When Hiring, End Strong (Hiring Series 5/5)

The last few blogs in this series dealt with the beginning and middle phases of the hiring process, this article will focus on the latter stages. Once the candidate has made it past the initial interview rounds, you may want to consider the following steps to decide among your potential matches to find the best fit.

Here are some helpful steps:

1. Written sample. Many companies collect writing samples from candidates before or after an initial interview to gain insight into their thinking and written communication skills. It is an excellent way to know how they can convey messages. This criterion may be more critical than others depending on the job. Amazon, for example, has a practice where people share their written updates before meetings, and others silently read, review, make comments, and ask questions so having that ability is essential.

2. Demo/job audition. Ron Friedman recommends designing a job-relevant assignment that reflects the type of work the applicant will do if they are hired. For example, if it is a software development position, maybe you want them to write sample code to see how clean their style is or build a feature to see how they conceptualize a project, and then have them explain it so you can understand their thinking process. If you are deciding on salespeople, have them sell you the product after providing the contextual details and time to prepare. If you’re hiring web designers, have them mock up a landing page. If the position is for a professional coach, have them do a brief coaching session. This way, your assessment is based on actual performance, not simply how charismatic they might be during the interview or about trusting your gut. One of the best predictors of how somebody would perform at a job is to see a work sample.

3. Final Round Interviews: There will be a few people you will want to see again. The goal here is to ensure the right skill-culture-job fit. Southwest’s model is to hire for attitude and train for skill because it is hard to teach somebody to have a positive disposition and growth mindset. In this stage, Lencioni says, “do not be afraid to interrogate your applicants! If they skirt around a question, ask it again, and keep asking it until you get an answer. If you have a nagging doubt that the candidate is hiding something, there is a good chance they are, so don’t let it go — just change the wording slightly each time. For example, if the candidate keeps giving a vague answer to a question about coping with conflict, you can ask, ‘would your best friend tell you that you hold grudges?’ If a candidate eventually snaps at your pushy technique, that gives you valuable information.” Get to the heart of what really matters.

4. Observe them in their environment [optional for top-level hires]. This is to get more of a sense of how they treat others for the cultural fit. Bill Gates would introduce potential hires to others and see how they interact and observe if they could keep the conversation going. Lencioni suggests conducting nontraditional interviews over soccer practice or even taking candidates out shopping so you can get to know them in a different context. Charles Schwab’s CEO Walt Bettinger takes candidates out to a restaurant and deliberately ensures the waiter messes up their order to gauge how well they react to mistakes. A person who will be unforgiving toward waitstaff is not someone you want on your team. If it is a small enough company, the CEO should be involved in hiring, especially with the early ones to be intentional about fostering a culture of excellence and humanity.

5. Check their references. Usually, references that people provide do not speak negatively, but if they confirm dates of employment, that’s a problem because the absence of enthusiasm is a bad sign. People who like you will go above and beyond. You can ask on a scale 1–10, how great is this person? You can ask a leading question: what is the one task the candidate would be most proud of that they experimented with and did well? Luis Von Ahn, CEO and Cofounder of Duolingo, offers this advice. When you contact their reference, you can ask, “Did he/she work well with others?” You are looking for a more definitive and enthusiastic response like “absolutely” over a more wishy-washy one — “yeah, with most people.” Maybe you detect the reference is being coy, you can frame your questions to elicit specific choices. For example, “what’s more likely — that this person will be a total pushover or a little manipulative?” “Work more by themselves or inclined to work with others?” Listen closely to these responses because they can contain the exact answers you are seeking.

6. Making a decision. Part of what goes into a great company is hiring great people. The way to know if the person is an A player is to answer the question — “Will this person raise the performance and cultural quality?” If the answer is a yes on both fronts, you may have yourself a winner. It may be tempting to let somebody in who is exceptional on their technical proficiencies, but if they are culturally challenging, it should be a hard pass because you send a message to the others that sub-par behavior is acceptable, and great culture is not prioritized. Steve Jobs was rumored to have said, it is better to have a hole on the team than an A-hole. You should be dying to hire the person because of their competencies and cultural fit. David Ogilvy, known as the Father of Advertising, said, “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.” The quality of the people you bring in will directly lead to the satisfaction of the quality of the team members. Indeed, cultivating unbelievable talent starts with one good hire after the next.

7. Send the non-hires feedback. For the people who did not get the job, take the time to send them feedback, it will mean a lot to them, and it is the human way to operate, especially after they invested all that time. Adam Grant offers this advice, “It’s disappointing that so few interviewers give feedback to job applicants after rejecting them. When turning candidates away, the least we can do is make it a learning experience. Ghosting is selfish. People are hurting. A bit of guidance might help them get hired elsewhere.” A few thoughtful comments can have a massive positive impact on the candidate, do not squander the opportunity, build it into your process.

Finding the right candidate takes time and while there is an initial upfront cost, when you get the right person in the proper position, you will be glad that you took the extra time and thought to make a meaningful hire.

Quote of the Day: “Time spent on hiring is time well spent.” — Robert Half, Founder of Global Human Resource Consulting Firm

Q: What methods work for you in asking for a job sample or checking a candidate’s reference? Comment and share with us, we would love to hear!

As a Leadership Coach, I partner with leaders to get clarity on the hiring process to secure the best candidate, contact me to learn more.

What do you look for when you hire?

CEO and Founder at Next Levels Coaching Regina@nextlevelscoaching.com