Saturday, June 11, 2011

Three Great Hiring Habits I Learned From A Remarkable Manager

One mis-hire can poison the workplace pond, tarnish your reputation and impact your team's/firm's ability to execute. Do this a few times and your mistakes will likely knock you out of the hiring game and potentially into the cozy confines of today's crowded unemployment lines.

Unfortunately, the average manager isn't very good at assessing talent and making the right call.  Many managers receive little training in the hiring and evaluation process. Most of us are not psychologists, and let's face it, it's darned hard to get a good read on people and their true strengths, skills and attitudes during the interview phase.  Throw in the need to assess cultural fit, and making the right hiring call truly is a daunting task.

If you are fortunate enough to have a strong HR pro or team supporting you, that's great. Use them…they will help you do great things. If not, join the club. You own the hiring issue, and it's important for your career and for your firm that you get this right more often than not.

Three Great Habits I Learned from a Remarkable Hiring Manager:

1. Great Hiring Managers are Relentless Talent Scouts:

A great former colleague of mine is the best talent scout I've ever met in a sales capacity. He worked relentlessly at industry events and during his busy weeks to identify, engage and get to know the sales talent in his area and in and out of his industry.  In the rare event of an opening (almost always due to growth), he inevitably had multiple strong candidates teed up.  His talent pipeline was always full, and served as an example for the rest of the organization. This sales manager cultivated a remarkable team and made us all a great deal of money.

2. Great Hiring Managers Understand the Job and the Key Success Factors for the Position at a Detailed Level:

My sales colleague above had such a strong grasp of the role that he was hiring for and what it took in terms of experience, skills and attitude, that his vetting process was honed to very specific behavioral issues from career and life.

In a two-hour meeting over coffee, this manager would walk away with a sense of fit, based on the very behaviorally focused dialogue. However, given his approach to building a pipeline of candidates, the first discussion was never the last. Most of his hires took place after a year or more of periodic interactions.  The discussions were always framed as just that…discussions, and over time, both the manager and the prospective hire had a chance to get to know each other and to evaluate mutual fit on many dimensions.

3. Great Hiring Managers Look for Complementary Life Experiences: "What Position Did You Play?"

I can't leave behind the story of this great hiring manager, without offering one anecdote. He once shared that he preferred to hire individuals who had occupied leadership roles in team sports.  His favorite candidates were baseball catchers. He loved the fact that catchers by vocation scanned the entire field, directed much of the game and participated actively in every play.  Pitchers on the other hand, had no chance with this manager.  They only played every third or fourth game, were focused mostly on themselves and the batter, and didn't have the leadership and field of view habits of the catcher.

Unique and maybe just a bit odd, but it worked!

His integration of other life experiences into the process was a nice extension of the behavioral evaluation process that all of us should apply when getting to know our candidates. His patient, let's do this over a period of time, approach allowed these types of discussions to emerge, and added to the richness of understanding for all parties. And yes, life experiences count…often as much as the professional experiences we focus on during our evaluation processes.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Too many hiring processes are mechanistic in nature and lack the depth of the practices employed by my sales manager colleague above.  While your circumstances may be outside of sales and slightly different, the take-aways, including: know the job intimately, take your time getting to know the candidate and look beyond the CV to life experiences, are applicable to all of us.

Now, what position did you say you played?

Thanks to Art Petty and Strategy & Management-Innovations, LLC.


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