WARNING! – Long BUT massively value packed post.
Hiring is probably one of the most important areas for any business owner and while most may know that, it is usually a task that has the most disproportionate amount of time allocated to it. As owners we tend to focus on the things that give us more tangible immediate results like making sales, solving crises, responding to customers etc. And if asked “how important are your people?” we answer with a resounding ‘critical’ yet for most of us, we don’t invest the necessary time to get the right people.
This post is going to outline all you need to know to get the right people on board. And I will preface that while what we’ve laid out below has worked many many times with consistently impressive results, the systems and processes YOU use, must be a match and fit for your company. I will give you the framework, you need to modify it to fit your needs.
Now, given the amount of time most of you are currently investing in hiring, what I outline below is going to seem like a lot of work so I need to get you into the right emotional head space so you can see the benefit of doing the work necessary. Consider the following questions:
- If you had a system for hiring that gave you an 80% success rate and all you had to do was say ‘go’ to make that happen, how would that benefit your company?
- If you had a team of sales people who continually perform to grow your company, what would that mean to you?
- What is the true cost to your company for making a bad hire?
- think actual costs + you and your team’s time (recruiting and training), loss of momentum on projects due to others involved with training or just having a new (non-fit) member involved. And the list goes on …
- What is the emotional toll on you and your team of making a bad hire?
- What would it be like if you had a pool of great candidates to choose from and they were lining up applying to work for you?
Some of those questions may seem a bit ‘oh come on’ and I guess that is one of the key points I want to emphasise. I believe most people don’t give hiring the time it deserves because it is seen as a distraction and pain in the ass. The first stage of hiring GREAT people is to acknowledge that hiring is the absolute foundation to a GREAT company. Your people are your company … so as a leader you need to make finding the right people one of your top priorities. Great People bring Great customer service, they bring Great finance skills, they bring motivation, they bring Great sales skills, they bring Great operational systems and skills and they are Great at working as a team. All these characteristics and skills are what are going to make your company Great.
OK … let’s get into the nuts and bolts.
Firstly the bad news. While this post outlines a system and process for attracting GREAT people; a process is useless without a great culture. Great people want to work for great companies and great companies have a great cultures. If you want to understand about great cultures, read ‘Delivering Happiness’ by Tony Hsieh or here is great article about adventure company GAP that was featured in Profit Magazine. I’m not going to go on about culture here (that is another massive post topic) but I will say that it is critical. Top performers are attracted to top performance cultures. Your culture will attract those who are a fit for it. Be very intentional about your culture.
Another critical foundational piece is a clear and compelling vision. Great people want to be part of a company that is going somewhere. To be part of a company that has a purpose and the drive to fulfill it. It is not enough to want to grow, be successful and make money. Your vision, mission or purpose (whatever you want to call it) must be something you truly feel passionate about and it must be something you can communicate well to others. Hiring Great people is like trying to acquire new ideal customers. You need to be able to sell them on the ideal of working with you. There must be an emotional benefit that goes beyond ‘having a job’. If you are hiring people who ‘want a job’ then you are not hiring Great people. And you will never have a Great company.
So we have our 2 key foundation items Culture and Vision (or purpose or Mission or whatever … yes I am a bit cynical about all the terminology. Just show me you have passion about something that is more than yourself). There are many other factors that can affect the success of a new hire but I believe if you have a solid culture, then most of those other things should be in place. An example of what I’m referring to is great managers. If your managers are not able to develop great relationships with those they manage, you will have turnover.
The key philosophy behind this system is ‘deselection’. What I mean by that is you want to attract as many applicants as possible then allow them to deselect themselves based on the barriers you are going to put in their way. It is also important for your mindset to be one of deselection. You want to feel like you are in the position of ‘if you don’t find the ideal candidate, you will not make a hire’. There is nothing worse than feeling like you HAVE to hire … that is when the big hiring mistakes are made.
If a candidate gets the feeling that you are extremely selective it brings an exclusiveness to the process. Now we don’t do this with a ‘fake it’ type approach. It must be sincere. I truly want you to have a ‘selective’ mentality.
