Category Archives: Hiring Talent

Play to Your Strengths as a Manager

Hiring Talent Summer Camp is launched. Today is the last day for open registration. For more information and registration, follow this link – Hiring Talent Summer Camp.
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On Wednesday, we talked about the Spirit Animal interview question. Sparked a bit of response.

I do see the humor in this question, and on the surface, it does seem silly. However, there may be more to the question than you think. I had a manager tell me they ask silly questions like this, not to judge the surface response, but to evaluate how the candidate reacts to such a silly question. Do they roll their eyes disrespectfully? Does it take an exorbitant amount of time to come up with an answer? Are they creative with their answer? Do they panic and start sweating? Are they a quick wit and come up with a novel response?

Here’s the problem. And I will state this in the form of a question.

  • Why do interviewers misinterpret candidate responses?

To this question, I get the usual –

  • The interviewer doesn’t listen well.
  • The interviewer is listening for something she wants to hear.
  • The interviewer has already made up her mind.
  • The candidate exaggerates the content in his response.

But that’s not the real reason interviewers misinterpret responses. Here’s why.

Interviewers misinterpret candidate responses because they ask questions which require interpretation. The Spirit Animal question will get a response, like rolling eyes, a long pause, panic sweats, snappy answer. But what does that response mean related to the work in the role. We don’t know what it means and any attempt to interpret the response places us in the position of playing amateur psychologist.

Most managers don’t have a degree in psychology, certainly not a Masters or PhD in psychology. None are certified by their respective state to practice psychotherapy. Most managers stink at it.

But managers are expert at spotting positive work behaviors, expert at spotting negative work behaviors. Don’t play amateur psychologist, play to your strengths as a manager. Ask questions about the work. It’s all about the work. And never ask about a person’s Spirit Animal.

Mine is a python that starts with a wrapped embrace, then squeezes the life out of its unsuspecting prey. -Tom

The Question is Cute, but Idiotic

Hiring Talent Summer Camp is launched. And there is still time to climb aboard. Registration ends on Friday. For more information and registration, follow this link – Hiring Talent Summer Camp.
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Rifling through my archives –

I was shocked this morning to read an article posted on LinkIn. The Strange and Difficult Questions CEOs Ask in Job Interviews. At first, I thought it was going to be a spoof article, given the questions that were listed. But, as a I read on, I found that the author was serious about sharing these questions, with attribution to a stoic CEO.

What’s your superpower… or spirit animal?
“During her interview I asked my current executive assistant what was her favorite animal. She told me it was a duck, because ducks are calm on the surface and hustling like crazy getting things done under the surface. I think this was an amazing response and a perfect description for the role of an EA.” — Ryan Holmes, HootSuite CEO

This has to be one of the most idiotic interview questions invented. It’s cute but has nothing to do with the work. Perhaps Mr. Holmes believes he has some divine (psychological or psychopathic) ability to accurately interpret a candidate’s response to such an inane question.

My mother thinks I am amazing, but that doesn’t qualify me for the role.

All I can do is shake my head and chuckle.

No Tips, No Tricks, No Magic to Hiring

Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) is underway. And, there is still time to join the group. Follow this link for more information and registration. –Hiring Talent Summer Camp
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“How come Roger always seems to hire good people,” Melinda asked. “What’s his trick?”

“You think there is a trick?” I asked.

“Well, I know Roger and he’s not that smart. Not any smarter than me. So, he must have some trick, some technique that he uses to pick the best person.”

“You and I both sat in with Roger on his interviews. It looks to me like he just asks questions. And when you interview, don’t you ask questions?” I prompted.

“Yes, and I have my favorite questions,” she replied. “I always ask about the way the candidate sees the future.”

“And, why do you think it is important for the candidate to be able to see the future?”

“It’s very important,” Melinda insisted. “It is important to anticipate things that might happen. It’s important to do planning. It is important to be prepared.”

“So, what is the question you ask?”

“I always ask where they see themselves in five years?”

“Do you think that gives you insight into their ability to anticipate, plan and prepare?”

Melinda stopped. “Not really, most of the time, I think the candidate just makes up something they think I want to hear.”

“So, if you had to ask a better question about a time when the candidate had to anticipate, plan and prepare, what would that question sound like?”

The Long Term View (vs the short term fix) on Recruiting

Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. Pre-register today. See you online. -Tom
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Lucas shook his head. “I don’t know. I spend all this time, recruiting, desperately looking for someone to fill the position. I finally find a candidate who fits the bill. They accept the offer, go through training. Then, just as they are beginning to get the hang of things, they decide to move to Phoenix. I have to start all over, looking for someone. It’s like a vicious cycle.”

“So, what are you going to do?” I asked.

“Back to the beginning, put another job posting out there, talk to HR, contact a couple of recruiters. I seem to spend all my time looking for someone, I can’t get any of my other work done,” he complained.

