An Article By Steve Waterhouse
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How To Attract and Hire The Best People
Hiring the right people can make or break your business. Whether you are hiring sales people to bring in more business, operations people to make your company run smoothly, or leaders to bring it all together, hiring right is critical.
1. What Defines “Best”
The first secret to attracting, hiring the best people is to clearly understand who the best people are when it comes to your position. Not in general, but specifically for your company and for the job you have to fill.
To some, the best people are the ones that will produce. To others, the best people are the ones who will treat their customers right. Still others see the best people as the ones who will quietly do the job with the fewest complaints.
The truth is that the characteristics of the best person for a specific job in a specific company are very complex. Think of your job as a missing piece in one of those very complex jigsaw puzzles. The piece that makes it whole has some very unique characteristics that are even hard to describe. No wonder it is so hard to find a good fit!
Our first task is to somehow, accurately, define the ‘best’ person for our position in terms that will allow us to know that person when we see them.
Who Defines ‘Best’
If we agree that someone has to define the characteristics of this person, who is that someone? Most would agree that the person’s manager would have a good idea of who would fit the job. After all, the manger knows what needs to be done and knows what type of person has worked out well in that position before. They should also know what type of person has not worked out in the past.
But how about the CEO, owner or another senior manager? This person is responsible for the culture and future of the company. This person may be looking for an eventual replacement for the manager or a person who could eventually manage a new division. Should their input be included in the definition?
One person we often fail to ask is the person who had the job last or another person who currently holds the job. If you ask most front line employees, they will describe their position much differently than their managers and completely differently from senior management. It might be useful to get their idea of what makes an ideal employee for their position.
And let’s not forget human resources. HR is charged with building our organizations and should have a clear understanding of what is needed in each position. While their perspective may not be perfect, it certainly provides a critical piece to the puzzle.
So at the very least we have three or four people that must be included in defining the characteristics of this ‘best’ candidate. This is called the “Requirements Team” because they set the ultimate hiring requirements. Before we even begin to advertise and attract a group of candidates we must synthesize the opinions of each of the individuals into one clear picture of our target person.
Defining The Job Requirements
Now that we have agreed that we are going to take the input from a Requirements Team and use it to develop an ideal model with which to compare our candidates, we need some criteria to work from.
At a very minimum there are three criteria that most organizations include in one way or another as part of their selection process. They include skill, knowledge, and behavior.
Skills encompass the ability to do the job required. Whether they are learned skills such as those gain through on-the-job training in the trades or academic skills gained through formal education, we must define what is required to do the job.
Knowledge encompasses an understanding of the job on one or many levels. It is possible to be skilled at doing a job, yet lack the knowledge that would be required to go beyond the basic activity.
Behavior defines how a person will act or react when faced with various situations. Do you need a person who is good with people or one who is focused on details? Do you need a person who can multitask or do you need someone who will not become bored when repeating the same task over and over? Studies have shown a very high correlation between behavior style and job performance in virtually every type of job.
Ask each of the people on the Requirements Team to make a list of the skills required for this position. This is called a Skills Inventory. You might want to include someone who actually is doing the job or even shadow a current employee and record what they do. It is amazing how often we forget what a person really does in a day. Even if you have a job description you must know that most job descriptions are out of date and incomplete and should not be used as a hiring document.
Once the lists are completed, they should be compared with an eye for differences. It is important to reconcile these differences and agree on a common Skills Inventory before starting the hiring process. There is nothing worse than putting your new hire in the middle of a disagreement on job requirement.
Once again we need your Requirements Team. This time the task is to develop a Knowledge Inventory; a list of what the new employee will need to know to do the job. Remember that some things can be taught, but you have to start somewhere. For instance, you can teach a person to prepare a report but you may not want to teach them to read and do math. You may be looking for knowledge of specific systems, machines or industries. You may even want someone who has knowledge of specific groups of people or geographic areas.
As before, once the lists are completed, they should be compared with an eye for differences. Reconcile these differences and agree on a common Knowledge Inventory before starting with the hiring process. You don’t want to hire someone only to find out they lack the critical knowledge needed to be successful in that job.
Of the three criteria groups, behavior is often the hardest to define. Studies have shown that it may also be the highest predictor of success in the job. Behavior describes how a person will function in a given situation. It is possible for many people to be technically able to do a job but not behaviorally able to do it in your company or the way you need it done. Behavioral mismatches are leading causes of failure and turnover from front-line workers to CEO.
