The Keys to Hiring the Best
Over the last eight years, I have been involved at one level or another in the hiring, firing, training and leading of over 200 people. If I were to strip down what I’ve learned about the critical task of hiring the best to the most important nuggets, this is what they would be.
Step One: Have a Recruiting System
So you determine that you need a new person on your team. What next? Hopefully there is a system already established for placing ads, processing applications, and conducting interviews. Without a system to facilitate the fundamentals of the hiring process, the process itself can become overly stressful. Typically, that’s when we end up making hasty decisions, when only two or three apply because we don’t know where to post our ads or which recruiting agencies to use. So we have to choose from a very limited pool of applicants.
I have seen good systems, poor systems, and no systems. I have been fortunate enough not to have to execute recruiting systems myself. I have always been surrounded by capable leaders who have experience in soliciting qualified candidates. My responsibility has been to make sure there is someone in my inner circle whom I can trust to handle the process. Someone who fully understands the organization’s culture and vision and is confident to implement a proven system to generate a healthy number of qualified applicants. If you have a growing team, and do not have such a system, I would have grave concerns about your ability to grow successfully.
Step Two: Know What Cannot Be Taught
There is rarely a perfect applicant. So, it is key to know what can be taught to an employee and what they should already come in knowing. Early in my journey, I was so confident that because of my “great leadership,” I could grow anyone into becoming an excellent team member and leader. I found out I was wrong. I’m not that good. Even leaders much better than I, under the best circumstances, are unable to help people move beyond certain areas of personal development within a reasonable amount of time.
Here is a rule of thumb for me. Within three months, I expect people to be relatively solid in their skills and in the culture of our organization. Not perfect. That takes longer, sometimes up to one to three years. Why is the three month window important? Because it gives me an opportunity to evaluate whether a new hire is coming in with the personal qualities that our organization values. For example, I cannot teach someone to have a good attitude in three months. Therefore, a person who does not have a good attitude will not be hired on permanently. I may be able to help someone have a better attitude if they are with me for a few years, but I will not wait a few years to have a functioning team member.
I want to share with you here the principles that I consider key for people to come in with. These are values that people cannot be trained on in three months. Feel free to adopt my list or alter it to serve you in your organization. I’d love for you to share yours in the comment section below this article.
- Depth of character. Perhaps, if I worked closely with someone for five years, I could help him develop better character. A higher level of integrity, compassion, humility, forgiveness, and patience. That is, if I am lucky and the person is willing. But, I don’t have five years to wait. I am the trustee of the dream and the guardian of the team. If someone is to join my team, I expect her to already have a solid level of maturity in her character.
- Pleasant attitude. This is huge. Someone who cannot control their emotions and is moody, cranky, and often sour to be around will suck the life out of your team. These people may have “good days.” But if I am a good leader, these people must be removed. Period. In terms of the hiring process, in my experience, this quality cannot be taught in a reasonable amount of time. Emotional maturity is learned at an early age, and I really don’t think I have been able to teach it to anyone. People either have it or they don’t. Plainly speaking, my people must have healthy emotional control and the ability to withstand a reasonable amount of pressure without acting out like a 2-year-old.
- Solid work ethic. I do not want to train anyone to finish their work, meet deadlines, or come in on time. If you have not learned these lessons before you join my team, I will invite you to leave as soon as I suspect this may be an issue (especially in the first 90 days of employment).
- Connection with the team. I cannot teach people to have harmony with others. It is either there, or it is not. This is exactly why I always encourage leaders to let each team member interview all new applicants. People need to feel comfortable with one other. If you are careful to place team members together who have a natural fit, get ready for a powerful team to emerge.
I have been burned many times because I mistakenly believed I could change people’s character, attitude, work ethic, or ability to connect with certain people. I think I may have influenced a few people in these areas over a long period of time, but they are the exceptions.
I will work with people on their technical abilities, communication skills, leadership skills, teamwork acumen, and personal growth plans. I will address and expect growth in the areas of character, attitude, work ethic, and connection. But, if they have not personally progressed to an acceptable level in these four fundamental areas, I am not willing to invest my time into their growth. It just won’t work. Believe me, I have tried.
Step Three: Be Willing to Wait
This is huge. Time is often the Achilles heel in most recruiting processes. We get in a hurry. We want to grow our teams quickly, so we acquire mediocre members and construct an average team. We succeed at growing fast. But with this mentality, we also succeed at building a second-rate capacity deep into the fabric of the organization. I have made this mistake many times. And I see other leaders make this mistake as well.
My friend, be willing to wait. I promise it will pay off. Waiting may mean morale takes a temporary dip because there is smaller work force, profits may even wane, and growth may actually slow. Let it be. Do not compromise on getting the best. Why? Because once you hire someone, that’s it. They will mark your team. They will impact your clients and customers. And if you hire the wrong person and end up letting them go, even after two or three weeks, it makes a negative impact on everyone. Waiting takes discipline. This is one of the hardest areas for leaders because leaders want to take action. They want to grow. They want to move, and often they want to move now. If you can develop this muscle and discipline yourself and your team to wait, even if you have to take a temporary loss, you will begin building amazing teams.
If you have a great team, you can go anywhere with them! So, I want to challenge you to consider these suggestions for hiring the best. Add to them if you need to, so you have a proven system to apply each and every time.
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