Whether you’re a small business owner or the hiring manager for a residential systems integrator, I’m certain you would agree that having the right people on your team is critical to its success. Yet chances are your company doesn’t have the wherewithal to afford a team of human resource professionals like Fortune 500 firms use to manage their hiring processes. Unfortunately, this means that all too often you find yourself conducting impromptu interviews and pulling the trigger quickly with a job offer. But under lean conditions, how can you be confident that you’re hiring the right person for a seat on your bus to success?
Mike Detmer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the principal of detmer Business solutions, which provides companies in the systems integration space with easy-to-use business knowhow modules that enable functional managers to better execute key duties.
I found myself managing similar situations in the past. As director of sales, I received budget approval to hire a new trainer. And this new hire had some large shoes to fill. The company was known for always delivering stellar training events, and I had to be sure that the trainer I was hiring was right from the start. After a series of phone interviews, I narrowed the field down and asked each potential candidate to meet me on the road at a training event that was already booked.
At the event, after a one-on-one interview (see step 2 below), I would ask the candidate to accompany me to a training session that I was leading. But what the candidate didn’t know is that they were going to be put on the spot in that very session. During the flow of the training session, I would introduce the candidate to the audience and ask him/her to take over the session briefly and describe a typical product. Naturally every candidate was surprised and stumbled at first because they weren’t familiar with the material. But how well each candidate handled this pressure told me a lot about how effective they would be in their own training sessions if hired. The results were always telling and led me to the best candidate for the job every time.
So the next time you’re looking to fill another seat on your bus to success, consider these simple steps:
1. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
You can’t get the employee that you want until you know what you want that employee to do from day-to-day. The best way to set these expectations is to make sure you have a written job description. You’d be surprised at how many managers skip this simple step and then wonder why the candidate they hired didn’t perform as expected. To make sure that you don’t miss anything, list the general skills you require first, then put sub bullet points under each of those.
2. QUALIFY YOUR CANDIDATES
Conduct a 45-minute one-on-one interview. These interviews should have specific steps and move along quickly. I’d suggest you give five minutes for greetings and a little chat to put everyone at ease. After that, use 25 minutes to cover education and work experience. In this section find out as much as you can about past performance and ask if you can contact past employers as references. Then transition into a five- minute overview of the candidate’s plans and goals for the future and a five-minute section covering the candidate’s “self-appraisal.” Conclude by answering any questions the candidate may have.
3. TEST YOUR CANDIDATES’ SKILLS
The secret here is to assess the candidate in the proposed job role. Use your job description points and test your candidate’s ability to accomplish them. If the job description says “must be able to terminate Cat-5 cable with RJ-45 connector in five minutes,” then pull out some cable, a couple boots and connectors, a crimping tool, a cable toner, and start the clock.
Qualify your job candidates by conducting a 45-minute one-on-one interview with specific steps that move along quickly.
4. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
During your interview ask your candidates for references and for permission to call them. Then take the time to make the calls. You’d be surprised at the insight you’ll gain about the candidate and their fit into your organization by doing your due diligence. If your new hire will be handling money for your company, then you may also want to request their permission to conduct a credit/background check. It’s easier than you think to get the information with your candidate’s permission and web resources.
5. BE SLOW TO HIRE
Take the time to tabulate all of the data you’ve collected after the interview. A simple way to do this is with a scorecard form. There are several scorecard forms available for searching on the internet, but the one that I like is detailed in Bradford Smart’s book Topgrading. It helps you to assess your candidates’ competencies grouped in categories, like intellectual, personal, interpersonal, management, leadership, and motivations. Once you’ve reviewed each candidate in this way, it’s highly likely the best fit for your team will emerge.