Picture your current team like a finely balanced mix of chemicals that if they were to tip slightly off balance would explode. Your job, as the chemist, is to test all new chemicals (potential hires) you want to add to the existing mixture to make sure they are not going make an explosion. You have to be selective or your business will be blown to pieces. This might be an exaggeration .. but the analogy applies.
The Flow – I’m going to outline the steps involved so you can see where we are headed.
- Attraction – you will work to attract as many applicants as possible and have them apply by email.
- Phone Screening – after they apply, you will send them an email (ideally an auto-responder so you can save time) asking them to call a phone number and answer some questions
- Short list – from these telephone-message responses you will select a shortlist based on how well they presented on the phone and answered the questions.
- Test Drive – Now you will send the short list a group of tasks. These tasks are designed to simulate and test the skills required to excel in the job. The tasks should require a significant time investment (3-4 hrs) so you can see how committed people are and test their work ethic.
- Profiling – After the test drive you should be down to 1 or 2 top candidates. You will get them to complete a profile tool (I use DiSC and Flippen) that will help you guide your questioning in the last stage
- 1-on-1 Behavioral Interview – In a face to face or Skype meeting, you will interview the candidate and make your final assessment.
Step 1 – Your Ideal Candidate
Define your Ideal Candidate. Download our Ideal Candidate form to help you here. This step might seem quite straight forward but the more detail you can define, the more chance you have of finding the ideal person. There is an attraction process that helps here (like in all areas of life). The clearer you are on what you want, the more chance there is of you getting it. The purpose of clearly defining the ideal candidate is for you to get clear + allow you to write the best Ad. Just be mindful that the key attributes you assemble for your ideal candidate are essential for success in that role. (In other words, be sure to steer clear of any prohibited grounds or attributes when selecting your next great team member, and stick to what related work skills they require)
If you aren’t aware of the prohibited grounds, feel free to check out the following resources:
You’ll see an area on the Ideal Profile called DiSC. If you are not familiar with the DiSC behavioral profile tool I’ll be putting a post up about it soon. Sign up to follow my blog and you’ll get the notice when it’s live.
Step 2 – Writing Your Ad
Writing a powerful Ad (like any marketing) is only possible when you know who you are writing it for. Now that you have your ideal candidate your wording must be crafted with that person in mind. Avoid making your Ad generic like all the other ads out there. The ad must speak to your ideal candidate and also represent the culture of your company.
Critical point – you want people to apply by email. It is best to have a dedicated email address that receives the application because you are going to have an auto-responder set up to respond to each application.
Setting up the logistics – as well as having a dedicated email address (e.g. [email protected]) you will need a voice mail box to receive the phone responses. If you have a phone system that can handle that great – if not consider using a Skype (or similar service) virtual number. I’ve also had clients use their mobile phones after hours to receive the phone responses.
Step 3 – Placing Your Ad
In short, you want to place your ad in as many places as possible. The services available to your will depend on your location. Use free sites, paid sites, community channels (notice boards, newsletters etc), social media (yours, your companies, your employees, your friends) and even print classifieds if you think your ideal candidate might look there. You want to give applicants every opportunity to see your ad. Avoid ruling anything out.
Consider using training agencies and recruiters also. Recruiters can be a little tricky as they will want to do the screening and placement for you (for a fee). You don’t want that at this stage. You can however negotiate with some of them to provide candidates to go through your process and if they are successful, a fee be payable. This is not my favourite method but it can work.
Step 4 – The email response.
Once someone applies by email you need to email them back with instructions on what do to next. Use a script similar to this. Include a copy of the position contract/job description for them to review. I’ve had great success with the questions listed on this script but if you want to put your own in, by all means. The goal is so you can get a feel for the persons phone manner (important even if the role they are applying for is not phone based. How they prepare and present for a phone call is how they will prepare and present for everything), their level of preparation, how well they follow instructions, their confidence and their mojo :).
