“She Seemed Perfect For The Position.” What Went Wrong?

These are the exact words of a CEO I was recently talking with about a search to replace a candidate they had hired six months earlier and wasn't performing.  The CEO explained how they had spent a lot of time with the candidate, she had multiple interviews, she completed a DISC assessment, and simply put, “We all loved her for the position.” Yet, after all of this effort the person wasn't able to perform.  It all seemed very perplexing.

My partner, Barry Deutsch, and I have heard this same story many times in our  collective 50 years+ as recruiters and in our hiring best practices workshops. One thing we can all agree on is that something went wrong. Although no hiring process in the world will get 100% results, it is possible to raise the hiring accuracy to  the 80% level.  That is pretty good considering studies have shown that traditional hiring methods produce candidates that meet or exceed the hiring manager's expectations around 56% of the time. This shows that something is going wrong with hiring in many companies.

I started by asking two questions to better understand how they went about hiring this “perfect” candidate.

  1. I asked if she would email me the job description. It was very traditional. It was mostly focused on the candidate's background and experience, not the job. In reality it was a people description, not a job description. It had great detail about all of the experience they wanted the person to have, education, years of experience, all the behavioral traits, a very comprehensive list of duties, tasks, and responsibilities, and requirements for management and leadership. Over all it was well thought out and I know they spent a lot of time developing it.
  2. The next thing I asked her was, “Have you audited, not co-interviewed, but audited whether the people in the hiring process are even competent interviewers?” She said, “No.” So another classic problem reared its ugly head. What if just one wasn't competent at interviewing? Interviewing is only as good as the worst interviewer on the hiring team. People often assume that just because a person has hired in the past they must be good interviewers. This is just not true.

It was easy now to identify why this person, that everybody loved, may not have worked out.

  1. The job description didn't really define the real job. It defined a person everyone expected  or thought could do the job, because they had done it before. Not true. Just because someone has done the job before it may make them a great X, but it doesn't make them the right X for your position. This is positively the number one biggest hiring mistake.
  2. The people doing the interviews were not trained and since the job description didn't describe the real job, most just conducted a generic interview. They asked the same questions they were asked in interviews. They assumed what the real job was and asked if the person had ever done these tasks before. Which of course they had, as it was obvious from the resume.  Add to that the likability factor and is it any wonder why this hire went wrong?

If she wants to hire a successful person, the first step is defining success in the role. Few job descriptions actually do this. Most define a person's background and experience along with the very basic duties and tasks. Neither of which define success. If the person only performed the listed duties and tasks most would not consider this a top talent hire. She had to define outcomes. What level of performance is this person going to be held accountable to? Even the basic duties have an expected level of high performance. For example, process X number of invoices per hour, make X number of sales call per week, receive a score of X or higher on customer feedback forms, respond to all customers within 24 hours, and so on. Now this defines performance and success.

Then she had to develop interviewing questions that determine the person's ability to deliver this level of success. Now the people interviewing are actually interviewing with a purpose. Not just a free for all. Everyone understands what  the goals are and what questions to ask. It is not random. The people interviewing are now focused on determining the candidate's ability to deliver these results.

Finally, the candidate also knows what will be expected of them when they come on board. In some cases this will scare off those good solid below average performers. Once they know what is expected of them they may not want the job. This is a good thing.

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.

Brad

 

Four Things Companies Do To Shoot Themselves In The Foot When Hiring – Part 2

I recently asked over one hundred CEOs and their key executives, “Is hiring top talent critical to the success of your organization?” Not surprising that 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 – Discussed in part 1.

2) Poorly Defined Job – Discussed in part 1.

3) Finding candidates – This is one of the biggest problems faced by companies. This happens as a result of number two. Most companies search for the least qualified to start with. Then they complain that all they are seeing is unqualified candidates.

The other issue causing this problem is that most companies start the hiring process too late. They wait until they absolutely need someone. Then they expect that when they are ready to hire someone, at that moment in time, top talent will also magically appear on the market, find them, and be so compelled after reading the minimum job description to update their resume, and respond. YEAH and a multimillion dollar customer will also magically call too.

Reactive hiring is a thing of the past. Hiring top talent requires proactive hiring. This means your hiring managers must be in the market engaging people all the time. They should be connecting with people on LinkedIn, involved in professional associations, and commit at least an hour or two a month to hiring. Few managers spend any time engaging potential candidates when they aren't actively hiring. In fact, many even discard resumes as they come in if they aren't hiring. Finding top talent doesn't take a lot of time each month, but it does take a consistent monthly effort of an hour or two.

4) Disrespecting the Candidates – Top talent, especially those candidates who are working and in no hurry to make a job change (referred to as passive candidates) will walk away from a manager or company if they aren't respected in the interviewing process.

Some common complaints that left candidates feeling disrespected include:

  • The hiring manager being late for the interview. Few managers would accept it if the candidate was late, so why should it be OK for the manager?
  • Lack of  preparation by the interviewer. Again, if the candidate came in unprepared would that be acceptable?
  • Taking calls during the interview.
  • Finally, telling the candidate that if they have any further questions to call them. Then ignoring the calls. If managers don't respect the candidate during the hiring process, it isn't going to get any better once they are hired.

