By my count, this is the 10 billionth article with advice on hiring, so… why am I writing another one? It’s a combination of seeing the same mistakes again and again, and a bit of paying it forward.
Here’s what you already know: Hiring is the single most important task that you have on your very full plate. Do it right, and the plate gets lighter. Do it wrong and the plate overfloweth. We know that. Many of us have experienced both versions of the proverbial plate. So why are hiring faux pas still so common? Maybe laziness, more likely burn-outiness, but I think for the most part it really comes down to misunderstanding some of the philosophies of hiring.
What philosophies? Well I’m glad you asked.
You are evaluating a person’s capability to do the job IN A REAL WORK SETTING. A technologist will never succeed without the internet and a pilot will not start a plane without their procedure manual. Asking them questions that test their ability to work in a way that isn’t relevant in the workplace won’t give you a good idea of how they will actually work.
You are there to find why people that CAN do the job, not why they can’t. A negative mindset in hiring is demotivating to all parties and, more often than not, results in “settling” for a candidate. You want to be just as excited when hiring someone as they are about getting the job. This can be a powerful form of employee engagement and creates resistance to workplace toxicity!
Always hire people that multiply the power of your team. Sometimes that means challenging your feeling of “fit.” You have to balance the cost of homogeneity against both creativity and toxicity. Make sure your team has enough diversity that it holds itself accountable and stays inquisitive and introspective, but doesn’t paralyze itself with infighting and division.
Don’t let process eliminate the best candidate. As you go through a hiring cycle, each step whittles down the candidate pool. Before you start, everyone in the world is a candidate, and someone is, quite literally, the best person for the job. Your job ad may eliminate them, then your prequalification, then interview questions, then scoring. Do everything you can to make sure your process attracts and keeps the best candidates.
These philosophies have helped ground me throughout the hiring process and focus beyond initial reactions and biases.
Below you’ll find a few tips for applying these philosophies in the different phases of the hiring process. I hope they help!
- Make sure the job ad is posted in the right places and that it pops! This is pure marketing, and your only tool for finding the best candidate out there.
- Make sure the responsibilities line up with the actual day-to-day. Avoid blind copy-pasting old job postings as there’s a good chance a role has evolved.
- Don’t list minimum requirements for someone who has already been in the job for two years. List the requirements for a good growth candidate, and create a separate section for preferred attributes. Don’t be afraid of up-and-comers! They may take a bit more work, but if you put in the effort, they’ll multiply it many times over. Plus, they’ll execute precisely the way you want them to because you trained them!
- Make sure any pre-screening techniques are directly aligned with the work or work environment. I’ve seen a lot of time-based IQ tests out there. These may sound good on paper, but are not a great way to evaluate your applicant base. These tests can be practiced (and cheated!). Also, when was the last time you had to do timed long division in a work setting? It is dangerous and, dare I say, unintelligent to make decisions using irrelevant data.
- Unless you’re dealing with hundreds of applications, avoid keyword searches. Read the cover letters and resumes and analyze for compatibility. It’s time consuming, but worth it.
- Put a lot of effort into curating your questions and topics. To make sure you’re asking questions directly relevant to the work, check with other professionals in the same role, people that interact with the role, and colleagues. Quality questions equal quality insight, and are your best bet for finding a quality match.
- Always use a mix of job-specific and behavioural questions or topics.
- Consider a conversational interview, rather than strict Q&A. A conversation is often an easier way to get a feel for a candidate’s depth of understanding on a topic. Of course this requires at least one panel member to be fully conversant in the subject matter.
- Make sure to ask probing questions when you sense a candidate is close to giving you the response you’re looking for. Dig to make sure that nervous applicant isn’t a super genius waiting for your help to bloom.
- You know the rest. Smooth intro, friendly atmosphere, dispel the pressure as much as possible.
- If you’re the hiring manager, listen to the thoughts of the rest of the panel before speaking. They will defer to you, and you risk losing some of their insight if your perceptions differ.
- Give consideration to candidate potential in addition to experience.
- Keep your “fit” reflex in check. Avoid toxicity, but welcome diversity.
The more effort you put into hiring, the better your results are likely to be. Great people make a great company, not the other way around.
Did you find this article interesting or helpful? Let me know! Also feel free to reach out if you have any feedback, positive or constructive.