Jul 19

10 Tips To Make Great Hiring Decisions

Heinz Landau
Heinz Landau is a seasoned business leader who has gained valuable working and leadership experience on three different continents.

Your career will succeed or fail largely on your decisions regarding other people. Great leaders assemble outstanding teams to help them in achieving their company’s vision and implementing their strategy.

Here are 10 tips for making great hiring decisions:

1. Make sure that a standardized recruitment process is in place.

Every manager thinks that he can do well in interviewing candidates. However, managers often overlook that a standardized, disciplined process is necessary to improve the quality of assessments. Therefore, senior line managers need to be educated and trained in proven interview techniques. The higher the candidate’s hierarchical position in the company is, the costlier the mistake will become in case of a wrong selection.

Apart from the relevant line managers, the HR (= Human Resources) – Department needs to be involved in the interview process. Interviews need to be well-structured and behaviour-based.

2. Specify clearly which skills and experience are relevant for the job.

Don’t rely on generic competency models. Discuss with the key decision makers about the job requirements. Be clear which qualities the successful job candidate should have.

Employee job descriptions provide an opportunity to clearly communicate your company direction. They tell the employee where he fits inside of the big picture. Employee job descriptions should set clear expectations for what you expect from people.

3. Look for internal and external candidates.

If you always look only for external candidates to fill your vacancy, your existing employees will get demotivated and frustrated. Look for internal candidates first. However, if you are looking for real change, because you are dissatisfied with the state of affairs at your company or in that area where the job vacancy is, an outsider will typically be the better choice.

4. Look for a candidate that will fit the company’s culture.

Make sure that the potential candidate shares the same values as your company and that he can relate to your company’s vision. In my previous company, even our online – application form contained already questions in this regard in order to qualify or disqualify the candidate for a job interview.

Some sample questions: “How do you think you can make a contribution to our company’s vision that reads …?” “Please describe an example where you were able to create innovation at your current / previous company or at your university.”

5. Check for the soft skills of the candidate.

I am a strong believer that soft skills play a highly important role in the workplace and in one’s career success (and, of course, in one’s private life, too). According to management guru and psychologist Daniel Goleman, soft skills matter twice as much as IQ (= Intelligence Quotient) or technical skills in job success.

Soft skills are relating to a person’s EQ (= Emotional Intelligence Quotient). They are behavioural competencies. They are also known as interpersonal skills or people skills. They include proficiencies such as effective communication, leadership skills, problem-solving, conflict resolution and negotiating, team-building skills, influencing skills, listening skills, self-awareness etc.

Soft skills are not a replacement for hard – or technical – skills, but they are complementary.

One of my favourite questions in interviews is: “Please describe a situation where you had to influence others without having the formal authority.”

6. Consider whether it is the right job for the candidate too.

Don’t think only about your and your company’s needs, but think also whether it makes sense for the candidate to take the job. Describe the job realistically to him. Don’t discuss only the positives of the job, but also point out potential challenges he will face.

Think about whether for the candidate taking this job is the next logical step in his career. If I fail to see that, I don’t hire that person. And also consider the impact on the person’s life and his family (issues like re-location, traveling time, adequate amount of time to spend with spouse and children etc.).

7. Ensure compensation equity.

Make sure that the compensation package that you offer the job candidate is also fair to other employees (internal equity; job position in comparison to the compensation provided to others in line with the organizational hierarchy).

Do the market pricing analysis for the job candidate (external equity; compensation package in line with competitors’ or industry standards).

In my experience, it always paid off to go beyond market rates when I came across top talent for a key position. However, I have done that rather rarely and only in selected cases.

And one more word of caution: be aware that job candidates that join you only for the money, will also leave you for the money. That means, such candidates jump to the next employer as soon as they receive a higher offer. Therefore, always check out the job candidate’s genuine motivation to join you.

8. Make sure you have a proper on-boarding system.

Integrating a new employee into a company is an important step and takes a significant amount of time. Already the first day of the new employee at your company is essential, since it makes a lasting first impression (on the positive as well as on the negative side). Assigning a sponsor to the newcomer for the first few months and having a process where the HR Department checks regularly ( e.g. after one day, one week, one month, three months, six months and one year) how the new employee is doing, have proven useful in my previous company.

9. Be consequent.

Despite thorough considerations, companies as well as candidates make wrong choices. There is no point for companies to hang on to bad hires. I f you realize that you made a mistake in hiring a person (hopefully a rare case, depending on the quality of your recruitment process), and after having given him a fair chance over a period of time, seek a conversation with the employee.

Let him know that he is not in the right job or not in the right company. Don’t shy away from this talk and this decision. It is not fair to the employee to let him continue to struggle. He will notice anyway that he doesn’t get recognition for his work.

Typically, it is a lose-lose situation (employee not happy / boss and company not happy) that needs to be addressed. Although it often is a painful decision, I have seen many cases where people became afterwards happy at another type of job that suited them more or in another company where they were a better cultural fit.

To be fair (and caring), I encourage employees to show the same consequence, if they are unhappy at work. When I give a welcome speech to a group of new employees, they are always astonished when I tell them: “In case, you are not happy at your work place, don’t just stay on. Talk to your boss, talk to colleagues, talk to the HR Department, or talk to me. Address the issue. But don’t just keep silent. Life is too short to hang around in a place that you don’t enjoy!

To be fair (and caring), I encourage employees to show the same consequence, if they are unhappy at work. When I give a welcome speech to a group of new employees, they are always astonished when I tell them: “In case, you are not happy at your work place, don’t just stay on. Talk to your boss, talk to colleagues, talk to the HR Department, or talk to me. Address the issue. But don’t just keep silent. Life is too short to hang around in a place that you don’t enjoy!

10. Hold line managers accountable for the quality of their people.

It is important to regularly review the recruiting practices. And in this context, all assessors should be held accountable for the quality of their evaluations.

Always keep in mind:

The decisions you make about job candidates and about your employees are pivotal to your company. And they are the most powerful contributor to your career success.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 at 09:27 and is filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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Leave a comment

  1. Matthias zur Bonsen says:

    I like especially item 2. It has another advantage that was not mentioned. If we have a very clear picture of the kind of person we are looking for, than we have an INTENTION. And an INTENTION can lead to astonishing results. E.g. suddenly the right person is calling us although we haven’t advertised the job yet. With a clear INTENTION the chance is much higher that we find right person for the job at hand.

  2. elan says:

    I like the EQ point. Here is an opportunity to ask experiential questions. Candidates are given the opportunity to share their experiences. So much can be observed and absorbed from their response.

  3. Heinz Landau Heinz says:

    Dear Elan,

    Thank you for your comment. And thanks again once more, since you are the one who has been teaching me asking experiential questions.

  4. Tom Sorensen says:

    Great article Heinz. Congratulations. You have captured very well what I preach as headhunter when working with both our clients and candidates.

  5. Heinz Landau Heinz says:

    Thank you, Tom, for your kind feedback.