Hiring the Best How to Select Candidates for Key Positions
A few days ago we invited the CEO of a large organization to speak to us. After he concluded, he fielded some questions from our staff. One of our managers asked, “How do you motivate people?” He responded, “Bring on people who are aligned with your values and whose life purpose aligns with the purpose of your organization. Then you never have to motivate anyone.”
Very true. So how do you select candidates who best fit your organization? Below are a few criteria and techniques I use in my organizations.
Insist on Competence
Candidates don’t even get to me, or my team, unless they are qualified. A team member screens candidates for core competencies based on the job description of the position we are aiming to fill. If your organization is small, that person may have to be you. Ideally, you should have standard criteria for each department and position.
For example, our billing manager has a test with specific questions for each new billing department applicant—technical questions and problems to be solved. If the candidate cannot pass the test, it doesn’t matter how wonderful they are, they do not make it to the next stage.
Test the Chemistry
My way of assessing chemistry with a new person joining our team, especially key people, is a little unconventional. When I share it with Human Resource professionals they give me skeptical looks. I simply try to laugh with the applicant, make a joke of some sort or a light comment and see if they will laugh with me. Of course I keep things professional, but I push the envelope a little in an effort to see what is underneath their polished veneer.
In interview settings, people are typically at their highest level of alertness to answer the most difficult questions. I don’t believe answering questions correctly shows me the true person though. Anyone can prepare for tough questions. If I enter the room and am able to have a good time with the person and see them have a good time with me, we usually have a foundation for a healthy business relationship. We have chemistry.
Most people who are hired based on other criteria and chemistry is overlooked, usually leave our organization after a few months. They just don’t fit into our family culture. They prefer to operate exclusively in the professional zone and do not develop relationships with the rest of the team. And this doesn’t work well because developing relationships is a core value we espouse as an organization.
Don’t Trust Yourself
If there is one thing I have learned about recruiting the best, it is that I do not rely solely on my own intuition. That’s why we employ a hiring process in our organization we affectionately call “speed dating.” Every single team member with whom the new hire may potentially work interviews the candidate for at least a few minutes. (This also gives HR professionals anxiety because if you ask the wrong questions, you can get in trouble with the labor department. So if you choose to use this technique, I would encourage you to offer some basic training for any staff member who may be interviewing others.)
Only yesterday I was asked if we should hire a specific candidate. I told the manager, “I’m really not sure. Let’s see what the team thinks.” Even though I liked the candidate, I wanted to hear from everyone. As leaders, sometimes we can take our positions too seriously, believing only we can make these kinds of decisions and get them right. For me though, adding someone to our team is such a critical move, I want everyone’s help to decide.
A few weeks ago, we had a great candidate. I thought so. Our manager thought so. But our team did not. For some reason they saw something that we did not. So she did not get the offer.
Talk About the Worst Case Scenario
When people are interviewing with me, after we laugh and connect, I like to share the worst case scenario about their potential job. I want to be very honest from the beginning. Many organizations want to communicate the very best they have to offer as an employer. And I like to share that as well. But I believe it is also beneficial to be very clear about what is not so good, or hard, about your organization. For example, when interviewing the doctors who may join my team, I tell them if we are busy, I do not take a full lunch. I eat on the fly so I can continue taking care of patients. I tell them that our clinic opens at 8am, but our team meeting starts at 7:40. I tell them that some days we get very busy and they are expected to be highly efficient.
If the candidate can see the big picture and still be agreeable to join you, then you may have a winner. If they seem hesitant, or they don’t like the less appealing aspects, don’t select them. It is up to you to share the whole experience of working with your organization. If you do not, the new hire may be disillusioned and quickly fold when challenges begin to surface.
Schedule Visits During Our Most Stressful Times
Another tool we use in our recruiting process is to invite the candidate to spend time with our team during the most stressful time of our week. When I am interviewing a clinician, I have them shadow me during our peak hours of seeing patients so he or she can see first hand what our environment is like. This is taking my “worst case scenario” technique to a higher level. I not only want to talk about the tough part of the job, I want to show them first hand.
Share Our Values
Our values are written and clear. During our recruiting process, we go over our values with the candidate to see if they feel they can align with them. For example, one of our values is we create family. Some people don’t want to view work teams as family. They don’t want to interact with anyone at work beyond professional matters. Typically, applicants will politely affirm our values. But what I am looking for is genuine excitement. When I see a candidate get visibly excited about our values, they get a higher point. If they tell me a story or share with me their passion that aligns with our values, they also rise in rank in my mind. It is imperative to both the employer and the candidate to align values from the very beginning.
As a person of faith, I pray for God to bring us the best people. All the interviewing is, at best, an imperfect science. We probably get it right about 70% of the time. If the interviewee is also a person of faith, I pray with them during the interview—with their permission.
Of course you have to be extremely careful when you bring faith into the workplace, especially when it comes to interviewing. Even though I am a Christian, I am totally at peace with bringing people of any religion to our team. Not only is this is a legal requirement, but I believe it to be an ethical and moral requirement as well. We just hired a wonderful physician to our team who is Hindu. While I did not pray with her during the interview, I was clear that I am a person of Christian faith and our organization upholds Christian values.
Fire Them Quickly
My hope is that the other 30% we miss during the interview process will be revealed in the first 90 days of employment. Even though this is a much more expensive option (filtering out ill-suited applicants on the job), it is still far better to let them go within the first 90 days than to allow the wrong person to stay. Don’t feel bad. Treat them with honor and respect. But keep in mind, if you choose to keep someone who is not a good fit for your team, they will be the first to be unhappy and unfulfilled.
Using an effective process for hiring the best can save your organizations significant time and money. It is not an easy undertaking. I hope the criteria I have shared with you today will help you in this key element of your business.
For Further Reading: