can sometimes feel like finding your soulmate – you have to meet a lot of people to find the one.  

A top concern for CEOs and other executives relates to attracting and retaining talent, according to the 2020 Conference Board Annual Survey.  Not only is it time-consuming, but it can be expensive. Gallup shows that “The cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.”  Given the challenges around hiring and the high stakes of recruiting, we often rush to fill the vacancy, but bringing the wrong person aboard can have lingering repercussions.  Beyond the direct costs associated with orientation and training and eventual termination, the greater cost may not be as easily measured, which is the negative impact it has on current employees. The price of a poor cultural fit can be devastating to top performers, both in terms of their morale and productivity.   

Finding the right candidate takes time, and having an effective process increases your chances of procuring a great match.  Southwest Airlines has a comprehensive and competitive approach to sift through its many applications.  According to SVP Ginger Hardage of Culture and Communications, there is about a 2% chance of getting the job. This is because they take their time to hire right so they can manage easily.  Author Jim Collins supports this method; he famously endorses getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats, which is a metaphor for hiring well and putting people in positions where they can thrive.

 Here are some steps to consider in the early stages of the hiring process: 

1. Plan.  Make it a team effort, form a committee to do the following:

A. Define Your Team & Company Values. This is to share the most important drivers of your company and the values you are seeking and the behaviors that would support those values.  For more on values, check out the previous blog.  You do not need to attain homogeneity in work style and preferences, but on those core aspects you care about.  Making a deliberate effort to hire for diversity and inclusion will only improve your company.

B. Specify the Role.  Make a list of the specific tasks to be done and define them.  You can even try and do some of the work yourself or consult a teammate who has done the work before so they can clearly explain the specifics involved.  Sure, there can be flexibility in HOW the person hits the outcomes, but you want to be clear on the WHY and WHAT. When you write clear descriptions and results, you give the person a sharp sense of what they have to do to be set up for success.  This also allows them to select out if they feel they cannot do the job.

Generalist v. Specialist.  If you are clear on what the role demands, then you can create detailed requirements.  When I have worked with technical managers and software engineer leaders, they are usually looking for a specialist to do a tough job fraught with wicked problems or somebody who can crank out the work quickly, efficiently, and reliably.  In some cases, they may not need the highest standard of communication skills because they may only deal with the one direct report who hired them.  If they do not have to interact with the other teams, such as sales, marketing, and product development, you may be safe in being more lenient with this expectation since you need to overvalue technical chops.  If you are the leader working with that direct report and are satisfied with that level of chemistry, that’s fine.  If the role requires analytical and fast pace thinking, you need somebody that could work in a pressured environment with quick turnarounds; if it is a customer service job, you need somebody with incredible people skills.  Adjust your category weights based on the nature of the job.

Hiring is a two-way street, so while you will benefit from getting a talented person, you should be clear on their value proposition.  What are the benefits that the candidate will receive from the job?  Talented people can be weighing their options in a competitive environment.   The clearer you are, the better the chance you will have to secure the position. In the book, WHO: The A Method for Hiring, Geoff Smart talks about five criteria in which candidates seek:

1. Fit.  There is an alignment between what the candidate cares about, their goals, strengths, values, and mission with the purpose and vision of the company.  People yearn to do good work and have an impact.

2. Family.  There is enough balance in the position for the person to spend time with their family, friends, or on other important commitments.  There is an acknowledgment of the whole person and what they need to be set up for success, not just in the job, and that means not allowing work to be all-consuming.

3. Freedom.  There is autonomy in the role to make independent decisions and have creative expression and not be micromanaged.

4. Fortune.  People want to be paid a competitive wage.  Money is rarely the key motivator, but it is one important piece that allows for more freedom in your life.

5. Fun.  There are opportunities for enjoyment and the development of strong personal relationships.  Studies show that having a best friend at work plays a prominent role in job satisfaction.  How is the culture set up to foster connections among coworkers and have those enjoyable moments?

6. Mastery & Belonging.  Daniel Pink, Author of Drive talks about mastery (along with autonomy and purpose) being the trifecta of motivation.  It is essential for people to feel like they are doing good work.  Gallup also maintains that people seek opportunities to grow and work with managers who can support their development.  I would also add feeling a sense of belonging.  According to recent research released by Coqual (formerly Center for Talent Innovation), people are currently searching for belonging (a place where they can be seen for their contributions, connected to their coworkers, supported in their daily work and career development, and proud of their organization’s purpose and values).  This sentiment leads to an uptick in engagement, loyalty, and productivity.

C. Seek referrals.  A common approach to hiring is to tap into your professional and personal networks as talented people usually know other talented people and are happy to pass along names.  Ask people you work with and know the culture well if they can recommend any good candidates but be specific – if you are looking for sales associates in NY who can create content and make the sale, share that information.  You can make it a practice to occasionally ask about whom they know even when you are not hiring so you can form a queue of talent and can expedite the process when the time comes.  It is vital to have a pipeline and always be recruiting.

D. Consider insiders v. outsiders.  Hiring outsider executives can be typical because people imagine this extraordinary potential that unknown people can have, even if they are more expensive.  Despite the common trends of favoring outsiders, Organizational Psychologist Adam Grant prefers insiders because you already know what you are going to get, and they have the advantage of mastering the culture and skills of the organization. There are also prevailing perspectives about the value of hiring outsiders for a team that can bring in new views.

E. Look for diversity.  Diversity matters for a lot of reasons. A crucial benefit is that diversity provides different perspectives for innovation, problem-solving, and creativity.  There should be energy devoted to getting diverse candidates in the sourcing stage, where you have a larger pool to initially pick.  Many talented candidates are not even putting their hat in the ring because they may not know about the position. Take that time to find those people so you can set your team up for great success.

2. Resume & Video. Your first introduction to a potential candidate can review their resume to see if they have the general qualifications.  While a resume offers a brief view of their record of accomplishments, usually embellishments, it says nothing about failures, so that is why you must dig beyond the resume.  You can have them send in a 5-minute video explaining how their background would allow them to be an excellent fit for the job and what they have to offer.   Alternatively, you can request a cover letter so you can get a sense of how they present themselves in writing. That will be more labor-intensive to review so you can make it optional.

3. Group Interview.  If you have many good candidates, you can do a 30-minute group interview where you ask the candidates the same 4 questions to get a read of their conversation skills, how they answer the questions, and how they interact with each other in a group setting.  For example, do they dominate the conversation and cut others off or do they build off others and allow space for multiple contributions?  This can give you a lot of data on their personality dispositions.

Setting up your hiring process can make the difference between hiring the right candidate.  By first getting clear on exactly who you want, you can begin constructing a job position that will attract the right candidates for the proper position.  Once you have these processes established, hiring can occur in a more expedited fashion.  When you go slow and get the systems down, you will be able to get better at hiring quality talent to compliment your team.

Quotes of the day: “Bet on people, not on strategies.” -Lawrence Bossidy, retired CEO of AlliedSignal

“The employer generally gets the employees he deserves” -J Paul Getty

Q: How do you plan to put together a job offer to attract the best candidate for your team? Comment and share with us; we would love to hear!

[The next blog in this series 3/5 will focus on interviewing practices]

As a Leadership Coach, I partner with leaders to get clarity on the hiring process to secure the best candidate, contact me to learn more.

Finding the best fit for your company leads to success