“Sounds like a short term fix,” I said.

“What do you mean?” Lucas wanted to know.

“Finding someone, it’s just a short term fix,” I repeated. “Lucas, you’re a manager. In your role, we need you to think ahead, anticipate. Finding someone to work on your team is a short term fix. What would be a long term fix? If you knew that the best technician on your team was going to quit next June, what would you do, now?”

“Well, if I had that much time,” Lucas began to think, “I could be much more selective about who I brought on to the team. I might step up the training of the other team members to see if one of them could step into the lead role. Heck, if I could get one of my current guys to step up, I could bring on a couple of entry-level interns to back-stop the rest of the team. I would probably start a cross-training program, so that next June, when my best technician leaves, it’s not such a big deal.”

“Now, you are thinking about a long term fix. I would get started today, because, I guarantee, between now and next June, you are going to lose a team member.”

Two Parts to a Skill, Knowledge is Only One

Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. Pre-register today. See you online. -Tom
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“We were excited about this new hire,” Erica announced.

“Why all the excitement?” I asked.

“We were searching for just the right candidate, with experience on our software. We finally found one, he started last week,” she explained.

“So, why am I here?”

“We wondered if you could help us. Our new hire seems to know all the technical ins and outs of our software, but he can’t seem to solve even the simplest of problems with it.”

“How do you know he that he understands the software?” I probed.

“Well, he has two certifications in it, fundamentals and advanced. During the interview, he walked us through some of the software screens and he could explain what each of the menu items does. I was quite impressed,” Erica defended.

“So, he has the training, he can speak the language, you believe he has the skill. But there is still something missing. You know, skill comes in two parts. The first part is the technical knowledge. But the second part is practice. In the interview, did you ask questions about practice? Not, how does the software work, but what problems he solved using the software? How many problems he solved using the software? How big were the problems using the software? How different were the problems using the software? Did you have the candidate step you through some of the problems he solved?”

Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) Starts June 20

Hiring Talent Summer Camp starts on Jun 20, 2016.

Purpose of this program – to train hiring managers and HR specialists to conduct more effective interviews in the context of a managed hiring process.

How long is the program? Designed to be completed in 4-6 weeks, the program is self-paced so participants can work through the program even faster.

How do people participate in the program? Participants complete online assignments and participate in online facilitated discussions, working directly with Tom Foster as the online coach, along with other participants.

Who should participate? This program is designed for managers and HR professionals who play active roles in the recruiting process.

What is the cost? The program investment is $499.

When is the program scheduled? This program is self-paced, on-demand, so participants can login and complete assignments on their own schedule.

How much time is required to participate in this program? Participants should reserve approximately 2 hours per week (on demand) for 4 weeks (total 8 hours).

Program Description
Module One – Role Descriptions – It’s All About the Work
Learning Objectives

  • Examine what hiring managers are up against.
  • Define the steps in a comprehensive hiring process.
  • Specifically define the Role Description as the cornerstone of the hiring process.
  • Define the Structure of the Role Description
  • Write a Role Description

Module Two – Interviewing for Future Behavior
Learning Objectives

  • To understand how most managers conduct interviews, so we can stop bad habits.
  • To identify, from the Role Description, the specific data we need from the candidate.
  • To design questions to capture the data we need to make an effective candidate selection.
  • To construct a bank of organized, written, prepared questions on which to base the interview.

Module Three – Conducting the Interview
Learning Objectives

  • To prepare mentally to conduct an effective interview.
  • To practice asking prepared questions and creating clarifying questions during the interview.
  • To practice taking notes during the interview and re-capping those notes following the interview.
  • To create a Decision Matrix to compile interview data and compare candidates.
  • To effectively work with an Interview Team.

Pre-register now at the following link – Hiring Talent Course. No payment due at this time. Looking forward to seeing you online. -Tom

Level of Work and Promotions

“So, Phillip can handle tasks with a one month time span, but falls short on tasks with a longer time span,” Joyce confirmed.

“So, what does that tell you about his role? You told me that you promoted him to Warehouse Manager. Based on the level of work in the role, is that appropriate for Phillip?” I asked.

Joyce knew the answer, so her hesitation was from reluctance. “No. Now it begins to make sense. What we expect from a Manager, even the Warehouse Manager requires a Time Span of twelve months. Phillip is not even close.”

“So, if you had determined the level of work before the promotion, you might have done something differently?” I prompted.

“Absolutely. When I look at Time Span, it becomes so obvious that his promotion was a bone-headed decision.”

“And who was responsible for that bone-headed decision?”

“That would be me,” Joyce replied.
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Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. Pre-register today. See you online. -Tom

The Look-Ahead

“Then, how are we going to measure the size of the role?” I repeated. Joyce and I were discussing Phillip. Though he had been made manager, he was having difficulty with some of his new responsibilities.