Key point – resist the temptation to read the resumes before you’ve received a phone response from the applicant. Reading resumes takes time and can be meaningless. Resumes are what the candidate wants you to know about them. We’ll get to that. We need to do some screening first so we don’t have to look at as many resumes. Someone who takes the time to prepare and leave a decent message is way better than someone who can’t be bothered but has a kick ass resume.
Step 5 – The Short List
As the phone responses come in, you’ll obviously listen to them and score them. Here’s a scoring sheet you can use. Use these scoring sheets to select your best candidate. Feel free to involve other people in your organization in this part of the process – particularly those who will be working with the new hire. As you review the best responses, now is the time to go back and review their resume.
Step 6 – The Test Drive
Once you’ve got your best candidates, now we need to continue our screening for attitude (work ethic) and skill. Forget what they say they can do, let’s see what they can ACTUALLY do and are WILLNG to do. You need to devise suitable activities that will simulate and test for the key skills and ability you require from the new hire. If they can’t be done remotely (i.e. truck driver) then now is the time to bring them in to do the test on premises. This can also be a good idea even if your skills can be tested remotely. Here’s an example of how I did it when I hired my right hand person Melina.
Video 1 – Introduction
Video 2 – About my company and the role
Video 3 – Test Drive Exercises
Step 7 – Profiling
Before we do a 1-on-1 interview it is extremely helpful to have some more objective insight into the person. Everyone has strengths and everyone has constraints (behavioural tendancies that don’t serve them). We want the scoop on that so we can ask pointed questions and see how they handle.
The two tools I use are DiSC and Flippen. Flippen is by far the better tool and really gives an pin point accurate assessment on a persons abilities. It is not cheap but it is amazing. And given the true costs of a wrong hire, it really is a no-brainer. For an understanding on what Flippen is, take a look at this video I give people to watch before I do their debrief. I only use this video when working with clients (not hiring applicants) but it gives you the low down on Flippen.
DiSC can be helpful also and if you didn’t want to do the Flippen, DiSC is an easy assessment to understand. The weakness of DiSC is the applicant is the only one who takes the assessment so you can get a biased answer. In a Flippen, it is a 360 assessment; another 6 people complete the profile on behalf of the applicant, making it impossible to fudge.
Step 8 – The Interview
OK so we are at the interview stage. We have our final 1 or 2 top applicants, they’ve done some assessments so now we are ready to spend some quality time with them.
Probably the most important thing to remember here is the type of questions you need to ask. You need to ask situational and behavioural type questions vs one-word answer style questions. Any question like “can you do X?” is a waste of time because the candidate usually knows how you want it answers. A better type of question is “Tell me about a time when X happened to you … how did you handle it?”. Here’s a list of questions you can ask. Choose those which are applicable to the job you are hiring for…and look for opportunities to ask follow-up questions if you need more information.
Another great tactic when asking questions is to name drop one of their references/past employers such as – “When I ask (name of past employer) about how you deal with X situations, what will they tell me?” This brings about a level of honesty in the response because they assume you will be checking up on them.
Have a couple of people in the interview so while one person is asking a question, the other can be either listening/observing or picking the next question. It is very hard to capture everything in an interview so having multiple people enables you to discuss after the interview and compare notes. I highly advise having people involved who will actually be working with the person once they are hired. If they buy into the hire, they will be more invested in making them successful.
Another learning I’ve seen time and time again is the benefit of have both male and female on the interviewing team. Different sexes pick up different things. And there is a lot to be said for the female intuition when it comes to reading people.
Step 9 – Reference Checking
While in some countries there are laws prohibiting what can be said during a reference check, I still believe it is a vital step. Even if someone is restricted in what they can tell you, you can tell a lot by how they dance around questions or even their tone and words. Don’t skip it. Anytime I have, I’ve regretted it.
Yes, there is a bit of work to set this all up. But once you’ve done it and run the process a couple of times you’ll experience massive time savings and a much higher success rate. You’ll also learn how you need to tweak the system to improve it for your company.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, successes and challenges with it.