Category Archives: Hiring Talent

Hiring Talent – 2016 Registration Open

Registration is now open for our online program Hiring Talent – 2016. Program calendar below. As this economy ramps up, your next hires are critical. This is not a time to be casual about the hiring process. Mistakes are too expensive and margins are too thin.

This is the only program that combines an understanding of Levels of Work with Behavioral Interviewing. The research on Levels of Work is powerful science. The discipline of behavioral interviewing is the methodology for its application. This is the only program that puts these two ideas together in a practical framework for managers faced with Hiring Talent.

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

Candidate Interview

How long is the program? We have streamlined the program so that it can be completed in 3-6 weeks. The self-paced feature allows participants to work fast or slow, depending on their personal schedule.

How do people participate in the program? This is an online program conducted by Tom Foster. Participants will be responsible for online assignments and participate in online facilitated discussion groups with other participants. This online platform is highly interactive. Participants will interact with Tom Foster and other participants as they work through the program.

Who should participate? This program is designed for Stratum III and Stratum IV managers and HR managers who play active roles in the recruiting process for their organizations.

What is the cost? The program investment is $499 per participant. Vistage members receive a $100 discount, just indicate VISTAGE in the registration.

When is the program scheduled? Registration is now open. The program is scheduled to kick-off with orientation Jan 25, 2016.

How much time is required to participate in this program? Participants should reserve approximately 2 hours per week. This program is designed so participants can complete their assignments on their own schedule anytime during each week’s assignment period.

Register now. No payment due at this time. We will send you a payment link later this week.

Jan 15, 2016

  • Registration Opens

Jan 25, 2016

  • Orientation

Week One – Role Descriptions – It’s All About the Work

  • What we are up against
  • Specific challenges in the process
  • Problems in the process
  • Defining the overall process
  • Introduction to the Role Description
  • Organizing the Role Description
  • Defining Tasks
  • Defining Goals
  • Identifying the Level of Work

Week Two

  • Publish and discuss Role Descriptions

Week Three – Interviewing for Future Behavior

  • Creating effective interview questions
  • General characteristics of effective questions
  • How to develop effective questions
  • How to interview for attitudes and non-behavioral elements
  • How to interview for Time Span
  • Assignment – Create a bank of interview questions for the specific role description

Week Four

  • Publish and discuss bank of interview questions

Week Five – Conducting the Interview

  • Organizing the interview process
  • Taking Notes during the process
  • Telephone Screening
  • Conducting the telephone interview
  • Conducting the face-to-face interview
  • Working with an interview team
  • Compiling the interview data into a Decision Matrix
  • Background Checks, Reference Checks
  • Behavioral Assessments
  • Drug Testing
  • Assignment – Conduct a face-to-face interview

Week Six

  • Publish and discuss results of interview process

Registration is now open for this program. No payment is due at this time.

If Not You, Then Who?

“This is all spilt milk, anyway,” Melanie snorted. “I know I have to step up, get out there, put an ad in the paper. I have gone through this before, third time this year.”

“I know,” I nodded. “I read the exit interviews. Did you know that two of the three supervisors that left you this year graduated from night school?”

Melanie’s eyes got wide. “Well, I knew they were going to school at night.”

“Did you know they had new jobs lined up three months before they graduated?”

“Well, I thought that was all talk. I didn’t pay attention to that.”

“I know you didn’t pay attention. If you had paid attention, you would have three months advance time to make a different move, prepare a new supervisor to take over. Now, you have to scramble. Melanie, the only reason you still have a job, here, as a manager, is that you are a pretty good scrambler. But, one day, you won’t be able to scramble and you’ll get sacked for a loss.”

Messenger or Manager?

“I feel let down,” Melanie lamented. “One of my team members, Kyle, just quit. I don’t know how I am going to explain this to the CEO. He has a short temper for this kind of thing. The worst part, I’m just the messenger, but likely to get the brunt of it.”

“Why do you feel you are just the messenger?” I asked.

Melanie moved her head back, almost startled. “I am not sure what you mean,” she said. “I’m not the one who quit. I am just the one who has to report it upstairs.”

“You’re Kyle’s manager?” I confirmed.

“Well, yes, but Kyle is the one who quit.”

“I understand Kyle is the one who quit and I am also curious to know who is responsible for the team that is now missing a member with a backlog that is going to crunch an important deadline?”

“But, Kyle is the one who quit,” Melanie protested. “You can’t hold me accountable for the pickle we’re in. I know I am the manager, but what am I supposed to do?”

