Four Things Companies Do To Shoot Themselves In The Foot When Hiring – Part 1

I recently asked over one hundred CEOs and their key executives, “Is hiring top talent critical to the success of your organization?” Not surprising everyone replied “Yes.” Not simply important, but critical. So then I asked,”If it is critical, then how many of you spend time each month focusing on hiring, excluding when you are actively looking to fill a position?” Not surprising, only three people raised their hand.

WOW, something that is critical to the success of the organization, gets virtually zero time unless there is a current need. Is that the way most critical issues are handled in your company? No strategic planning. No thought or action discussed or taken until the problem arises? Only once the problem arises is it dealt with it. Until then it is that famous management strategy, “Out of sight, out of mind?” or “We will cross that bridge when we get there.”

I believe this management style only happens with hiring. Most other critical issues are regularly discussed, on-going programs such as, cost reductions, product development, increasing sales or market share, customer service, improving operational efficiencies are all constantly discussed and often major components of the company's strategic plan. In fact, I have seen many strategic plans that all have great plans for growth. Yet few ever include a strategy for hiring the people needed to execute the plan as the company grows. Strategic hiring is rarely part of a strategic plan.

I believe companies that truly want to hire top talent and do it on a consistent basis must avoid these four major land mines when hiring:

1) Untrained Managers – Hands down the number one reason hiring fails. This is the biggest problem with hiring in most companies. Few managers are actually properly trained on how to hire. Most managers have never even attended one course or read a book on hiring. For the few that have had training, it is usually limited to interviewing training. Granted this is better than nothing, but interviewing is only one step in an effective hiring process. If you aren't finding qualified candidates, all interviewing training will do is validate they aren't qualified. If the job isn't properly defined then where you look for candidates may not be the right place, resulting in unqualified candidates.

The fact is the vast majority of managers use the “Tribal Hiring Training” program. Too often a person learns to hire from the person that hired them. And the person that hired them learned from the person that hired then, and so it goes all the way back to Moses. All this really does is perpetuate hiring mistakes from one generation to another. It doesn't resolve the problem.

If companies are serious about improving hiring, step one is to develop an effective hiring process and then training their managers in all aspects of the process.

2) Poorly Defined Job – This mistake results in the search going sideways before it even starts. Traditional job descriptions for the most part aren't job descriptions at all. Most describe a person. Does this read like your job descriptions; Minimum 5 years experience, minimum BA degree, then a list of minimum skills/knowledge and certifications, and let's not forget the endless list of behaviors the candidate must have, team player, high energy, self-starter, strategic thinker, good communicator, BLAH BLAH BLAH. Of course there is also the list of the basic duties, tasks and responsibilities. These are really important, but as a person with 5 years of experience, who doesn't know these already? This traditional job description defines a minimally qualified person, not the job. So before the search starts it is all about finding the least qualified person. Any wonder why the least qualified person shows up at your door?

Instead of defining the least qualified person, start by defining superior performance in the role or the results expected to be achieved once the person is on board. For example, Improve customer service feedback scores from X to Y. Reduce turnover from X% to Y% within the next twelve months. Implement a sales forecasting process that includes a rolling six month forecast that is accurate within X% of actual sales. Now this is the real job. It defines expectations, not some vague terms or minimum requirements. For every job there are usually at least four of these results required. The job is being defined by performance. In order for the person to be able to achieve these results they must have the right experience. Maybe it is five years, maybe three or maybe ten, it doesn't matter. If they can do these it is enough. Now go find a person that can explain how they will deliver these once on board and you have the right person.

3) Finding candidates – See part 2

4) Disrespecting the Candidates – See part 2

Join the other 10,000 CEOs, key executives and HR professionals and download a FREE copy of our best-selling book, “You’re NOT The Person I Hired.”  Just CLICK HERE  and under the FREE Hiring Resources section you can download our free eBook.

Retaining your best talent is always the best thing any company can do. Download our FREE  Non-Monetary Rewards and Recognitions Matrix. It will help you retain your best people without additional compensation. CLICK HERE to download under the Free Resources section.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.



