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Talent Acquisition

4 Steps to Master the Art of Hiring Smarter

This question is for the senior executive team to ask themselves or an HR discussion with the executive team:

“Are we tolerating less than ‘A’ player performance, perhaps by not clearly defining ‘A’ performance?  Or by letting ‘B’ performers slide even with clear performance objectives?  Or by allowing personalities inside or outside of work influence tolerance of under performance?”

In my blog post a few weeks ago, I focused on the priority of getting the right person in the right seat on the bus.  How can anyone do that without being absolutely CLEAR what is expected for performance?  It certainly isn’t fair to leave that determination up to HR. They can’t make priority decisions for the executive team.  Hiring for success is hard work not to be delegated.

“Anytime you have the opportunity to hire someone to join a team, you have the possibility of either adding to the strength of the team or disrupting it. Select wisely,” according to William C. Sproule, in his book Top Box Leadership.

Research has shown only 46% of senior executives hired will last longer than 2 years in their job, because they were not a fit in some way, according to Barry Deutsch, author of You’re Not the Person I Hired. These odds are worse than a coin toss! Eligibility PLUS suitability need consideration for a great hire to occur.

“Great people – the ‘A Players’ – are a very different breed from the good (B Players) and mediocre (C Players). Great people are more likely to seek employment with an excellent company since a great person is often over 3 times as productive as a good person. Joel Spolsky argues in Smart & Gets Things Done that an ‘A’ Player is anywhere from 5-10 times as productive as anyone else.

Here are 4 steps to take the next time you have a hiring need.

  • Start to crystallize the job requirements BEFORE you need someone.  Have the hiring manager write a job description that includes performance criteria and key performance indicators (what process or result is that person going to be measured against) as well as the tasks this person will be expected to perform to produce the result or manage the process.  Specifically, what tasks will produce what results.
  • Check those expectations against current internal practices AND look outside your industry for better practices.  In other words, don’t let laziness dictate.  Pursue and define excellence from the start.  Southwest Airlines could not afford slow turn-around at the gate. They went to the race car industry to learn how they changed tires in the pit and applied that lesson to the job descriptions of the gate crew.
  • Ask other department/division heads in the organization (up, down, or laterally) for confirmation that they see the role the same way you see it.  There could be stakeholders in other departments who would love to influence your decision and maybe they haven’t felt free to ask.  Maybe they have a great innovation or a way to save time or money by combining some tasks or alleviating duplication of effort.
  • Check this renewed job standard against the performance review criteria.  After someone is hired you could forget, creating a potential serious disconnect between initial expectations and later evaluations.

NOW the HR manager understands the clear needs and can find the best possible candidate. They will know you are serious about hiring an “A” player by the amount of effort expended and will, hopefully, be more inclined to produce better candidates for your consideration. You don’t want HR to wish they could put out their “Gone Fishin'” sign. You want them challenged and encouraged by your rigor.

When you set the bar by being a high performer, others around you want to emulate you and you can be proud.  Good performance is energizing and it’s catching!  On the other hand, if YOU have put out your virtual “Gone Fishin'” sign they can see it clear as daylight.


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