In my 32-years business career, mainly in executive management positions, I hired many people. In hindsight, some were exceptional, others fitted well, but a few did not pan out. Hiring the right person was challenging. It was an area I researched, discussed with professionals, yet each senior-level-hire created anxiety.
Typically the job specification and description were available so we knew the job to be done and the profile of the person needed. Then, we provided equal opportunity for all potential candidates so we might get the best person for the job.
What was my problem? How would I get to know each candidate? How would I penetrate résumés, application forms, and personal letters’ facades to learn about each person? I was sure each individual would have a super résumé, and probably be well coached. Candidates understood they were marketing their skills and needed to perform exceptionally during the employment search process. And usually they acted brilliantly.
How did I cope with the challenge? In two ways: First, I ignored résumés. Second, I tried to focus on the person and not the job requirements.
People are the most important part of every business. Without committed, dedicated people, a business will be sub-optimal. Some organizations with poor human resources’ practices will appear to do well in the short-term; however, to be exceptional–and I wanted long-term, outstanding performance–every business should create conditions so people are trusted, respected, and valued.
Why did I ignore résumés? They are marketing tools and recruiters should view them accordingly. Many prospective professional candidates know research conducted by TheLadders, an online job-matching service for professionals, found recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing a résumé before making the first decision on candidates. That’s why job applicants try to present the most impressive résumés to get that first phone call from a hiring company.
Besides, according to a Business Insider study, 31% of people lied on their résumés. Candidates overstate accomplishments, extend work experiences, fabricate degrees. Indeed, one of my failed recruiting activities resulted from a senior professional who lied about his qualifications. He seemed to be the perfect candidate; ostensibly with the right experience, needed qualifications, he performed exceptionally in interviews. But somehow our human resources people did not catch his fake degree. Not surprisingly, shortly after hiring him, we fired him.
To my second point: Why didn’t I discuss job requirements with candidates? The person is more important than the job. Each person is unique. I needed to know this person. Who is he or she? What makes her tick? What attitude will she bring to the organization?
Essentially, I tried to look at her character, her temperament, personality–all highly subjective traits. It was relatively easy to check candidates’ experiences and qualifications; however, assessing the candidate’s character was different.
Sure we can do personality tests; but, there are potential issues with them. I prefer to chat with the person; ideally with the talk balance 75% for the candidate.
Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in their book, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, suggest businesses select people with character; people whose attitudes will redefine how a job is done. The authors say they resist the temptation to hire people whose skills are a good match for how a job is already configured; instead, they hire folks whose talents will redefine the job.
That’s what I did for each hire. I looked for someone with character who would respond well to being valued highly and treated with dignity and respect. I wanted a passionate, motivated, reliable, teachable, loyal, and communicative person–character traits difficult to discern in a traditional interview; but which ooze out when we allow candidates to relax and talk in a non-threatening environment.
© 2014, Michel A. Bell
Michel A. Bell is author of five books, speaker, founder and president of Managing God’s Money, and adjunct professor of business administration at Briercrest College and Seminary. For information on Managing God’s Money, visit www.managinggodsmoney.com.