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You’re Hired,You’re Fired: 3 Tips to Help Identify Talent

By Burk Moreland April 22, 2015

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Interviewing potential employees can be one of the hardest skills to learn as a leader at a company. It is easily one of the most important, though, since the quality of your people as you grow will either limit you or push you past where you thought you would be.  Small businesses are commonly limited by the span of control of the founder. They can’t grow because there just “aren’t enough hours in the day.” 

Have you ever caught yourself saying that?  If so, you are probably considering hiring some help. The questions follow immediately: what should I have them do, who are they, where are they, when is the best time to bring them on, and how do I find them?  Answering these questions correctly for your business can be the difference between a long term, successful employee and a constant churning stream of people moving into and out of the position.

For the purposes of this article, I am going to address how you identify them. After you have come up with a pool of candidates, you will need to narrow the search until you have decided who is the most likely prospect to fulfill your needs for this position, at the least cost, while getting along with your team.  Finding the right person for the job is the most difficult part, and generally hiring managers do the worst job assessing that.  Here are a few strategies to help with this:

Control the conversation

Something I learned a long time ago is to not allow questions from the interviewee (with the exception of some clarifications of my questions) until the end of the first interview.  I always allow them to ask questions for the last few minutes, but even then, I may not answer all of the questions.  Questions regarding compensation, for instance, are met with “Based on what you have told me and what I see on your resumé, I think we will be in the ballpark, however, I want to fully assess your fit for this position so that I can accurately make you an offer based on your skills, attitude and congruency with the job and am not ready to do that yet.”  If they don’t have the patience and belief in themselves to accept that, they are probably not right for me or my company.

Encourage them to reveal true tendencies and ideas 

There is definitely an art to this, but you have to understand a candidate’s real traits, skills and beliefs to assure they are really a fit with the position.  Example: If you say, “Service is of utmost importance to us at Burk Inc. How do you feel about service?” Who is going to say that service isn’t very important to them if they want the job? Instead, you might ask the question, “Have you ever had to choose between getting your tasks done and taking care of a routine service issue?” and then follow with “Tell me about how that went,” or “How would you choose which one to work on first?” You might get a different answer from these questions – one that opens up a window to their true tendencies.  You are looking to explore their thought processes; if they can’t explain why they would make a decision and what the impact of their decision is, that is a red flag.  Asking broad, open questions that can allow them to answer in several “right” ways is the key.  Don’t tell them what you want to hear and then be surprised when you hear it.  The less information you supply the better.  Force them to answer questions without too much clarification.  Have them make assumptions instead of you supplying extra information.

Personality profiles can help

I have hired hundreds of people and fired probably almost as many.  Each one I hired I felt was going to help our team; each one I fired, I found myself wanting to throw up, because I felt I had failed them.  I have done personality profiling on nearly everyone I have hired and thus, I’ve had them available for most of the employees that were let go.  As an exercise, I always looked at the profile when a termination was going to occur to see what I missed. Nearly every time, it was right there in the profile — the trait that was causing them to be unsuccessful was written in black and white. I had just refused to look at it in the beginning because I was enamored with the candidate on other levels. I am by no means suggesting that hiring people is solely a personality profile decision — I have hired many successful employees who weren’t great on paper but by sheer will and effort were able to overcome their deficiencies. If I had paid more attention to the profile, I might have invested more time in the hiring process probing that issue, and after they were hired made sure I shored them up around that deficiency as well.  Profiles can help you decide on areas that need extra focus, both with candidates and employees.

I hope you are at the stage of growth that allows you to bring on a team or grow the one you have.  As stressful as it is to make that commitment to people, sharing success with a group and having the ability to know work is getting done (even when you as the manager aren’t watching) can be very freeing.  Finding the right people is the real challenge.  There are many, many more ideas and techniques that can help with this, but hopefully a few of these helped.  In case you want a little more, feel free to reach out to me. 

The results you want are out there, let me help you find them.

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