Eight Steps to Improve Your Hiring Practices

By Eric Herrenkohl, Herrenkohl Consulting

I first realized how unscientific the hiring process was in most companies when I worked as a recruiter in the financial arena. I was placing CFOs, Controllers, and other financial personnel with some highly regarded companies.

My clients were very successful senior executives. Yet there hiring process was unstructured and ineffective. They were, of course, very busy people. They would emerge from a meeting and head to the conference room where they were to interview a candidate.

Often, they would read the resume as they walked to the interview. Once with the candidate, they would often spend too much time talking and not enough time asking questions and listening. After the interview was completed, they would stop by the office of someone else who had interviewed the person and ask that perennial question: so, what did you think about that guy?

This is no way to run an interview. If you are falling into some of these traps, then consider adding some or all of the steps below to reduce hiring mistakes:

  1. Determine an A-Player Profile. In my new book How to Hire A-Players, I ask the question: would you know an A-player if you met one? How so? What would tell you that an individual you currently employee or that someone you are interviewing is an A-player? I know this sounds obvious, but you would be surprised at the lack of clarity within companies about the profile of an ideal candidate. If you don't know exactly who you are looking for, you and your team will be slow to agree upon and actively pursue the right people.
  2. Look for overall patterns of accomplishment. The best way to reduce hiring mistakes in an interview is to get a very clear picture of someone's overall pattern of accomplishments in their life and career. Then, compare that pattern to your A-Player Profile for the role. Unlike mutual funds, with people past performance is the best indicator of future results.
  3. Ask initial screening questions to weed out unqualified people. For example, some roles require that applicants have certain software expertise or industry experience. If you can't determine this from the resume, ask about these abilities early in a phone screen. If someone does not meet these minimum criteria, they are eliminated and the phone interview is over.
  4. Starting with their most recent role, confirm their dates of employment, including both the month and the year. People often fudge these dates - you want to verify them.
  5. For each role, ask questions specifically designed to dig into their accomplishments. The best overall question to ask is: Please tell me briefly about the top accomplishments for which you were personally responsible while employed in this role?
  6. Ask follow-up questions that keep the candidate talking. These questions include: How did you do that? Why so? Please tell me how you made that happen? What were the most important steps you took to make that happen? Such open-ended questions dig beneath a candidate's initial, pre-planned answers and programmed responses to find out what he or she really did.
  7. Take verbatim notes: I have found that jotting down the word-for-word responses that people provide during interviews is helpful. When you go back and look at your notes, those verbatim quotes will help you to recall the person's strengths and weaknesses.
  8. Score each candidate: Create a scorecard for yourself using the A-Player Profile that you created. Give candidate's a score for each key area in the profile as well as an overall score. This helps you to objectively compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of all the people you interview.

In the end, it is your job as an interviewer to gain a complete picture of the accomplishments, failures, strengths and weaknesses of each person you interview. Then, you compare that picture to your A-player profile for the job. By taking this approach, you uncover more about job candidates than your typical interview and determine the person who best fits the role. The end result will be fewer hiring mistakes and more A-players hired.

Eric Herrenkohl is the author of the upcoming book How to Hire A-Players: Finding the Top People for Your Team - Even if You Don't Have a Recruiting Department, published by Wiley and in bookstores everywhere April 12, 2010. He is also President of Herrenkohl Consulting, a firm devoted to helping business owners create the organizations they need to build the businesses they want. Contact Eric at eric@herrenkohlconsulting.com.

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