4 Ways To Counter a Counter Offer

Counter offers should be expected, as nobody wants to lose their best people.  It is a lot easier to make a counter offer than to try to find a new person. Especially one that is top talent.

In some strange way a counter offer is a good thing. It signals that the candidate’s current company values them and they don’t want them to go. The hidden assumption in this is that the person is top talent. That is a good thing. The bad news is, now what? How should the new company handle the counter offer? Should they offer more money? Match the counter offer? Walk away and start the hiring process all over again? Negotiate with the candidate? There are lots of options, none of which are all that great.

Here are 4 ideas on how to avoid the counter offer.

1) The best way to handle a counter is by avoiding the candidate receiving a counter offer. It has been my experience that few companies ever discuss the potential counter offer with the candidate. It just never comes up. This is a mistake. The hiring manager should begin discussing the potential of a counter offer as soon as there is genuine interest in the candidate. This may be at the end of the first interview.

I have never yet heard a hiring manager say to a candidate, “We want to proceed with you and would like to bring you back to meet more people. I want to respect their time and yours. If we proceed, I’m curious as to how you will deal with a counter offer should your current company make one?”

This is important because now you are starting to tie the person down. Few candidates even think about the counter offer. By asking this question you are beginning the process of getting the candidate to commit to you. They are starting to put their word on the line.

After every interview you should continue to tie the candidate down by adding more ropes. Continue to bring up the potential of a counter offer. Before the offer is made, the hiring manager should once again ask the question, “We are going to proceed to the offer, however, before I do that I would like to understand more about how you will deal with a counter offer should it happen?” Follow up with, “ We only hire top talent. I view you as that and I know if you were on my staff, I would be concerned if you left. What will you say to the CEO when called into their office to discuss what it will take to keep you? What will your comments be?”

Once the offer is made you can add one more tie. “I want to make sure you don’t burn any bridges when you leave your company. What are you going to say to your boss when you give notice?”  What you are looking for is if the candidate left the the door open to a counter or are they telling their boss thanks for the time together, but my mind is made up; I’ve given my word and I’m completely committed to this new opportunity.

This may sound like overkill but it sure beats having to deal with all the issues if a counter offer happens.

2) Never get into a compensation war. You won’t win. If the candidate accepts more money now, they will never be satisfied. They are opportunistic and will leave you at the first opportunity they get  for more money or they will hold you hostage by constantly asking for more money.

We always recommend making your best offer and leave it at that. Let the candidate know you are making your best and only offer. Remove the chance of getting into a wage war. We have rarely seen them work out successfully.

3) Too often companies make an offer and that is the last contact with the candidate until they walk in the door two or three weeks later. This a a major mistake. Did you pick up on the word “major?”

For the next three weeks whatever energy, excitement, enthusiasm, and bonding that built up during the interviewing process begins to wane. The current company has all this time to express their love for the candidate, how much they appreciated their work, how much they will miss this person, and on and on.

You have to be in the game.  After the candidate gives notice you should contact them. Ask how it went and probe how they feel now that they gave notice? How did their boss respond to the news? The biggest thing to know, have they made the announcement to their team and the company? If they haven’t, or their boss asked them to wait until next week before announcing it to the staff, get ready, a counter is imminent.

The notice period is your opportunity to begin the candidate’s mind transition to your company. Meet with them, give them some work to start, invite them to staff or company meetings, include them in emails, and begin the process of putting them in their new job.

4) Understand exactly why the person wants to leave their current role.The real reason is rarely the first reason they give. Don’t accept the first canned answer. Probe to understand what is motivating this person to seek a new position. This is key if a counter offer happens.

Rarely will they tell you money. Usually it deals with some other reason, they are not happy in their current role, they lack career growth, the position isn’t challenging, their boss isn’t allowing them to take on new projects, or they have reached their limitations in the current company. Does your position address these issues? If it does, this is ammunition to use if a counter offer happens. You can now remind the candidate why they told you they are leaving. Since it wasn’t about money, how will a counter offer address their issue?

