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FMI Quarterly/December 2013/December 1, 2013

Hire the Best and Brightest

businesscharacter42_imageMost of us would agree that hiring and keeping the best and brightest people are key strategies for growth and survival. Your company is undoubtedly after a significant return on investment when it comes to your employees.

The right hiring process can help maximize that return on investment by systematically examining the major components of the right fit. We define that fit as:

ROI on People Hires = Talent x Fit
Where: Talent = Knowledge + Competence and Fit = Behavior + Expectations

Most of us recognize intuitively the need for successful candidates to possess both talent and fit. However, we need to examine each of the subcomponents separately to ensure the proper match.

For example, a person may need only basic knowledge to be competent, but some people can have plenty of knowledge and be totally incompetent. Finding the right talent requires you to enumerate how much of each of these subcomponents is necessary for all dimensions of the position.

Anyone who has been through much hiring can recall experiences where all of the talent questions were answered, but the fit was not right, and, as a consequence, the hire did not work out. Fit is one of those soft concepts that we tend to “feel.” It is a matter of finding someone who behaves in a way that is compatible with the people already in the company. While not quantifiable per se, those behaviors are tangible and identifiable enough so that you could identify them and use them in the candidate evaluation process.

A second component of fit is the issue of expectations — those of the candidate and the company. If the candidate and the company do not thoroughly discuss these expectations during the hiring process, then the potential for a backfire is not too far down the road.

With enough work in setting clear expectations on both sides upfront, a lot of misfires could be averted. The right candidate will demonstrate the right kinds of behaviors that lead to success in your firm. Equally important, you will have reached a clear understanding early in the process regarding the individual and shared expectations.

SETTING UP A BENEFICIAL PROCESS

It is not that difficult to set up a structured process in your organization that can yield tremendous returns on your people investments. The operative words here are “structured process.” The worst hiring decisions any of us make are those that are made because we are in pain and act too hastily. A structured process can keep you from making a hasty decision that you will later regret. Consider a structured process as one that includes these basic elements:

Human Resource Plan. The idea here is to project your people needs as part of your annual business plan. Your annual plan should dedicate a specific section to dealing solely with personnel requirements. You may want to look at past productivity or results by position or category of employee. Most importantly, plan ahead so that you are not forced into a 100% reactive mode when the need arises.

Specifications. For every managerial position, you should list the basic specifications that spell out what you are looking for in the successful candidate. If you want to expand this list to include job description criteria, that is fine, but it is not the point. What you want to do here is to identify between one and five absolute “must-haves” for the position. You must identify and be absolutely dogmatic about sticking with at least one such criterion, or your target market is the entire world.

The “must-haves” are necessary to serve as effective screeners. On the other hand, do not get so carried away that you wind up with 10 or more “musts.”

Sources. You need to have identified beforehand and prioritized multiple sources for potential hires. Keep your sources alive, even when you do not need anyone. That way your options will open up more quickly when you do.

Telephone Interviewing. You can eliminate many candidates in the span of a brief phone conversation. Career counselors hate this technique and advise their clients to dodge these calls whenever possible. These counselors are the same people who advise their clients to “apply anyway, even if you are not qualified.” They know that far too many managers do not stick to their “musts” to begin with. Your job is to start here so you do not waste large blocks of time down the road.

Referencing. You need to fit this step somewhere in the process. If you will have to pay for travel in order to interview the recruit, you may want to make your calls before the first face-to-face meeting. Where references do not check out, you will save money. Incidentally, there is no reason to check “social” references. They will always check out.

Interactive interviewing. Eventually, you are going to select the best three to five candidates for personal interviews. This process should involve at least two events or visits and should also involve multiple interviews with different people in your organization, although one at a time, please — we want the candidate to be open, not defensive.

Formal offer. Once you have been through an adequate process and feel as if the decision is clear, then you should move forward with optimism and speed. Make the offer, treat pay and benefits explicitly, pay on the high side of any range you may have quoted in the early stages of the interview process, and give a deadline for acceptance. Do not negotiate the pay. You can negotiate benefits, starting date, almost anything but the pay. Do it now, and you will do it again and again!

Obviously, you will have your own technical and fit criteria. If you want the best and you are serious in the belief that people really are your most important assets, then be thorough in your hiring process. It will pay you back many times over.


Jerry Jackson is FMI Quarterly’s publisher and senior editor. He can be reached via email at jjackson@fminet.com.

 

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