One of the toughest challenges for any entrepreneur or leader is finding and cultivating the best talent to bring your dream and vision to life.
There are a million articles and different systems and philosophies on finding and hiring the best talent - some extremely intricate. Years ago, I was part of a task force in a Fortune 500 to study hiring. We brought in the experts. We analyzed the traits of top hires. We look at what type of interview processes and personality tests gave the best results. It was a year long project. After all the hard work, time, and effort - we found one simple, brutal fact that we could not overcome with any type of system, process, or corporate "crystal ball." It was this, One in Three. No matter what, one in three hires will turn out to be a bad fit or unsuccessful. Even if they have all the traits in the world and are perfect fit for the job in every way, it still happens. The funny (or not so funny) thing was that the one 1:3 ratio was about where we were before we started the whole exercise!
Here's the deal, sometimes people do their best sales job in the interview. They come across as talented, with all the skills and capabilities, but one in three will end up not being what you thought they were. Period.
Once I truly understood and realized this, it made things easier for me as a leader. I resigned to the fact that 1:3 will not work out, but that would mean I would gain two rockstar A-Players for every 3 hires. And if you can do that, you can be tremendously successful.
So how do you find and hire rockstar A-Players? Here are 3 simple steps you can take starting today.
1.) Be Deliberate and Purposeful About Your Hiring
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You get into your office, have a million things coming at you, and you look at your calendar or your assistant tells you, "You have interview you have to do in 30 mins." To which your mind goes, "Damn. I totally forgot. I don't have time for this today." So what happens? You scramble, get into the interview, ask the same old boring questions to check the boxes and move on with your day.
This happens over and over again and it has always astounded me with most businesses. Everyone says that talent is the most important thing and that their people are the most important asset, blah, blah, blah, but for most hiring is where they put the least amount of resources, time, and training.
You've heard a million times that you need to plan for your success, right? Well, if hiring the right people make the biggest impact in your success, then you need to plan and prepare for that area of your business. Be deliberate and purposeful about your hiring. Treat potential talent like a potential client. Do some research on them. Look at their resume and their LinkedIn profile and think through the questions you want to discuss and the topics - and why. Don't "phone it in." You should spend a couple hours preparing and interviewing candidates at the minimum.
2.) Create A Good, Solid Screening Process
Now that you are committed to being deliberate and purposeful in your hiring, if you are going to put the time into these candidates, you want to make sure that you are doing it with the best ones out of the pool you have. In order to do this, you need to have a good screening mechanism. The simplest way is to either have them fill out a questionnaire online or do a 20-30 minute phone screen. You can have someone on your team do the phone screen, but make sure you train them in the specific things you want to look for in the screen and what will constitute whether the candidate moves to the interview. Your screening process should have at least the following:
3.) Make the Interview a Conversation (and one other little secret)
Be wary of HR items of what you can and cannot talk about in interviews, but you should strike to make the interview a conversation. After all, this person might be working for you, so you should be able to get along and have good conversation. Most interviewees have their guard up, so it takes a little while to get them to loosen up and show their true personality. You should always be asking 3rd, 4th, and 5th levels follow up questions on topics you are discussing. Peel back the onion, get to the roots of things. Find our how they think, what they believe, and confirm that what they say their are passionate about is true.
Here's the other little secret. Tell the truth about the reality of the role they are coming into. A lot of advice these days has to do with the fact that "you are competing for talent and you need to sell them on your company, etc." I disagree and think that this is where a lot of hiring mistakes happen. The employer sugar coats the reality of a role so they "can get a butt in a seat." They are concerned more with getting someone hired rather making sure they have the best someone to hire.
Be honest about the role and it's challenges. I tell everyone that comes into my companies that the role will be one of the hardest they ever have, because it will be. We move fast, we are demanding, we expect excellence and results. I also tell them that it can and will be the most rewarding they will every have if they are willing to put in the hard work and stick with it for the first year because I know that is what will take. I ask them to take time and really about what we've discussed and the reality of the role. And if after deep thought, if they truly believe that it is the dream role that they were made for, then we will move to the next step. If it is not - that is OK. I would rather have them find and know they have found the best position to maximize their talents, passion, and capabilities. And if it is not with us, that is fine. In some ways, I am selling against working with us, but telling the truth and giving a very clear picture is most important. I also always tell them to remember our conversation, because if they move forward and we move forward, and things get hard - because they will, they can't say I didn't tell them what to expect. I cannot count how many times a team member has brought that up to me a few months after getting into the role and told me - "Wow, it was tougher than I expected, you were right, but this is why I signed up with you and am excited to get better." As a leader, you cannot ask for anything better.