Again, you need to have your Requirements Team develop a Behavioral Inventory; a list of the behavioral characteristics that will make this person successful. If you do this right, you will hire someone who will not only do the job well but will be happy doing it.
We recommend the Predictive Index PRO tool for this task. (http://www.predictiveresults.com/PredictiveIndex/. It automates the process by allowing several people to independently define the job and then brings the results together for comparison. The results can be compared with similar positions at other companies to build a behavioral profile that predicts success in the position.
2. Attracting The Best
Now that you know who you want to hire, you need to find candidates to choose from. Ideally, you want to attract a pool of candidates who are reasonably close to your ideal model. In other words, they fit the Knowledge, Skill and Behavioral Inventory’s that your Requirements Team developed.
Make Your Ad A Magnet For The Best
Studies by our company and others have shown that ads written based on the Behavioral Inventory of the ideal client will attract applicants who fit the model. For instance, if you are looking for a person to network in the community and you include phrases like “must enjoy working with people” or “community involvement a must” you will tend to find the right people. Imagine a person who hates networking when they see this ad. They will skip over it, while the person who loves networking will make it their first priority. Your lobby will be full of people who have already preselected themselves. This reduces your interviewing time and maximizes the options you have to choose from.
Look Where the Best Are
It is important to place your ads where the candidates will see or hear them. If you want to appeal to those who are unemployed, the internet or the newspaper is the media of choice. Everyone who is looking for work is looking there.
But what if you want to attract people who are not looking for work? You are looking for someone who is already successful and productive somewhere else and you want to jar them loose from their current situation? In this case, you need a less typical approach. Radio is one great tool since your ads will be heard by people whether or not they are actively seeking a job. Clear Channel Radio has a division that focuses exclusively on helping companies use radio to attract the ‘currently employed’.
Another approach is to advertise in traditional media but in a non-traditional way. In other words, place your ad in the general advertising section of a local community paper or shopper’s guide. One contractor I knew placed his ads in local car magazines. He knew the type of person he wanted also read those magazines and he was able to out-flank his competition by using this unique approach. Another company actually purchased the billboard across the street from his competitor. He knew his audience and he knew where to find them.
The bottom line is this. The combination of an ad written around the behavioral profile and then placed where the right people would see it generated the greatest number of viable candidates.
Network with a Focus
If you take the same approach to networking you will have equally good success. Give your current employees a clear understanding of who you are looking for and reward them for bringing in their friends. You’ll be amazed how powerful an army they can be. That same information in the hands of other business leaders can also generate results. I have seen companies who were hiring approach companies who were laying off and almost walk the best people from one company to the other.
It all comes back to the work we did earlier. If you can clearly describe who you need, you can more easily find and attract them.
3. Hire the Best of the Best
Catch the Best Quickly
Once you attract top candidates, you need to make sure they actually fit your criteria and then engage the best before your competition does. A quick pre-screen will help you see who is close and needs your immediate attention.
While resumes are often exercises in creative writing, they do indicate if a person potentially has the skills and knowledge needed, based on their previous experience. A total miss-match goes to the bottom of the pile while a close fit gets a second look.
A behavioral assessment like the Predictive Index (PI) can quickly tell you if a candidate has the right behavioral characteristics for success in your company. Since it can be administered on paper or email and takes less than 15 minutes to complete, we recommend that every applicant be given the PI when they first apply. This gives you the opportunity to scan the applicants and quickly bring the best to the top of the pile. As a result, you can often take the best people out of the job search before your competition ever sees them.
Using the process we have outlined, you now have a selection of candidates to interview that are reasonably close to what you need. In preparation for the interview, compare each candidate with the Requirement Team’s ideal profile. Make notes for yourself highlighting the gaps between the ideal and the particular candidate.
What knowledge is missing?
What skills are missing?
How does their behavioral profile (PI) differ from the ideal?
In your interview, spend your time drilling into those gaps to see if there are any critical missing pieces in knowledge, skill or behavior. If you believe you have a winner, ask yourself this simple question, “What still bothers me about this person?” Tell the next interviewers about your concerns and ask them to drill in on that area. In your next interview with them, drill deeper yourself.
Only when you find no glaring gaps should you begin to spend time telling the candidate about the position. Only now can you start selling the candidate on your company.
When you follow this simple process, you will dramatically increase the quality of your team and the results of your company. As Jim Collins said in “Good to Great”, to be successful, “You need to get the right people on the bus!”
If you would like help improving your hiring process, including developing your Knowledge and Skills Inventories or using the Predictive Index behavioral assessment, please contact us. We also offer training including Behavioral Interviewing.