The interview is a PR event. These candidates will make sure others know how they were treated. They may post it on a website or hear about a person they know is interviewing and ask them about their experience. Bad PR is never a good thing. This is an easy thing to fix. It only takes treating candidates the same way you would treat a customer.

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.

Brad

Do Unemployed Candidates Stink?

Holding your nose because the candidate your considering stinks or has a stigma attached to them

What’s your bias regarding unemployed candidates? Do they have a stink or have a stigma attached to them?

I’ve been doing executive search for 25 years and the bias of the vast majority of hiring managers/executives is to consider a candidate who has been out of work (especially one with long-term unemployment) to be “damaged goods”. Something must be wrong with them if they’ve been out of work for so long. Do you subscribe to this theory? Many of my clients who have been out of work for an extended period of time apply a different standard to the potential members of their team.

Why do we have this bias?

I’ll admit I have a pretty powerful biased and judgmental approach to candidates who have been out of work – even during a recession. Historically, I’ve always felt that a top caliber candidate should have an extraordinary network in place, and bring the same passion, initiative, and energy to their job search that they bring to work everyday. The last 3 plus years of this recession have rocked that assumption a little – and I’m trying to reconcile it (but I’m not being very successful changing my historical bias).

I’m always willing to make an exception to the rule. I try to be open and not run my search business on a series of “absolute” rules. Unfortunately, my bias toward out of work candidates – perhaps based on some tribal myth – is hard to overcome. For example, I recently placed a VP of Sales and Marketing with one of my clients where the specification for the job was so narrow, the very best candidate had been out of work for a year (by the way, I cannot remember the last time I placed a candidate that was not currently working). The big issue was if he can’t put the energy into finding a job, how can we expect him to bring a high level of energy to this role.

I spent an excessive amount of time validating the candidate’s energy, passion, focus, and initiative. He was clearly the best candidate for the job. However, I still have this nagging sensation at the back of my neck as to why he had been out of work for a year. When I dug really deep with him, I discovered that he conducted a terrible job search as if it was 1970 – which unfortunately is the strategy most executives apply when they’ve been forced to look for a job for the first time in 15-20 years. Is that an appropriate excuse or rationalization for conducting a terrible and ineffective job search?

That raised a number of other questions for me about the candidate. If he didn’t know how to conduct a job search, shouldn’t he have done research to discover current best practices, methods, tips, and techniques in this “new normal” of job searching in a digital age with tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter? 90% of this information is free on the internet on blogs (like the one we write for executive job search candidates), and wide range of other sites, such as jobsearch.about.com. I believe Steven Covey called this being “unconsciously incompetent.” We don’t know what we don’t know. Should my candidate have realized he was unconsciously incompetent in conducting a job search, and focused on learning everything he could about an effective executive job search?

The answer is YES!

Just attending a few networking meetings with other people who are up to speed on an effective job search should have given him a clue that he was not conducting a job search that would generate an abundance of leads and opportunities. Most executives and managers spend the vast majority of their job search applying to open positions advertised on job boards. This is the same technique as reading the want ads in the paper 30-40 years ago. The result is pretty much the same now as it was back then.

The vast majority of jobs are not advertised. They are buried in the hidden job market. Studies show that the hidden job market is probably 80% or more of all open managerial and executive roles. If that’s true, shouldn’t a job search candidate at this level conduct a search focused on the hidden job market and uncovering those opportunities vs. the passive approach of answering ads?

What does this say about my candidate? Can we extrapolate that he’s passive? Would a top caliber candidate bring a different level of energy and initiative to their job search vs. their on the job performance?

What do you think? I’d love to see your thoughts in the comments to this blog and the experiences if you’ve had being unemployed, and your experiences of interviewing or hiring candidates that were unemployed.

Barry Deutsch

 

P.S. Download a FREE version of our famous e-book You're NOT the Person I Hired if you would like to learn how to improve your hiring accuracy and success.

Download our FREE e-book - You're NOT the Person I Hired

3 Sales Managers In 3 Years. Whose Fault Is It?

Q. In the last three years we have hired and fired three sales managers. The last one lasted only 3 months. They all seem to have the right experience, skills and they interview well. Once on board though they either don’t seem to deliver the sales or don’t fit. Any suggestions on how to get it right on the next go around?

This is not always due to a bad hire. I find it is often due to poor alignment of the job expectations and communications with the new sales person. It might be different in your case, but clearly something is out of alignment for this to happen three times.

Start by making sure that the expectations for the sales manager are clear, measurable, time based and in writing.  I would recommend having these laid out in 3, 6 and 9 month intervals. This allows both you and the candidate to measure progress and adjust accordingly.

Secondly, I find that when a new hire is let go in such a short period of time communications is a big issue. A candidate should never be surprised when let go. There should be regular one-on-one meetings with their boss during the first 4 months. These should be at least monthly if all is going well and possibly weekly if things need to be recalibrated.  When these regular meetings don't happen, the candidate often believes everything is going great or my boss would have told me it wasn't. So instead of fixing the problem, it continues. Then the candidate is terminated and is justifiably confused, as they thought all was well.  These meetings are a critical component of the on-boarding process and often help save a good hire from turning into a bad hire.

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.

Brad Remillard

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