Since you asked the candidate in the interview why they want to leave their current employer and they gave you a bunch of stuff about career growth, and said that money wasn't the reason for leaving and then they accepted a counter offer based on money, chances are they lied to you.

Now you can respond, “We made you what we think is a good offer and our best offer. You indicated you weren’t leaving due to money and now it appears that isn’t the case. Our culture is built around high integrity, trust and values. It would be a good thing for you to accept the counter offer, as you probably wouldn’t fit in our culture.”

Even if you do everything perfectly, the candidate may fall prey to the counter offer. You are dealing with people and nothing is100%. All you can do is work to avoid the counter offer before it happens. Most of the time you will win, but not always.

You can explore our audio library, download free examples of compelling marketing statements, download a summary of our research project that identifies the biggest hiring mistakes, and get our culture assessment tool by clicking the links. All of these are free.

I welcome your thoughts and comments. Please forward this to your contacts on Facebook, LinkedIn, or anyone you think would benefit from this article.

Brad Remillard

Why Hiring Fails: Hiring Mistake #2 – Superficial Interviewing


Next to not defining success, superficial interviewing is the second most common mistake made in the hiring process that leads to hiring failure.

There are two key elements to effective interviewing: Asking the right questions and validating the truth in the candidate answers.


Asking The Right Questions

Where do most CEOs, Executives, and Managers learn what interview questions to ask in an interview?

After having presented our program to over 30,000 CEOs, Executives, and Managers in the last 20 years, the vast majority tell us that they learned what interview questions to ask when they were originally interviewed 8-12-22 years ago. These questions form a collective group I like to call the 20 standard, stupid, inane, canned, silly interview questions based on tribal hiring. They are tribal in the sense that we blindly follow the questions the generations before us have asked, assuming that if they asked those questions, perhaps you should also ask those questions. What do these questions sound like?

  • Tell us about yourself
  • Why are you here today?
  • What do you know about us?
  • What do you want to be in 5 years?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Would you like to do this kind of work?
  • How strong are your computer skills?
  • We like team players – how do you feel about working in a team?

What we get as answers from these questions are the practiced, rehearsed, canned responses that are a complete waste of time. These questions do not reveal any insight regarding someone’s performance ability, past success, ability to deliver your success expectations, character, values, and typical behavior?

Why bother?

Instead, let’s just pick people off resumes and hope for the best – we’ll probably have as much luck. Let’s talk about luck for a minute. The entire process of asking the 20 standard, stupid, and canned interview questions focus on picking candidates who are the best at answering these questions. These questions have NOTHING to do with real work. They are an artificial set of questions designed to measure how well someone interviews – NOT how well someone will do in your open position. If we get a great employee – I’ll suggest it’s more a function of luck than any effective interviewing process or methodology.

Have you ever selected a candidate that said all the right things in the interview and then quickly fell apart after being hired? Of course you have – that’s where we got the title of our book and popular Vistage and TEC Speaker Program, You’re NOT the Person I Hired. How about this scenario: Have you ever hired a candidate that was not a good interviewee – quite, reserved, shy, introverted – you took a risk and hired the person. They turned out to be one of your better hires. Their on-the-job performance level was outstanding. Of course this has happened to you.

How is it possible that sometimes the best interviewees are not the best performers and sometimes the worst interviewees are the best performers?

It happens because the traditional and tribal process of asking the 20 standard, stupid, inane, canned, and silly questions force us to judge candidates on how well they can interview, NOT how well can they do the job. Layer on top of that the fact that we accept superficial responses to these questions and you’ve got the likely probability your candidate will fail to achieve your expectations.

The first step in overcoming superficial interviewing is to ask the right questions. We’ve designed a simple system for interviewing based on 5 Core Interview Questions. The first three questions are based on the most important traits of success. The second two questions are based on whether the person can meet your expectations and achieve them in your unique culture or environment.