Pace and Quality

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Question:

I manage a drafting department of 12 people and have been quite successful over the past 5 or 6 years in improving the quality of our output and the morale of our team.

I have one team member with good skills but he takes forever to get anything done. In my effort over the years to make him more productive, I’ve afforded him the opportunity to become skilled at many different tasks, each time hoping that this would be the one that “clicked”. His production level, however, never improves even after the “learning curve” of any new skill is overcome.

I’m finally facing the fact that this guy will not ever make the pace we expect. Letting him go is difficult for me though, since I’ve acted all this time as his “enabler”. I probably should have realized his limitations a lot sooner and avoided the situation that I’m in now, that being, having a multi-skilled individual who ironically, is too slow.

What’s your take on this?

Response:

Some people master a skill quickly; others may complete a task only after some hard work (which takes time). Your response (training him in many skills) to the amount of time for task completion may have been misguided, making matters worse, even slowing his production time. Two critical components for every role are pace and quality. Pace and quality.

1. Determine what you need this team member to do. This should be based on what the company needs from him. What is his role? Write this down. Instead of training him on many different tasks, focus on the essentials of his deliverables. Don’t create a role around him. Determine the role and determine his capability to fill that role.

2. Baseline evaluation of the “candidate.” This is a very serious conversation. You have had conversations before, this one is different. Your prior conversations have been searching for something he might be good at. This conversation will focus on what the company needs from him in his role. This is a focusing conversation. The next conversation will be your evaluation, after one day, of his baseline performance in that role.

3. Improvement metrics. Rather than looking to train him on many different skills, the focus should be on throughput speed in the essential deliverables the company needs from the role. Examine each step in the process that speeds him up or slows him down. We don’t need him to learn a whole bunch of other skills, we simply need to get him faster at the essential skills.

4. Evaluate his long term contribution. After a period of three weeks, as a manager, you will know whether his behavior is becoming more effective or staying the same. As his manager, it will be time for you to make a judgment. It will be time for you to make a decision. Is the candidate becoming more effective in the essential role that we have for him? This is a yes or no question.

5. If the answer is yes, then you have a contributing member. If the answer is no, inform your manager that you are de-selecting this person from your team. If your manager has another role which might be suitable, turn this person over to your manager for placement. If your manager has no other role, it is time to release this person to industry.

Every part of this should be explained to the candidate. There should be no secrets. The candidate should understand the consequences of underperformance. At the same time, underperformance does not make him a bad person. It is likely that he will be relieved that he can look for a position more appropriate to his speed level, rather than live in the shadow of underperformance and constant scrutiny.

Why I Interview for Habits

Those who attend my workshops know there are four areas connected to work that I interview for –

  • Capability
  • Skills
  • Interest, Passion (Value for the work)
  • Required Behavior

Yes, there are required behaviors in any role. Some you contract for, like showing up in the morning at an appointed time. There are also required behaviors connected to culture.

And there are habits.

Whenever I look at a role, I examine the critical role requirements and identify the habits that would support those requirements. I am looking for grooved, routine behaviors, repeated behaviors that contribute to success in the role.

There are some people, given a complicated task, who will charge ahead in a flurry of activity. There are others, who, as a matter of habit, stop and plan, before charging ahead. Some roles require charging ahead, some require planning. Which habit supports the work in the role?

We think we choose our future. We don’t. We choose our habits and our habits determine our future.

How to Interview for Human Relations Skills

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
Okay, we got integrity, customer care and individual initiative. The last value we want to interview for is our people. By that, I mean respect for others, support for others, collaboration and cooperation.

Response:
Same model as the past couple of days, interviewing for an attitude, a characteristic or soft skill.

  1. Identify the behavior connected to the attitude or characteristic.
  2. Identify a circumstance where we might see that behavior.
  3. Develop questions about the behavior.

Your description identifies some behavioral things, like collaboration, cooperation and support. That’s a good start. Your team can likely come up with more related behaviors to the value you have in mind.

Connected behaviors

  • Collaboration, or cooperation on a team
  • Support for another teammate
  • Respect for a manager, or respect for another team mate

Behavior – Collaboration or cooperation in a team.

