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How to Make the Hiring Leap From Good to Great

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If you’re wondering just how effective (or ineffective) your hiring process is, finding out is actually pretty simple. All you need to do to evaluate the quality of your company’s hiring processes is to categorize the results you’ve had over the past year or two into the four buckets listed below.

As you bucket your hires, in most cases there will be a big bulge in the middle. This represents the classic “make no mistakes” approach to hiring. Unfortunately, this same approach eliminates the high potential and diverse candidates who enable a company to raise the talent bar. Surprisingly, the biggest problem is when the mix is all over the board. This means your hiring process is totally out of control.

Here are the four buckets your hires fall into:

1. The mistake prone

When you hire too many people who should never have been hired in the first place, it indicates you have a fundamental problem with your hiring process. In these cases usually the decision to hire was rushed, background checking was superficial or ignored, the focus of the interview was on a narrow subset of the skills or the interviewing team overvalued the person’s presentation skills and energy involved in getting the job.

2. The partially competent

Whenever a manager overvalues technical skills over soft skills the results are quickly obvious. Here are some of the likely symptoms: Poor cross-functional collaboration, an inability to meet deadlines and budgets, an inability to influence others regardless of the merits of the person’s point of view, overthinking and underdoing and missing the big picture. Here’s a post that will instantly help you assess these critical soft skills. As I’ve said many times before: Soft skills are too important to be called soft.

3. The competent but unmotivated

If the bulk of your hires are people who have plenty of skills and demonstrate the full set of generic competencies (e.g., great soft skills, results oriented, good communication skills, affable, etc.) but are not motivated to do the work required, the cause is easy to spot: They were hired for the wrong reasons.

Being motivated to get the job is not the same as being motivated to do the job. So unless job expectations are clarified before the job is posted, you’ll be attracting, filtering and assessing people on the wrong criteria. If the candidate ultimately accepts the job without knowing if the job is a true career opportunity then he/she will overvalue the short-term merits (compensation, title, location, company reputation) rather than which job meets his/her intrinsic motivators for growth and satisfaction.

4. The fully competent and highly motivated

These are your company’s true leaders and they weren’t hired by chance. Most were referred or direct sourced. As important, when accepting your offer they saw the job as the best career opportunity among competing alternatives. Aside from stopping all of the mistakes described above, here’s what I recommend as the best approach for hiring these top tier candidates.

How to hire more of the fully competent and highly motivated

When starting on a recruiting assignment, ask the hiring manager to define what the person needs to accomplish in the first year to be considered a top tier performer. The answer is always 5-6 performance objectives that describe some specific task, the action or leadership role the person hired needs to take and some measurable result. For example, “Lead the preparation of the three-year product roadmap with engineering and operations.”

Next, force the hiring manager to describe the upside career opportunity if the person is successful. With this performance-based job description in hand, drive the point home by saying, “In order to find people who are both fully competent and motivated to do this work we must stop filtering them on their skills, experiences, whether they’re active or passive and their monetary needs.”

The idea behind this is that if you can prove they can do the work they obviously have all of the skills and experience necessary. As important, if they are highly motivated to do the work and they see the job as a career move then the compensation will be negotiable.

Proving they can do the work is easy. Just ask the people to describe in detail their major accomplishments most comparable to the performance objectives defining top tier performers. This is the purpose of the Performance-based Interview I’ve been advocating for years. (Here’s the course if you want to get started on this right away.)

However, it’s a little more challenging to prove the job represents a career move. It begins by describing a career move as a minimum 30% non-monetary increase. This consists of some job stretch, a more impactful job, a mix of more satisfying work and a faster career trajectory. You’ll need to conduct a series of in-depth interviews to determine the gap between what your job offers the person’s track record. As you’ll discover, negotiating a fair compensation is relatively easy once you validate the 30%.

Of course it does take a great job, a fully engaged hiring manager and a great recruiter to make all of this happen, but that is how you make the hiring leap from good to great.