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Commit to strategic hiring and avoid these four landmines

Brad Remillard

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Commit to strategic hiring and avoid these four landmines

Section 1: Hiring and retaining talent

Section 2: Employee compensation and motivation

Section 3: Employee processes/managing employees

Commit to strategic hiring and avoid these four landmines

By Brad Remillard

In a recent survey, more than 100 CEOs and their key executives were asked, “Is hiring top talent critical to the success of your organization?” Not surprisingly, everyone replied yes. It’s not merely important, they indicated; it’s critical. The follow-up question was, “If it is critical, then how much time each month is spent focusing on hiring — excluding when you are actively looking to fill a position?” Not surprisingly, only three people responded positively.

Something that is critical to the success of the organization receives virtually zero time unless there is a current need. Is that the way most critical issues are handled in your business? No strategic planning? No thought or action discussed or taken until the problem arises? This management style only occurs with hiring.

Most other critical issues are regularly discussed. Ongoing programs, such as marketing, client service and improving operational efficiencies are regularly discussed and often major components of the company’s strategic plan. In fact, most strategic plans include growth.

White’s business, Treasure Coast Financial, now manages more than $100 million in assets. White started with an assistant 30 years ago, who is still with him. He has since added five other employees: a receptionist, a bookkeeper and three financial advisors.

Yet, few ever include a strategy for hiring the people needed to execute the plan as the company grows. Except for a vague paragraph, strategic hiring is rarely part of a strategic plan. Businesses that truly want to hire top talent and do it on a consistent basis must avoid these four landmines when hiring:

1. Untrained managers
This is the No. 1 reason hiring fails. Few managers are actually trained on how to hire. Most managers have never even attended one course or read a book on hiring. For the few who have had training, it is usually limited to interviewing. Granted, this is better than nothing, but interviewing is only one step in an effective hiring process. If you aren’t finding qualified candidates, this training can only validate the interviewees aren’t qualified. If the job isn’t properly defined, then you might not look for candidates in the right place, resulting in unqualified candidates.

If companies are serious about improving hiring, step one is to develop an effective hiring system and then train their managers in all aspects of the process.

2. Poorly defined job
This mistake results in the search for a new employee going sideways before it even begins. Traditional job descriptions, for the most part, aren’t job descriptions at all. Most describe a person. Does this read like your job descriptions: “Minimum five years of experience, minimum bachelor’s degree,” followed by a list of minimum skills/ knowledge and certifications?

Let’s not forget the endless list of behaviors the candidate must have: team player, high energy, self-starter, strategic thinker, good communicator, etc. Of course, there is the list of the basic duties, tasks and responsibilities. This traditional job description defines a minimally qualified person, not the job. Is there any wonder why the least-qualified person shows up at your door?

Instead of defining the least-qualified person, start by defining superior performance in the role or the results expected to be achieved once the person is onboard. For example:

  • Improve client service feedback scores from X to Y.
  • Reduce turnover from X% to Y% within the next 12 months.
  • Implement a sales forecasting process that includes a rolling three-month forecast that is accurate within X% of actual sales.

This is the real job. It defines expectations, not some vague terms or minimum requirements. For every job, usually at least four results are required. The job is defined by performance. For the person to be able to achieve these results, they must have the right experience.

Maybe it is five years, maybe three or 10 — it doesn’t matter. If they can achieve these goals, it is enough. Go find a person who can explain how they will deliver these results, and you have the right person.

3. Finding the least-qualified candidates
This is one of the biggest problems faced by companies. This happens as a result of No. 2. Most companies search for the least-qualified individuals to start with, then complain they are seeing only unqualified candidates.

The other issue causing this problem is starting the hiring process too late. They wait until they absolutely need someone, then expect top talent to magically appear on the market and respond.

Reactive hiring is a thing of the past. Hiring top talent requires proactive hiring. This means your hiring managers must be in the market engaging people at all times, not only when hiring. They should be connecting with people on LinkedIn, active in professional associations and committing time each month to hiring.

Few managers spend any time engaging potential candidates when they aren’t actively hiring. In fact, many even discard résumés as they come in if they aren’t hiring. Finding top talent doesn’t take a lot of time, but it does take a consistent hour or two of effort each month.

4. Disrespecting the candidates
Top talent — especially those candidates in no hurry to make a job change (often referred to as passive candidates) — will walk away from a manager or company if they aren’t respected during the interviewing process.

Some common complaints by candidates include the following blunders committed by the interviewer or hiring manager:

  • Late for the interview
  • Lack of preparation for the interview
  • Taking calls during the interview
  • Telling the candidate to call with questions, then ignoring the calls

The interview is a public relations event. These candidates will make sure others know how they were treated. They may post it on a website, or hear about a person they know who is interviewing and speak with them about their experience. Bad PR is never a good thing.

This is easy to fix. All it takes is treating candidates the same way you would treat a client. If you are having hiring problems, take a step back to review if any of these four mistakes hit home as a starting point for changing your hiring habits.


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