I’m a big fan of Jim Collins. He’s the author who wrote Good to Great. He has a saying I love to use. You need to get the right person in the right seat. I think having the wrong people is one of the things that keeps good firms from being great. They don’t always get the right person.
I think the main reason for this is because most firms think that hiring is an art. I don’t. I think hiring is a process where you can get it right 75% or more of the time. But, only if you have a process. And, if the process isn’t easy you’re not going to use it. Here’s one that I’ve used for over 30 years that’s brought me lots of success.
A personal story.
During my first twenty years in business I owned a food service company where we fed people who worked in factories. We did this through vending machines and cafeteria’s we operated. Getting the right people was always a challenge. Most of the time, we were just plainly lucky when we hired the right person.
Then in 1979 I found a book that saved our life. It was titled Robert Half on Hiring. This book gave me a very simple system that Robert Half used with his executive recruiting firm. We tried it. Lo and behold, we went from being lucky to being successful over 75% of the time. Here’s how we did it.
Let’s start with a simple synopsis.
The system is what we call the will do, can do, fit factor method of hiring. We make a list of what we’re looking for in each of these three areas. We write down no more than five items under each heading. Everyone involved in the hiring process ranks the person their speaking with on a scale of 1 to 10 with
10 being perfect.
Once we started being disciplined about the traits we were looking for, it became easy for us to figure out who the right person was for us to hire. Does this sound like something you would be able to do in your firm?
Start with fit.
I know that you want to start with can do or technical skills first. Don’t do this. If you do, you can get yourself a brilliant jerk that comes to work with you. I can promise you one thing, you don’t want a brilliant jerk. You want the right person. Fit is the only way you get those people.
Fit is pretty simple. Just write down a list of what it takes to fit into your firm. Make the list as long as you want. Then choose the top five items on the list. These are the most important traits your best employees have. It’s what makes it fun to work with your co-workers. It’s the attitude that your people bring to work every day.
Believe me. If you don’t start with fit, you’re hiring process will never be great.
Then think about what this person will actually have to do.
Next comes what we call will do factors. This means will your candidate have lots of energy for the activities that you want them to do? If you need this person to do lots of research you’re going to need to have a person who has tons of energy for details and research. If you need an outside sales person, you’re going to need a person who leans towards extroversion and enjoys socializing with others.
If you ignore this trait, you might get someone who fits in really well but just doesn’t have the energy to do what you need them to do for success. This is where problems occur. You have a specific job with specific activities attached to that job. Make sure you spend time thinking about what these activities are and the type of energy needed for them to be done successfully.
Finally, look at their technical skills.
Too often you start and stop with a technical audit of potential candidates. Yes, you do need to have technical skills for success. I have to tell you that this is far and away the easiest part of new employee screening. You’re going to be able to quickly and easily figure out whether your candidate can do the job you have open based on their technical skills.
Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is the most important thing. I think of technical skills as table stakes. You can’t consider a potential team member if they don’t have them. Once I get a yes on this, I concentrate on fit factors and will do activities for someone who I want to join my team.
Make sure you find people to talk to.
This is usually called the reference check. There are two types of people to speak with. The first are formal references that your candidate provides. The second is what you find by poking around social media.
Make sure all of the candidates you’re considering connect with you on Linked In. That way you can look through their connections and find those you might know. These people will always have a more honest conversation with you than any of the formal references. I can tell you that it’s much easier today going through this process than it was twenty-five years ago in our food service business.
At the end of the day it’s all about having a great system.
There is a problem with this hiring system. It’s the fact that it’s a system. If you decide that hiring can be systematized then you’re going to have to first put the system in place. I can promise you that it will be worth the time and effort. The second is you’re going to have to demand that everyone in your firm uses the system.
When we first started using this process in my vending company we didn’t start off with total adoption. When we used the system we got the right people. When we didn’t it was pure luck. With just a little effort you can also improve your hiring. Isn’t that something you want?