“So, you are suggesting that we look at all the tasks on Phillip’s plate and assign a Time Span to them?” Joyce asked.

I nodded.

She began to brainstorm out loud, “If I look at his Key Result Areas, as Warehouse Manager, Phillip is responsible for:

  • Personnel
  • Receiving
  • Picking
  • Shipping
  • Warehouse Layout and Work Flow
  • Security
  • Equipment
  • Safety

“And which of those KRAs has the longest Time Span tasks?” I asked.

Joyce pulled out a sheet of paper to make some notes. “Receiving, picking and shipping are fairly short term things. The look-ahead is probably no more than a couple of weeks.

“But, both Personnel and Warehouse Layout and Work Flow, contain much longer Time Span tasks. We have a lot of seasonality to our product lines and we have to make decisions about inventory bin placement four or five months in advance. We really depend on a twelve month bin cycle that rotates stock both forward and backward depending on seasonality. Some tasks create a feedback loop to sales and purchasing about inventory turns, raw materials in stock, finished goods in stock. There is a lot to control, but it’s easy if you think out far enough into the future and plan.

“And that’s where Phillip messes up,” Joyce concluded. “He just doesn’t plan out far enough, so it’s always chaos.”

“So, if we were to measure Phillip’s capability in Personnel and Layout and Work Flow, he underperforms?” I confirmed.

It was Joyce’s turn to nod.

“So, let’s look at his other tasks, determine the level of work and see if we come up with a pattern of his effectiveness.”
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Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. Pre-register today. See you online. -Tom

Will the Candidate Follow Work Instructions?

“So, how can I find out if a candidate will follow our standard operating procedures or if they will experiment using their own methods, wasting our time and resources to find out we were right in the first place?” Melinda asked. “What questions do you ask?”

“What are my two favorite questions?” I asked.

Melinda didn’t have to think on that one. “Tell me about a time when? And, step me through?”

“Okay, so using those two questions, create a series that helps me understand how the candidate will respond when they disagree with work instructions,” I prompted.

Melinda took a deep breath, slowly exhaled, thinking.

  • Tell me about a time when you disagreed with the way you were supposed to complete a task assignment?
  • What was the project, or what was the task?
  • Step me through the specific method you were told to follow?
  • In that method, what did you disagree with?
  • What did you do?
  • Step me through your alternate method?
  • Why did you think it was better?
  • Who did you talk to about it?
  • What questions did you have?
  • What was the outcome?

“Good questions,” I nodded. “And in their responses, what would you be listening for?”

“First, I would want to find out if they had a real awareness of their work instructions,” Melinda started. “Did the candidate listen to the work instructions they were given? Next, I want to find out the line of thinking about the work instructions. I want to see how respectful they were of their manager or if they simply flew off the handle and did things their way. I want to see how they responded, if it was helpful or if it was counterproductive.”

Some Behavior, You Contract For

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I am a manager in a very busy engineering firm. I have a team of 6 engineers who review and stamp reports and 8 technicians doing field work. Of four new technician recruits, I have three who fit in well. But one, who is experienced and double my age, has become a problem. Everything I say or do, is wrong in his eyes.

In the morning, in our huddle, I will assign work orders along with specific instructions. My new technician will just stand there and say, “that is not how you mean to do it.”

I have had three meetings with him about different issues.

  • Being disrespectful, talking my staff down to the ground
  • Writing nasty comments in our weekly best practices recap
  • Not following work instructions, which has impacted our quality standards (he defends that his method is better)

And now I have a conference scheduled with my boss to explain a drop in our audited standards.

My new team member is in our 90 day probation period, been with us for 4 weeks now, and is basically undoing all the hard work to get the department from a half-star to a four star shop.

Response:
Welcome to the real world of management. This is a hiring problem. Understand that you, as the hiring manager made the mistake, and that is why it is difficult to let go. But, you have to let go. You can now, either move for termination, or live a miserable life as a manager dealing with the drama.

There are four requirements for success in any role.

  1. Capability – ability to effectively process the complexity of decisions and problems in the role
  2. Skill – technical knowledge and practiced performance
  3. Interest, passion – value for the work
  4. Required behaviors – ability to effectively execute the required behaviors in the role

I believe, based on your description that you are dealing with two issues. One is required behaviors. How do you get required behaviors?

You contract for them. And for a team member to willfully engage otherwise, violates the contract.

If I worked in a restaurant, known for a specific recipe of hot sauce, and, as a cook, I decided the sauce tasted better with more ketchup, my term with the restaurant would be short-lived.

The other issue is capability. Based on your description, your team member may have a higher level of capability than is required for the role. Whenever there is a capability mis-match, up or down, you will observe counter-productive behavior. This counter-productive behavior may act out as arrogance, condescension, rebellion or other forms of drama.

But who made the mistake in the first place? You, as the hiring manager. Admit your mistake and fix it. Or be miserable for a very long time.