How do you hire? What characteristics do you look for to ensure this new addition to your team will deliver important value to the organization? How do you avoid employing the wrong person?

hiring processThere is no magic formula, no certain mathematical algorithm.  There are some best practices but, in the end, the “how you hire process” must be built around the type of company you run and the culture you attempt to sustain.  Are there psychologist/recruiters who argue they can make determinations by reviewing “test” results?   Absolutely, and fortunately they are in the minority.

The type of company you operate is an important consideration for the type of hiring process you employ.  A company whose lifeblood and revenue is tied to the creative process requires individuals with certain skills and attitudes.  People who are reluctant to change or who require large amounts of data before they stop digging in their heels — both easily diagnosable dimensions on any of a number of DISC or other behavior and values profiles — would not be someone you would want to employ.  But to get to the core of who a candidate really is, you still have to spend the time to get to know them. Some candidates who might “naturally” resist change can do well in an environment of change if they have adapted that behavior.  That is why you risk eliminating an otherwise exceptionally qualified individual if you base your decisions on an easy to complete behavior profile or analytic tests that some firms utilize.

One of the great joys of my job as a partner in an executive search firm is to invest the time to learn a client’s operational and organizational culture.  That cannot be done over the telephone, or in a one day site visit.  You have to take the time to listen, over several days to a week.

We do also obtain DISC profiles from colleagues and the future direct reports, but these are just tools to help us in developing a panel of potential recommended candidates.  It is not used on its own, but as one part of the big picture.  This information is also integral to our onboarding process which is incorporated into every search we undertake.

Once we have the cultural information, along with the selection criteria, performance deliverables, and ideal characteristics profile from our site visit, we begin to construct a screening questionnaire, as well as questions for the more comprehensive 3-hour face-to-face interview with the partner.

Based on my earlier example of a company that is in a highly creative sector, we would craft questions based on the candidate’s feelings about change, their ability to analyze situations and develop solutions as well as propose creative strategies.  Most of these questions require a candidate to provide a walk-through overview of their approach and process as well as examples of their conclusions or creative expression.   It is easy for a candidate to say, “I did this or that” and try to move on to the next question, sans detail. Our job is to dig into the detail, to authenticate the accomplishment.

  1. We want to see if the candidate is relaxed and confident in sharing information, explaining their approach and sharing quantifiable results.
  2. We want to know that they can think quickly on their feet, efficiently communicating information and ideas.
  3. Finally, and this is especially important in a creative environment, we want to know that they can take risks by sharing an idea, or accept rejection if the idea is thrown out because it is off the mark.  If you have a group of bright people sitting around a conference table problem solving with creative ideas, you cannot afford to have people who take things too personally.  And that, too, is part of the screening process.

Over more than 20 years of executive search, with a three-year placement guarantee, we have found that our screening system, anchored in the behavior and values approach to interviewing,  is amazingly accurate.  We have only a handful of candidates who have not excelled and remained at least three years.

The secret to hiring well? Not relying too much on any one tool to make decisions, but instead leveraging multiple tools available to create a big picture view of each candidate.