Perfecting the hiring formula

Managing and growing a small or medium-sized business is tough. So much of the success rides on how quickly and effectively you find and hire the right people. Just talk to any successful business owner, and they’ll be quick to tell you that “hiring the right people” is what ultimately lead them to victory.

But when top management guru Peter Drucker says that “50 percent of all hiring decisions are mistakes,” and hiring expert Charles Handler reveals that “45 percent of all new hires leave within the first six months on the job,” how can a businesses ever stand a chance of getting it right?

The truth is that hiring someone for a specific job is a very tough formula to perfect. Finding the right candidate can be a daunting and time-consuming task. Even when you’ve found someone, how do you know they’ve got what it takes to succeed? How do you beat the odds and find that formula to continually hire fast, and right?

The good news is that there are answers. Here are three steps any small business owner or hiring manager can take to get the right people into the right roles.

Step 1: Fine tune your focus

Too many companies start with “blanket” hiring principles and recruitment policies across their roles, when they should start by explicitly identifying two key criteria for each role:

  • What you do need from an employee in this job role
  • What you don’t need from an employee in this job role

This exercise will not only help you write a more effective job description, it will help you attract great candidates, and most importantly, help you avoid being “sold” by the wrong candidate. It focuses on what’s important, therefore helping you make a better hiring decision. Believe it or not, listing what you do not need is one of the hardest steps of hiring. People typically want more of everything, but in reality, there are trade-offs where strong attributes come with the cost of other weaker attributes. It’s your job to determine which attributes are important and which are not?

Step 2: Sell the job

As a hiring manager, you can’t afford to wait for that great candidate to call you. You must be proactive in finding them, then selling them their future. Make sure you’re where your candidates are; either virtually, using job postings or job ads, or physically, at conferences or events. But don’t sell them right away. First learn what their job acceptance criteria are: what’s important to them in a career and job? You know who you’re looking for, and once you know what they’re looking for, you can dig deeper into what that great candidate needs from you to want to work hard for your company. Think about how their criteria and goals are aligned with your goals, and make a point to sell them on a career path; not just the job.

Step 3: Interview for job and culture fit

Hiring someone based solely on their technical abilities, skills, and experience is often the norm and often a mistake. Many companies forget to consider how well the candidate will fit into the job and company culture once hired. Without a great “fit,” no matter how talented and experienced that employee may be, they’ll end up jumping ship or being asked to walk the plank!

Hiring for job and cultural fit isn’t as difficult as it may seem. It comes down to following a clear process: how well you screen and interview. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Ask open-ended questions. These questions will provide you with better quality and more open, honest responses.
  • Watch their body language. There are some key postures to look out for, such as neck touching (which can indicate they may be misleading you or be deceitful), finger rubbing (a sign of low confidence), and if one shoulder is up (also a sign of low confidence).
  • Pause. Giving a good three-second pause while maintaining eye contact with a candidate can lead the candidate to reveal more of their true self.
  • Use references. Ask questions such as, “Who was your previous boss?” and “What will he/she tell me about your strengths and weaknesses when I call them tomorrow?” This technique, used extensively by a program called Top, invokes a more honest discussion about their weaknesses.

In the end, it all comes down to how much you’re willing to invest in the hiring process up-front — or pay for dearly after making the mis-hire. Having a great team of employees who fit is key to driving your business forward. And implementing a smart and consistent recruitment process, will put your focus back into managing great employees rather than firing bad ones (and/or managing the bad ones before you fire them).

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