Being a great manager starts by hiring great people, and hiring great people starts by understanding how they make career decisions.
While using the Performance-based Interview and Talent Scorecard will dramatically increase assessment accuracy, it really won’t matter if hiring managers aren’t seeing enough good people to begin with. In this case, they’ll just be more confident they’re not hiring the right person.
For most people, the interview is just an assessment tool, not a recruiting tool. In order for it to be both there are a number of things a hiring manager can do to improve the quality of people seen, interviewed and hired. Here are my top five:
1.Clarify job expectations before you ever see anyone. A list of skills, duties and experience requirements is not a job description; it’s a person description. Few top people are excited when companies use these for advertising purposes. Instead, define what the person in the role needs to do to be successful, tie this to the company strategy or important project, and describe why people already doing this role find it appealing. Here’s a sample posting for a Controller that covers it all. I call documents defining the top 4-5 performance objectives required for on the job success performance-based job descriptions. (FYI, this step is number one of Gallup’s Q12 of factors that drive employee performance and job satisfaction.)
2.Treat your recruiter as a trusted partner. When a recruiter doesn’t understand real job needs he or she converts to a transactional sales approach focusing on box-checking skills. This is an instant turn-off to anyone competent. Recruiting top people involves a consultative sales process that starts with a full understanding of real job needs. On top of this add a strategic approach to sourcing and networking that enables the recruiter to uncover the best people in short order. Recruiters can make or break a hiring manager. This is why they should be treated as core members of the department and invited to every staff meeting.
3.Conduct an exploratory phone screen before ever conducting a face-to-face interview. I just read a small segment of a rather scholarly report by Dan Cable that investigated the impact of first impressions on the predictability of the interview. The key finding: there is a negative correlation! If you like someone you go into sales mode, and if you dislike someone you seek out their flaws. You can virtually eliminate this problem by conducting a performance-based exploratory phone screen before inviting a person in for an onsite interview. You’ll need to give the person an overview of the job and then ask what he or she accomplished that’s most comparable. Invite the person for an onsite interview if the accomplishment is comparable to what you need done and the person sees your job as a career move. (See Step 4.)
4.Convert your job into a career move. Aside from assessing competency and motivation to do the work, the other big purpose of the interview is to convince the person your job represents a career move. Too many hiring managers think aggressive selling and hyperbole are the keys for convincing hot candidates their jobs are worthy. If it works, rest assured the person being wooed is not someone you want to hire. Instead use the interview to find voids in the candidate’s background that your job fills. These include things like a bigger team, bigger budget, more impact, greater visibility, and more long-term growth. When a passive candidate who is not looking starts getting excited about what you have to offer, you know you’re on the right path. Start positioning your job this way during the phone screen. Dangle these factors as possibilities and reasons why the person should come in for an onsite interview to learn more. (Here’s a recent post describing how to set the stage for these types of career discussions.)
5.Treat all candidates as consultants. One way to ensure candidates feel respected is to assume they’re competent, rather than incompetent. This is critically important when dealing with a passive candidate whom you’d like to hire, since they’ll judge the hiring manager on how well he or she listens. The quality of the hiring manager’s interviewing skills is also one factor top people use when deciding which offer to take, so don’t take the need to be a strong interviewer lightly. This “treat all candidates as consultants” perspective is also a great way to get everyone to converse more openly about their past performance.
Being a great manager starts by hiring great people, and hiring great people starts by understanding how they make career decisions. Foremost is a great job clarifying performance expectations, not a job description listing skills and experiences. So dump these immediately if you even want to be in the hunt for hiring great people. Next follow all of the other tactics described here with special emphasis on finding a great recruiter. Don't be surprised when in a few weeks you’re being asked to have a few exploratory calls with a few top people who are not looking. That will be the first of many great days.
Lou Adler (@LouA) is the CEO of The Adler Group, a consulting and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring. He's also a regular columnist for Inc. Magazine and BusinessInsider. His latest book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013), provides hands-on advice for job-seekers, hiring managers and recruiters on how to find the best job and hire the best people.