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

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I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Brad

 

Networking . . . Part (3)

If you've been following the posts on this blog, you will recognize the similarity between the comments I have made about the art of networking with the comments made on the sales process. The sales skill ladder has four rungs: Product Based Selling, Solution Based Selling, Consultative Selling, and finally Trust Based Selling. As I've mentioned with respect to sales, the first three rungs are salesperson oriented. The fourth rung is truly, genuinely, authentically, client focused. We have the clients best interest at heart. It's the same for networking!

The networking ladder might be: Card Based Networking, Group Based Networking, My Strengths Based Networking and finally Trusted Relationship Networking. As before, the first three are focused on you and the highest rung is truly focused on helping others and trusting that what goes around will come around – without having that in the forefront of your mind when networking.

On the first rung, the so-called networker believes that s/he has had a great evening when they leave the dinner event with 25 or more cards. What a great night! Well, I highly doubt it. What that person has is a bunch of cards, but no knowledge of the persons giving them the cards. How could they? 25 cards in a couple of hours? How much time did they spend asking questions to find out how they could help the other person?

On the second rung, the networker is targeting a special interest group which makes things a bit more comfortable to contact people because there is a “common interest.” You can build on that common interest to develop a relationship. My observation is, however, that few people practice the art of finding out what they can do for the other person. They are still focused on their own needs.

On the third rung, the networker is now aware that they need to be showing how they add value. So they tend to speak to others about what they can do to solve common problems companies might be experiencing. However, the conversation is still focused on them even though they are touting their added value. This conversation is fine with someone who asks you how they might find potential employment/client opportunities. But it is for AFTER they ask you to explain, not before.

The fourth rung of the networking ladder is where the accomplished networker spends most of her/his time. They ask lots of questions about the other person. They are genuinely interested in the other person. They are the ones who leave a huge dinner event with only three cards. They've spent a minimum of 20 minutes with each of those persons getting to know what they do, how the came to be where they are, what their interests are, and what is going on in their lives that might offer an opportunity for assistance of some kind. They make a promise to do something to help the other person and then they make sure they do it. They are careful to choose groups and events that will attract the people they want in their network. They are all about developing trust and serving others. Authentically, with no quid pro quo expected.

This is definitely not a new concept. I've observed that very few sales folks, even highly effective sales folks, understand Trust Based Selling. I've noticed that the most effective networkers DO understand Trust Based Selling and they carry it over to their networking activities. Those who fail at networking are also pretty poor sales people; they are inconsistent in their results and their customers are not at all loyal.

Here are some resources on these topics:
Never Eat Alone – by Keith Ferrazzi
Trusted Advisor – by David Maister
Trust Based Selling – by Charles Green
Other great resources might be Think and Grow Rich (mastermind concepts), How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Tiberias Success Factor.

What are you doing to network properly? Are you building long term relationships or collecting contacts?

Download our 8 Point Hiring Process Assessment Scorecard. Use this to ensure your hiring methodology is as effective as it can be for 2010.

Would all your employees describe your culture the same way? This a critical when networking and hiring. Our Cultural Assessment Worksheet will help you ensure you have a consistent understanding of your business culture.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after Business Advisor and Mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.

Networking . . . Part (2)

In a previous post, I got on my soapbox concerning networking etiquette and what I believe networking really is all about, and that is building trust and long term relationships. I mentioned that it is a long and difficult process. It is also highly rewarding. If you buy into my concept of networking, then you are also likely recognizing that you can never stop networking; even when gainfully employed.

This situation, continuous networking, is not at all unlike the dilemma I discovered when I founded my consultancy. While I'm delivering services, I'm not marketing. Inevitably, I'd wake up one day and realize I had “no place to go.” And then I'd start the long process of marketing again and hope that something turned up soon. The same is true if you're a “W2 employee” and you let your network lapse while you are focused on your job at the company you serve. At some point, you will realize it's time for you to “move on,” and you'll have to scramble to build your network.

So how do we address this situation? I have no silver bullet to offer. My sense is that the only thing to do is to make sure you keep a core group of maybe ten to twenty really close relationships alive and well no matter what you are doing. That way, it will take less time to reconstruct a meaningful network when the time comes. Find ways to stay in touch and help your key network relationships. Send useful articles, keep up to date on what they are doing, meet for coffee or a quick, early breakfast. Stay focused on them.

There may be some help here in using the now “hot” technology of social networking software. It's amazing how well LinkedIn works to help me stay in touch with colleagues. I'm now exploring using this blog, Facebook, and Twitter as a way of staying in touch and providing value. I'm not sure what will finally shake out as being the most effective, but I'm giving it the good old “college try.” You might want to explore using technology to help you keep in touch with your network as well. Remember though, it's about providing value, not self-serving.

