Hiring Well

June 28, 2011 by Wally Bock

Hiring top talent is one of those areas of business where the great ship of concept tends to break apart on the rocks of detail. Last week I read two blog posts that reminded me of that important truth.

Jon Ingham’s post, “Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should! (true, but, it also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t)” is a superb overview of recruiting trends, theories, and technology. If you’re concerned with recruiting, make it a point to check out Jon’s post.

Soon after I read Jon’s post, Mike Haberman’s “Hire Slow, Fire Fast” reminded me that even with all the things we’ve learned to do in recruiting, it’s still more art than science. Sure we’ve got assessment instruments and strategies galore, but we still get it wrong. Part of the reason is that hiring decisions involve judgments about skills, fit, and potential.

We can do a pretty good job of determining whether Candidate A has the basic requirements for Job 36823. But that’s only the beginning.

You also have to make sure that Candidate A will fit into the culture, and that’s far more difficult. That’s where process can come to the rescue. Hiring slow can help you here, if you exercise the discipline to make it work. Rigorous process can help you here, if you exercise the discipline to make it work.

Think of the companies you’ve heard of who do a great job of hiring and have a strong culture. The odds are they have some combination of an extended process, often including interviews by current employees, training that consciously transmits cultural norms, and an extended probationary period. Longer and more rigorous processes tend to weed out the fakers and those who just don’t fit.

Then there’s potential. This is tough because while behavior is pretty much fixed after young adulthood, performance is not. Performance and growth are often situational. You make the best judgment you can and if you get it wrong, act quickly to fix things.

The bottom line is that it’s not easy to make good hiring decisions. If you want to do it right, develop a rigorous process and use it consistently. That’s simple. It’s just not easy.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Selection

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  1. It’s really important to find someone who fits and can do the job but companies shouldn’t leave candidates hanging during an extended process. It’s important to communicate about next steps throughout the process and say no as soon as you know it’s a no.

  2. Wally Bock says:

    Good point, Laura. I think the key to your comment is not to keep candidates hanging. The companies who do this well, Southwest Airlines for example, have a rigorous and thorough process and also keep candidates informed about their status and next steps and how long those steps may take.

  3. Thank you for connecting hiring decisions with the culture of organizations. I tend to involve teams in interviews because it allows me to see the intangible qualities of how candidates connect with team-members with different roles. I believe that the best candidates are not just the ones who are skilled and connect with the culture of my school, but who will add to the culture over time, strengthening and enhancing it with what they bring. I like to think that they bring qualities of the kind we aspire to as an organization. I also try to hire people who complement my skills and are not very similar to me.
    I have really enjoyed reading your posts! Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  4. Wally Bock says:

    Thanks for the comment. I think we often try to replace the messy human parts of business with neat, engineering-like operations. It hardly ever works. Culture is such a powerful force and it can be used for good or for bad.

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