We’ll get into the 5 Core Interview questions and the rationale for asking them in a later blog post. To whet your appetite and not leave you hanging, here are the 5 Core Interview Questions. These are based on a collective 75 years of executive search with my partners, over a 1000 search assignments, 250,000 candidates interviewed, and 30,000 hiring managers and executives that have been through our “You’re NOT the Person I Hired” program. In addition, we’ve conducted surveys, research projects, and tracked successful candidates over a 25 year period. All of those measures and activities have brought us to these 5 core interview questions:

  1. Initiative: Can you give me an example of where you’ve demonstrated high initiative in your last position – going above and beyond the call of duty?
  2. Flawless Execution: Could you share with me a task or assignment – – and you had to overcome significant obstacles and hurdles?
  3. Leadership: Could you illustrate your leadership by telling us about an example – where you either were part of the team or led the team? What did you do specifically to help the team achieve their goals or results?
  4. Success Factors: One of our most critical success factors for this role is X. What have you done that is most similar, comparable, like that expectation?
  5. Adaptability: How would achieving this success factor in our environment differ from attempting to achieve it in your previous company?


Superficial Interviewing

Superficial interviewing is the process of taking whatever the candidate tells us and accepting it as the truth.

Let’s think about truth in interviewing for a moment. Think back on all the candidates you’ve ever met in the hiring process. What is the percentage of candidates who have lied, embellished, or exaggerated what they have done or what they thought they could do for you. If I think back over my last 200 presentations to Vistage and TEC groups, almost everyone thinks the number is 100%. I’ll suggest it’s somewhere between 120% and 140%. You might wonder – how could Barry come up with a number like this? It’s because candidates lie, embellish, and exaggerate more than once – 17 times on their resume, 26 times in the phone interview, 38 times in the face-to-face interview.

Many candidates feel comfortable lying, embellishing, and exaggerating because they know you’ll never probe, validate, verify, vet, check-out, confirm, cross-reference, or triangulate their responses. They feel it is okay to claim accomplishments their peers or bosses achieved, give themselves inflated titles, make up their education, and completely misrepresent their responsibilities.

Layer that on top of our usual level of desperation to get the job filled, and now you’ve got hiring executives and managers who don’t want to know the truth. You meet a candidate that you have a great rapport with immediately, and you’ll stop asking questions and start selling the job. If you keep probing, you might discover the candidate’s warts – you don’t want to know their warts – you’re already in love and you want them to get the job.

Our methodology of getting to the truth in interviewing and moving beyond asking silly questions that generate superficial responses is called the “Magnifying Glass Approach.” It encompasses asking for examples, peeling the onion on every claim, and obtaining precise details on the examples, such as starting points, quantification, budget, resources, names of those involved, costs reduced, metrics improved, goals hit, difficulties overcome, and solutions generated. It’s done by asking the candidate WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHERE, WHEN, and HOW?

It involves DOCUMENTING the details from their examples. It’s a form of interviewing that is rigorous and objective. It is IMPOSSIBLE for a candidate to make it up fast enough. They can either immediately substantiate their claims of achievements, results, and accomplishments with great detail and depth, OR they will self-implode before your very eyes within seconds.

Most hiring executives and manager ask the candidate a question, hear the response, then think to themselves “good answer”, and then move on to a different line of questioning. We glaze across the top of the interview thinking we’re doing a good job of collecting information. Instead of asking 15-20 different superficial interview questions that generate canned responses, let’s ask very few – but dig deeply into each one.

One of the most significant reasons behind hiring failure is the lack of time invested in conducting a rigorous and probing interview.

When should you STOP asking the 20 standard tribal interview questions, and STOP accepting superficial responses?

Two Reasons Interviewing Fails So Often

Do you have other people in your organization interview candidates that will end up working directly for you? Just about everyone answers “Yes” to this question. The follow up question to that is, “Have you ever sat in the interviews with these co-workers and assessed whether or not they are competent interviewers?” I don't mean co-interviewed with them. I mean assessed their interviewing abilities. Most answer “No” to this question.