Data I've seen in multiple places indicates that “C-Suite” positions last an average of 24 to 36 months. “C-Suite” executives do not find their next assignment on Monster or other media. They find it through their network. So you'll need your network every 2 or 3 years and it takes a year, minimum, to build a solid network of colleagues. It's not what you know, it's not even who you know. It's really who knows you. And as we've discussed, that means you have to be genuinely interested in knowing and supporting those in your network first.

Download our 8 Point Hiring Process Assessment Scorecard. Use this to ensure your hiring methodology is as effective as it can be for 2010.

Would all of your employees describe your culture the same way? This is critical when networking and hiring. Our Cultural Assessment Worksheet will help you to ensure that you have a consistent understanding of your business culture.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after Business Advisor and Mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.

Networking . . . Part (1)

I've managed, somehow, to develop a network of colleagues who will often refer folks to me for many different reasons; potential clients, business owners, and increasingly executives in transition. This economy has become very challenging for everyone.

What strikes me is that there is so little knowledge about what networking really is all about. Many very accomplished salespeople, executives, business owners and “C-suite” folks THINK they know, but the evidence is to the contrary.

I receive a fair amount of “introductions” to people through e-mail. It's another sign of the times and I too use e-mail to introduce people. After one such recent introduction, the person introduced contacted me by e-mail. Attached was a very detailed resume (bad in itself) and another document of “target companies.” The body of the e-mail said essentially; “Hi, I'm glad so-and-so introduced us. I'm working to expand my network. I'm a high level executive . . . blah, blah, blah!” This went on for a couple of paragraphs and then the person asked for three or four names from my Rolodex that might be good contacts for them.

Then came the clincher: “I know networking is about helping others. Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help you.” Right. Ninety-nine percent of first communication is about you, 1% is an after thought, throw away sentence acknowledging the recipient and that's going to fly? I think not.

Networking, properly done, is always and only about what you can do to help the other person. Not about getting something for yourself. The person above did not have permission from me, did not yet know me, and should never have assumed I care about his plight/resume/target companies or anything else. I certainly am not going to introduce him to my network of trusted colleagues (who in turn trust me not to waste their time) based on that e-mail and attachments. Here's a hard message for folks in transition to internalize: “Nobody cares about you.” . . . . Yet.

Instead, in building your network, it is critical to be authentically interested in helping the other person. The universe is indifferent, but generally fair in that “what goes around comes around.” You can't fake this. It will be sensed that you are being manipulative – “S/he's only acting interested because s/he wants something.” You have to build trust, give me a sense that you have my best interest at heart (or at least don't intend to just “use me.”)

That's why it takes a very long time to build a network. If you are introduced to me by one of my trusted inner circle of colleagues, then you have a leg up. Don't destroy that budding trust by assuming you have permission to sell me something or ask me a favor.

So how do I go about this myself? Well, not perfectly for sure. Here's what I attempt to do and actually do accomplish when I'm at my best. I would write that e-mail when Joe introduces me to Sue, copy both and say something along the lines of: “Hi Joe and Sue. Thanks for the introduction Joe. I am always willing to reach out to someone in your network of colleagues. Sue, I'd love to know more about what you're doing these days. Joe introduced us believing that in some way our relationship might be beneficial. Do you have any time over the next couple of weeks for a quick cup of coffee or a phone call? Let me know and we'll try to match calendars.”

I would then go out of my way to figure out how I can do something to help Sue. Find an article or perhaps make an introduction to someone else that would be mutually beneficial. I would only share about my own situation and how Sue can help me after she asks for that information. Which will only be after she has some feeling of trust that I'm not focused only on me and my own needs. If I'm focused on my own needs, then I don't have her best interests at heart. If I don't have her best interests at heart she cannot trust me to do what's right, only what works for me.

Think about this. If you are introduced to someone as a possible beneficial relationship, do not burn the bridge with the new connection by being focused on yourself. Also, when you “blow the introduction,” you will cause damage to the person who introduced you in the first place. They won't make the mistake of bringing you into their network again. This takes time. This is difficult. This takes lots of energy because you really do have to do something for someone else, not just hang your resume on every phone pole. If you're going to try to network, then learn the intricacies. This is not a game for amateurs.

Download our 8 Point Hiring Process Assessment Scorecard. Use this to ensure your hiring methodology is as effective as it can be for 2010.

Would all of your employees describe your culture the same way? This is critical when networking and hiring. Our Cultural Assessment Worksheet will help you to ensure that you have a consistent understanding of your business culture.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after Business Advisor and Mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.