  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a project that required multiple steps and multiple people to solve a problem?
  • What was the project?
  • What was the problem?
  • How many steps involved?
  • How many people on the project team?
  • What was your role on the project team?
  • To solve the problem, how did the team have to work together?
  • When the team worked well together, what happened?
  • When the team did not work well together, what happened?
  • When the team did not work well together, what was the impact on the project?
  • How did the team know when it was working well together and not so well together?
  • When the team did not work well together, what did it do to start working better together? What steps were taken? What was said?

Behavior – Supporting another teammate.

  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a project where another team member was taking the lead, but some team members disagreed with the work method or sequence of work?
  • What was the project?
  • What was the purpose (goal, objective) of the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How many on the project team?
  • What was your role on the project team?
  • What was the leader’s role on the project team?
  • What was the disagreement about?
  • What words were said?
  • Which side of the disagreement were you on?
  • How was the situation resolved?

Behavior – Respect for a manager, or respect for another team mate.

  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a project where you disagreed with the manager about a work method or sequence of work?
  • What was the project?
  • What was the purpose of the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How many people on the project team?
  • What was your role on the project team?
  • What was the disagreement about?
  • How did you approach the disagreement?
  • What words were said?
  • How was the situation resolved?

You can interview for any attitude, characteristic or soft skill, as long as you can connect it to behaviors.

How to Interview for Soft Skills

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
How do you create interview questions about individual initiative?

Response:
Interview questions about individual initiative use the same model as any attitude, characteristic or soft skill.

  1. Identify the behavior connected to the attitude or characteristic.
  2. Identify a circumstance where we might see that behavior.
  3. Develop questions about the behavior.

Behaviors related to individual initiative –

  • Appropriately beginning a project without being told.
  • Continuing a project without being reminded.
  • Finishing a project (all the last steps) without being reminded.

Behavior – Appropriately beginning a project without being told.

  • Tell me about a project that needed to get started before your manager knew about it?
  • What was the project?
  • Who was on the project team?
  • What was your role on the project team?
  • How did you know what needed to be done without your manager telling you?
  • What were the first steps in the project?
  • How did you know those steps would be okay to complete without specific direction from your manager?
  • Did your manager ever review the initial work on the project?
  • What was the result of starting the project before your manager knew about it?

Behavior – Continuing a project without being reminded.

  • Tell me about a project you worked on, where the flow of the work was interrupted by other work, perhaps a long project that had stages to it?
  • How were the stages of the project planned?
  • How long was the project?
  • How did you know you were at a stopping point in the project and it was okay to complete other work?
  • How did you know it was time to pick the project up where you left off?
  • What flexibility did you have to decide where to stop and where to pick up with all of your other work?
  • How was your work scheduled?
  • Did you have your own schedule that you created?
  • How did you remind yourself that you still had uncompleted work on a project that you stopped?

Behavior – Finishing the work (all the steps) on a project, without being reminded.

  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a project that never seemed to end, that when you thought the work was done, there were still more steps to complete?
  • At the end of the project, what kind of items popped up, still undone?
  • At the end of the project, how did you find out about those undone items?
  • At the end of the project, how did you keep track of those undone items?
  • Did you personally have to complete those undone items, or were there other people working on those items with you?
  • How did you track what you got done and what others got done?
  • At the end of the project, when ALL the items were finally completed, how did you know there were NO uncompleted items left?

You can interview for any attitude, characteristic or soft skill, as long as you can connect it to behaviors.

How to Interview for Customer Care

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
How do you interview for a customer service position? We are not concerned about product knowledge, it’s the soft skills, attitude, customer care?

Response:
The structure for developing these questions is the same no matter what attitude, characteristic or soft skill you have in mind.

  1. Ask yourself, what behaviors are connected to the attitude or characteristic.
  2. Identify, in what situations you might see that behavior (connected to the attitude or characteristic).
  3. Develop questions about the behavior.

Your question above shows an interest in a value called “customer care.”

Step One. What are the behaviors I would see in a person who cares about customers?

  • Taking the time to listen, really listen, to a customer.
  • Taking responsibility for a misunderstanding with a customer.
  • Identifying something special about the customer and being responsive.

Step Two. In what situations would I see those behaviors?
Step Three. Develop questions about those behaviors.

Behavior – Taking the time to listen, really listen, to a customer.

  • Tell me about a time when you thought you knew what a customer wanted, but found out it was something completely different?
  • What was the project?
  • What did you think the project was about?
  • How was that different from what the customer really wanted?
  • How did you find out there was a difference (in purpose, objective) in what you understood and what the customer wanted?
  • What was the impact on the project when you found out the customer wanted something different?
  • How did the customer express the difference?
  • How clear was the customer in explaining what they wanted?
  • How was the problem resolved?