You are relying on their opinion for someone that will play a role in your success, and many don't even know if they conducted  a competent interview.

Two reasons interviewing fails:

1) Incompetent people interviewing. This is by no means a knock on those people. The fact is, some people are naturally good interviewers, just like some people are a natural at music, sports, or math. However, most are not good interviewers, just like most are not good at music, sports, or math.

Interviewing is a skill that needs to be developed. Since very few people ever actually receive any training on how to properly interview, most just aren't good at it. We do a lot of interviewing training and most taking the course have either had no training or it was one short class years ago.  How can anyone expect these people to be competent at interviewing? Skills need to be practiced or at least kept up to date to be effective.

The one major flaw we have discovered that most poor interviewers make is not probing deeply into what the candidates tell them. The interviewer tends to just accept or reject what they are told. Few really probe for facts, time, data, outcomes, challenges, team issues, names, etc. They may ask one or two follow up questions, but most of the time these are pretty superficial. Teaching interviewers how to probe deeply is the biggest challenge we face in our workshops. Not that the person doesn't want to probe, they just don't know how or they are uncomfortable asking these level of questions.

2) Vague questions equal vague hires. This is often because those in the second or third round of interviews really don't understand the position. They interview every candidate much the same way regardless of position. It is the one size fits all interview syndrome.

Since most don't know the job, they ask vague, generic questions. The problem with this is that once the person comes on board the job expectations by the hiring authority are rarely vague and generic. At least in the hiring manager's mind, which often is completely different than the candidate's mind.

I have asked hundreds of hiring managers if they review in detail the job spec with the co-workers interviewing the candidates. Less than 10% say yes. So that means the other people interviewing just assume what is important, what specific issues need to be probed, and what questions they should ask to determine if the person is qualified for a job, they themselves don't even understand. Is it any wonder interviewing fails?

Interviewing doesn't have to be all that complicated. It doesn't have to be so sophisticated that a person needs to go through extensive training every time they need to interview. In fact, interviewing should be simple, thorough, and easy for everyone to understand.

If we told you that you and everyone else in your company that interviews could conduct simple, thorough, and probing interviews with just five core questions and six simple follow up words would you believe us? Well, it is true. Good interviewers can get about 80% of the information they need to decide whether or not the person can do the job with just these. If they can't pass these  five core questions, then all of the other questions may be irrelevant, so why ask them? For the five core questions CLICK HERE.

Once the interviewer has asked these five questions, then probing is required to fully understand the candidate's specific role. You can do a very deep probe with just six simple words. That is it, six words. For details of these CLICK HERE.

We preach, teach, and train in our workshops to make interviewing simpler and have competent people doing the interviewing. Incompetent interviewers asking a bunch of different questions, with no real objective, or worse yet, the interviewers having different objectives leads to a bad hires.

When this happens the company ends up hiring the good or great interviewee, rather than a good or great employee.

For more information on conducting in-depth, probing interviews using the five core questions, see our book “You're NOT The Person I Hired.” CLICK HERE to learn more.

Consider joining our How to Hire and Retain Top Talent LinkedIn group. It is free and provides a lot of resources for  hiring managers and companies. CLICK HERE to join.

Finally, our audio library is available for free downloads. This library contains over 20 audio recordings to help you attract,  hire and retain top talent. All these audio files are free. CLICK HERE to review the library.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Brad Remillard

How To Eliminate Embellishment When Hiring Sales People

The vast majority of hiring executives and managers are frustrated that the candidates they interview – especially sales professionals –  embellish and exaggerate what they’ve done or what they can do. In this radio broadcast, Barry and Brad talk about the specific techniques of interviewing, assessment, and evaluation. Barry and Brad discuss the precise techniques of validation, verification, and vetting for which very few candidates could possibly fake,  embellish, or exaggerate their answers. You’ll discover the proven simple techniques for which the candidates will either tell the truth or self-implode within minutes after just a few questions.

To listen to the complete radio show CLICK HERE to download the file.