Over the years of hiring for different positions locally and internationally, I have had my fair share of accomplishments and failures to learn how much the right hires can make a company unique and special while the wrong hires can erode everything you have built to accomplish. When I think about chicken, the first thing that pops to mind is Chick-Fil-A and that is because of the amazing people that work there. They always have a ready smile, a great attitude and for some reason they seem to be the only fast food place in town that remembers to put your condiments in the bag every time you go. That is not by accident, sure, they train well, but I believe they hire for that and in doing so they have distanced themselves from every other chicken place or burger joint in the planet. Now let’s look at KFC, the original famous chicken place. Personally I think their chicken tastes better than Chick-Fil-A but I will drive past three KFC’s to get to one Chick-Fil-A. I am sure you know the answer why- their employees look like they hate working there, they ask for your order at least 3 times and when it comes it is usually still wrong. They don’t have a product problem, they have a hiring problem and that is why Chick-Fil-A is wiping the floor with them.
You can take any industry in the world and find the same set of issues over and over again. Whether it’s a small business or a Fortune 500 company, hiring can make or break an organization. Company A has great service while company B has average to bad service and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which one is winning. So what does it take to make a great hire? Here are three steps to getting things started right.
- Identify your culture – Who are you and what do you represent? A team culture has to be decisively defined from the inception of a business. If you had a hard time figuring it out, you most likely are already in the thick of figuring it out the hard way. But it is not too late. Take your top two to three high performing employees and break down what they do that makes them indispensable. Try to be as specific as possible. An example would be: “Yesterday Paul had a client he was about to lose to a competitor but he thought outside of the box and bundled Product X which has been sitting in inventory thus creating more value and now the customer has changed his mind and decided to work with us.” I know this seems simplistic, but flesh out day to day examples of core values that make an employee stand out- whether it is innovation, integrity, adaptability, accountability, self improvement, teamwork, integrity- find it and define it. Conversely, pick your average employees and figure out what makes them mediocre. An example would be, “The team did not meet a project deadline this month, and instead of owning up her own failure and finding areas of improvement, Debbie jumped at the opportunity to blame another team member and management for lack of process or resources. She does this often and is hardly open to criticism. “ But Debbie shows up everyday! But she does not demonstrate accountability, and her blame game is starting to be contagious. Stop right there! Realize that average employees are worse than bad employees, because they have enough good qualities to make it hard to let them go but they keep you and your team from having another high performer. The sooner you’ve established what you do and do not like through specific examples, it becomes apparent what type of company and culture you are trying to build. Once you have a well defined company culture, you need to refine your recruiting and hiring process to support these core values.
- Finding the right candidates – If finding a good candidate was as easy as just writing a post on Monster and the floodgates would open, there would be no need for professional recruiters and talent acquisition specialists. Finding the right person starts with going to the right places. LinkedIn and Indeed.com are great places to post jobs for people actively seeking work but you do not want to miss out on passive candidates. Go beyond traditional recruiting and use sites like Exalead.com. Be proficient at using Boolean search terms to narrow down your list of possible candidates. There are books and tutorials as much as there are college courses that cover Boolean search so I won’t go over that. The key thing is to target the right places to conduct your search. Your search strategy should have a well defined skill set along with job titles to make sure you do not miss out on a future rock star that just happens to be in a different field at the moment. (And if they happen to be in the same field, beware that non-compete). Once you have your passive candidate short list, reach out and grab that coffee. A friendly discussion about career paths can go a long way. Other creative ways to find good candidates is to maximize social media networking, incentivize referrals or be active in community events. The best employees I have ever hired I found through networking or referrals. Some of them were not even actively looking. One that comes to mind is someone I met at church. I remember thinking “this kid is driven and has a great attitude”. Someone from my hiring team was eyeing another candidate who had a double major from the most expensive college in town and who had a stronger background in our industry. Fortunately, cultivating fresh talent won the argument that day and long story short, my “kid” was instrumental to some of the best years we’ve had in revenue growth and customer satisfaction, and validated my philosophy that I can train skills all day long but I can not train character or force a fit.
- Interview to win – One of the common mistakes most interviewers make is asking the same set of questions to different candidates. While this is useful for an initial screening, at the very least I always use a strengths based test to have an initial read on a candidate’s mental aptitude and personality dimensions. This allows me to have a customized list of questions to conduct behavioral interviews, allowing me to probe and have a stronger understanding of a candidate’s potential and areas for improvement. I go back to step one and look at my list of core values. For example, if flexibility or adaptability is one of them, I would use questions to prompt for this, such as “Describe a time when you were expected to complete a project with a tight deadline and with little to no direction.” I can then observe if the candidate shows indecisiveness or has the ability to act on his or her own. A good HR department will have an exhaustive list of well formulated interview questions with interpretive guides to use depending on the candidate’s profile. Use them! Above all else, listen. Many interviewers go into an interview and end up spending the entire time talking. A good candidate always turns the table and gets me and the panel talking and I have to remind myself to make sure to listen more than I talk.
These are simple steps without the geek speak and there is much more to employee retention than recruiting and hiring. It is important to study the trends, best practices and ethics in the field of Human Resources and to use technology to make the process easier, but at the end of the day, finding the best talent boils down to knowing and understanding people and starts with who you allow in. And when you find them, repeat Step 1. Religiously. Identify your high performers versus average performers. Evaluate both for these core values and not just performance. It is easy to get caught up in a reclamation project but keeping an average employee can lead to a toxic work environment, or you may be holding them back from being a high performer somewhere else. Define and protect your team culture and do not compromise on finding employees that fit your vision and your company culture.
By: Todd Marinshaw. Todd is the director of sales and talent acquisition at a sportswear business based in Oviedo, FL and one of the founders of iPrevail, a non-profit organization focused on consistent and sustainable support for foster homes, homeless assistance and natural disaster survivors.