The science of great hiring starts with a clear understanding of real job needs and a fully engaged hiring manager who will invest whatever time it takes to hire the best. It ends with a great hire.
A few weeks ago at LinkedIn's Talent Connect 2016 in Las Vegas I met with a series of talent leaders from major worldwide companies. One executive - whose company hired 25 thousand people last year - told me his company's best hires always involved the full engagement and support of the hiring manager. Without this, hiring a great person was problematic. His goal for 2017 is to figure out how to hire 25 thousand people one great person at a time.
Based on what I have seen I suggested the following.
How Hiring Managers Can Start Hiring One Great Person at a Time
- Plan (far) ahead. You need to plan at least 3-6 months out to identify, contact and nurture the strongest talent. The best people are typically fully employed and it takes them time to begin thinking about changing jobs and more time to evaluate any potential opportunity. When a company reacts to short-term hiring needs the best it can do is hire the best person who applies, not the best person available.
- Define the job before you define the person. Traditional job descriptions are less about the job and more about the person. To flip-flop this imbalance it's better to define the work that needs to be done as a prioritized list of 6-8 performance objectives. Hiring managers need to drive this concept but most are reluctant to take this critical step despite the fact that clarifying expectations upfront has been scientifically proven to be the #1 characteristic of all top hiring managers.
- Assess the quality of the person's results, not the quality of the person skills. As part of the assessment it's better to first evaluate the candidate's major accomplishments rather than his/her skills and personal characteristics. The simplest way is to use the 1-question performance-based interview. Based on this compare the candidate's accomplishments to the performance objectives required for on-the-job success. Not surprising but somewhat counterintuitive, if the person has accomplished something comparable in a similar environment, he or she will possess the exact skills and traits you're seeking.
- Emphasize team accomplishments over individual accomplishments. Top technical, strategic or creative people are often assigned to important cross-functional or project teams because of their individual contributor strengths. As you dig into the person's team accomplishments these strengths will quickly be revealed.
- Don't make any yes/no decision for at least 30 minutes into the interview. More hiring errors are made in the first 30 minutes of the interview than any other time due to bias and first impressions. Research has shown we all look for facts to justify our instant judgment about a job candidate. To counterbalance this, use the first 30 minutes of the interview to prove your instant evaluation is wrong. Winning this simple mind game will prevent many of your future mistakes.
- Eliminate gladiator voting by implementing a "Wisdom of the Crowd" approach. Adding up a bunch of yes/no votes based on a series of short or biased interviews is unlikely to result in an accurate prediction of on-the-job performance. Using a quality of hire talent scorecard where interviewers are assigned a subset of factors to assess will profoundly increase assessment accuracy.
- Insist on measuring and improving quality of hire before the hire. Just by defining quality of hire as a series of performance objectives, interviewing accuracy will be increased by 25-50%. This is a great way to prevent hiring less qualified candidates who have an abundance of skills and talk a good game, and replace them with people who can actually deliver the results you want.
Almost every company in the world and every manager contends that hiring top people is one of their primary objectives. But for most it's just lip service. The above process actually works but unless the hiring manager is fully responsible for hiring top talent and is fully engaged in the process it will continue to be just lip service.