Behavior – Taking responsibility for a misunderstanding with a customer.

  • Tell me about a time when your customer made a mistake and you had to make it good?
  • What was the project?
  • What was the misunderstanding about?
  • What was the mistake made by the customer?
  • What was the impact of the mistake on the project?
  • How did you learn of the mistake?
  • How did you define the problem to your team?
  • How did you define the problem to your customer?
  • What corrective action was taken?
  • How was the problem ultimately resolved?
  • What was the impact on the customer relationship?

Behavior – Identifying something special about the customer and being responsive.

  • Tell me about a time when you were able to do something special (unexpected, above and beyond) for a customer?
  • What was the project?
  • What did the customer expect?
  • What did you do that was special for that customer?
  • How did you find out that the customer would be surprised?
  • How was this different than routine customer service?
  • What was the impact of this “something special” on the project?
  • What was the impact of this “something special” on the relationship with the customer?

Enough for today. Perhaps tomorrow we can tackle “Initiative.”

Decoding the Level of Work in the Role

—We do most of our web testing in the background where you can’t see it, and, some of you received an errant message on Sat called Test Post Number Three. It was a mistake, a dangling participle in a test queue. We apologize for additional traffic in your INBOX, though we got some very creative responses.—

I am working with a company struggling with role descriptions related to defining the Level of Work in the role. The group is working with one of my templates (ask, and I will send it to you). Level of Work is calibrated by defining the Time Span of the work. Defining the Time Span of a project is pretty easy, just follow the timeline WHAT, by WHEN and you will have the Time Span.

Operational work is a bit more difficult, where the work continues and repeats. What is the Level of Work in operational work? The central question is – What is the time span of discretion on the part of the team member. In my book Hiring Talent, I compiled a list of ten questions to help answer that question. Each question reveals a clue. The source for these questions is Elliott Jaques’ Time Span Handbook, which Elliott wrote to answer this question.

Before you get to the questions, remember the answers are only clues to Time Span of discretion. The actual Time Span of discretion is left to the judgment of the manager. This means, the manager decides the Time Span in the role. The manager decides the Level of Work in the role.

  1. What is the role title?
  2. What are the general responsibilities in the role?
  3. How is work assigned to the team member?
  4. How often is work assigned to the team member?
  5. When a work assignment is completed, how does the manager know?
  6. When a work assignment is completed, how does the team member know what to work on next? (Time Span of discretion)
  7. Who reviews or inspects the work completed?
  8. How often is the work reviewed or inspected?
  9. Does the team member have the authority to do additional work, before the current completed work is inspected?
  10. Does the team member work on multiple work assignments at the same time?

In Hiring Talent, I prepared four interviews (S-I, S-II, S-III, S-IV) to illustrate responses which you might hear from each Level of Work.

Your thoughts?

What Does HR Have to Work With?

“So, you are the best salesperson in the company, and you just got promoted to lead a sales team of ten?” I asked.

“Yes, our company is growing fast,” Miguel replied. “Don’t get me wrong, the orders don’t fall in our laps. We have to work hard for every contract. Our sales cycle is about two years. We have to work with individual administrators and selection committees. There is a lot of data collection. Often, the buy-decision process isn’t well defined and can change in the middle.”

“And now, you are the leader of a team of ten?”

“Worse. There are seven of us, one is going out on maternity leave, so, my manager said the first thing I have to do is hire four new rookies.”

“So, what’s the problem?” I chuckled.

Miguel did not share my sense of humor. “HR is sending all these people to interview. As HR goes, they mean well, but they really don’t know much about the kind of person I need.”

“What do they have to go on?”

“Not much. Candidates are responding to an ad they posted on some job boards. I mean, the candidates have experience in our industry, but not the kind of experience that will be helpful.”

“So, who is the hiring manager?” I wanted to know.

“Well, I am. I will be their manager when they come on board,” he nodded.

“And you will be accountable for their output?”

Miguel nodded.

“So, it is in your best self-interest to help HR send you better candidates? How are going to do that?”

“I don’t know,” he shook his head. “I am really just a salesperson. I mean, I closed $2 million in sales last year, so I know the job.”

“Why don’t you start there? Sit down and clearly define the steps in the work. Without that, HR will continue to send you the luck of the draw. HR can be helpful, but once the candidate is hired, they are not accountable for the output of your team. It’s up to you, not HR.”