Tech & Work

Five steps to making a good hire

Hiring decisions are necessarily made on incomplete information – you will never truly know someone from a few hours of discussion. To make better hiring decisions, follow these five steps to making a good hire.

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If you have been tasked with hiring staff for very long, you have undoubtedly made a bad hiring decision. Maybe you ignored a trait that you should not have, or perhaps you failed to interview for that trait. Interviewing is such a complicated process that it is easy to miss important points. Here are five steps you should take to make sure that your next hiring decision is not a mistake.

More than technology

Technical managers tend to hire on technical skills. It is natural that you evaluate whether someone has the technical skills to complete the job; in fact, that is the prerequisite.  However, there is much more to an employee than his or her ability to complete the work.  The employee has to be able to serve customers, whether internally or externally.  He or she also has to be able to communicate status and, depending upon the level, manage projects and people.  These can be equally as important as technology skills in your environment.

Despite the diversity of skills that an employee should have, most technical managers measure exclusively by technical ability. I have done that. I once hired a candidate who was on house arrest for a DUI conviction. I failed to measure his commitment to getting things done and his ability to motivate himself. The clue, which I ignored, was his commitment to having fun and his lack of responsibility. Ultimately, he left, but not before I had invested a great deal of time working with him on his commitment issues.

For more tips, download this look at illegal and other risky interview questions.

Personality, not personal

There are many standard profiling tools that can help you to understand what motivates a person and how that person may fit into your organization.  The more you understand about these tools and how they measure personality, the more effectively you can evaluate prospective employees.  Perhaps the best known profiling tool is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  This indicator is designed to identify people on four spectrums: introverted/ extroverted; intuiting/sensing; thinking/feeling; and judging/perceiving.  Tools like Myers-Briggs will help you understand certain aspects of the individual's personality during the interview.  Of course, should you have concerns, you may want to use a validated tool to address your concerns.

In our interviewing process, we use validated tools and our own experience to help us position the candidate for success if he or she is hired.

For more, read how assessment tests can take the guesswork out of hiring.

Conditions for calm

Interviewers sometimes purposely try to make interviewees uncomfortable, playing games to make the candidate ill at ease. The result is that the candidate is uncomfortable and may react differently than under normal circumstances. In other words, creating unnatural stress on the candidate makes it difficult, if not impossible, to accurately determine how he or she normally functions.

As a result, you should take reasonable steps to make sure that the candidate is comfortable. If your office does not require wearing suits on a daily basis, you may tell the candidate that he or she may dress business casual for the interview. Avoid using large groups to interview your candidate unless public speaking is a part of the prospective job.

Your goal in the interview process is to evaluate in a short period of time how the candidate may perform in your organization. Creating unnecessary stress during the interview will not accomplish that goal.

Common understanding

Ideally, you will have more than one interviewer conducting the interview process. You will have several people evaluate the same person (one at a time) to get the perspective of each interviewer on the candidate. While having multiple people evaluate the same candidate is advisable, it can sometimes lead to frustration if members of the interview team are not in agreement.

The solution to this problem is to educate the interviewers on the most important aspects of the role.  By building a common understanding, you can ensure that everyone has a similar perspective on the candidate and that the team members who interviewed the candidate are looking for the same qualities.

In our group, we typically have four people interviewing each person.  Because we have a common set of criteria, we rarely have problems coming to a decision on a candidate. When we do not agree, we have terminology that gives us a common language for addressing any differences of opinion or unresolved issues.

During the interview process, you should also watch out for the seven signs that a job candidate won't work out.

Expose expectations

Part of the hiring process is giving the candidate enough information to "opt out" of the process if the potential job may not be a good fit. In our business, travel is part of the job. No matter how much we try to minimize it, we have to expect that there will be some. Part of our process is exposing the candidate to what a typical day might look like and what our expectations for the candidate will be.

We lose a large number of candidates due to the amount of travel, the fear of learning new technologies, or a fear of public speaking. However, we would much rather that the candidate "opts out" of the process before being hired. When candidates start a job and then leave shortly thereafter, the organization and the employee both lose out; this also creates a negative perception in the community regarding your organization.

Addressing your expectations and making sure that they match up with the candidate's expectations is critical to a long-term hire.

Key learning

Hiring decisions are necessarily made on incomplete information. You will never truly know someone from a few hours of discussion; however, by learning to clearly understand what you are looking for, seeking out personality traits, making candidates comfortable, and setting appropriate expectations, you can make better hiring decisions.

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