Category Archives: Hiring Talent

Necessity Checklist Before the Hire

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

You talk in your workshop about necessity. You say the manager-once-removed and the hiring manager should discuss the necessity of the role before hiring someone. I find that the answer is too easy to say yes. What should we consider when we think about necessity for the role.

If your company is going to purchase an expensive piece of machinery, would you buy it if it wasn’t necessary? The answer is no. If your company is going to hire a person, would you make the hire if the role wasn’t necessary?

I use a multi-step process to determine necessity.

  • Eliminate
  • Simplify
  • Consolidate
  • Outsource
  • Automate
  • Hire

Eliminate. Is there any way to eliminate the role? Is the work performed in this role necessary? What would happen if the work in this role was never performed again?

Simplify. Is there a way to simplify the work process for this role, that would change the level of work in the role?

Consolidate. Can the work performed by this role be modified, shortened, simplified, so that it becomes part-time and can it be consolidated with another role?

Outsource. Is the work performed by this role something that can be more effectively outsourced, to fix our cost structure associated with this work? Is the work performed by this role subject to seasonal or economic fluctuations which are easier to control if the role is contracted to an outside resource?

Automate. Can the work performed by this role be automated through a software system or automatic device? Is the cost for the automation less expensive and more reliable than a person in this role?

Hire. Does this role require judgment, in decision making and problem solving that is better performed by a person than any other resource? Is this work necessary?

Sounds like a very interesting discussion between the manager-once-removed and the hiring manager. -Tom

How to Interview for Values

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

I get it. Interest and passion come from value for the work. So, just exactly how do you interview for that? Any question I come up with, sounds stupid or leads the candidate.

  • Are you passionate about the work we do here?
  • Tell me about your interest in the work we do here?

These questions just leave me open for the candidate to fabricate something they think I want to hear.

You are correct, those are lousy questions. First, they are hypothetical and without definition for “the work we do here.” The first fix is to ask about the candidate’s real prior experience, not a hypothetical comparison.

Next, it is impossible to interview for values. I can’t do it. You can’t do it. We can only interview for behaviors connected to values. What are some descriptive words connected to value for the work?

  • Significant
  • Important
  • Accomplishment
  • Pride

Embed these words into a series of questions, focused on connected behaviors.

  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a project of significance?
  • What was the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • Describe your work on the project?
  • What problems did you have to solve?
  • What decisions did you have to make?
  • What made that project significant?
  • What characteristics about the project made it important?
  • In the eyes of the team, what was accomplished?
  • In that project, what were you most proud of?

In the interview, as you listen to the candidate’s response, do the values described match up with the values necessary for the work in the role?

Before you spring this on a real candidate interview, try this with your existing team. Valuable practice. -Tom

Will I Even Show Up?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

In your workshop on Time Span, you mention interest and passion as a critical role requirement. That sounds nice, but what does it mean?

Indeed, interest and passion have a kumbaya appearance in the midst of more tangible candidate characteristics. So, what is it, related to work, that we have interest in and passion for? You know me well enough, this is not a casual metaphorical discussion.

We have interest in, and passion for, work on which we place a high value. If we place a high value on the work, it is likely we will have interest and passion for it.

If we place a low value on the work, it is likely we will not be interested. Low value means we will not bring our highest level of capability. We will most likely only do what is minimally necessary.

My wife places a high value on a type of work called “back yard gardening.” You can imagine that my home in Florida is a veritable jungle of exotic plants and butterflies. Why? Because she place a high value on that type of work.

I, on the other hand, place a low value on a type of work called “back yard gardening.” So, if I am ever summoned to the back yard to complete a task assignment, will I even show up? Of course, I will show up, I am married, but I will only do what is minimally necessary and then I disappear.

So, think about the work in the roles you have for your team. Think about the work you have for yourself. What are the problems that have to be solved? What are the decisions that have to be made? Interest and passion come from value for the work.

Why They Don’t Want to Help

“But how can you hold the regional manager accountable for a hiring decision made by the supervisor?” Regina complained. “That’s what my regional managers will say. That’s why they don’t want to help. Helping gets their fingerprints on the hire. If it’s a poor hire, they get dragged into mess.”

S-III – Regional Manager
S-II – Hiring Supervisor
S-I – Technician Role (open)

“Exactly!” I replied. “Except, I don’t want to simply drag the regional manager into the mess. The regional manager is accountable to drive the whole process. Just as the supervisor will be accountable for the output of the technician, I hold the regional manager accountable for the output of the supervisor. If the regional manager is accountable for the quality of the decision made by the hiring supervisor, what changes?”

Hiring As a Matter of Opinion

“I still don’t think this is going to work,” Regina pushed back. “My regional managers don’t see this as a priority for them. They think the supervisor should be able to handle their own recruiting.”

“What do your statistics tell you?” I asked.

“Well, out of a workforce of 500 technicians, this past year, we had 176 leave, 83 percent left on a voluntary basis.”

“And your regional managers think your supervisors are capable of driving their own recruiting effectively?”

“Yes,” Regina politely replied.

“I think they are mistaken. The biggest mistake most companies make is, they underestimate the level of work in the task assignment. Underestimate the level of work in the task, and you will select the wrong person every time. In this case, your supervisor is appropriate to be the hiring supervisor, but the supervisor’s manager (the regional manager) is the manager-once-removed from the open position.

S-III – Regional Manager (Manager Once Removed)
S-II – Supervisor (Hiring Manager)
S-I – Technician Role (open)

“It is the regional manager who is the quarterback. The Regional Manager is accountable for the output of the Supervisor. That includes the quality of the hiring decision. Only when you make it necessary, will you get the attention of the regional manager.” -Tom

Hiring is Not Necessary

“We have our supervisors do the hiring for their own team of technicians. We laid out how they are supposed to recruit candidates and how to conduct the interview,” Regina explained.

“So, how do they do?” I asked.

“Not very well. I don’t think they like to recruit new players, so they get one technician short, then another. Now, they are willing to settle for any candidate that can fog a mirror. They don’t have enough people and more service calls than they can handle. The supervisor ends up on-site doing technician work.”

“Does the supervisor have a manager?”

“Yes, the supervisor has a regional manager. Each regional manager covers seven or eight supervisors,” Regina replied.

“And does the regional manager get involved in the hiring process?”

“They are supposed to give guidance and direction to the supervisor, help them out. But, you know, people get busy. I don’t think much of that is happening.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“It’s like the regional manager doesn’t want the responsibility if the supervisor makes a bad hire. If their fingerprints aren’t on process, they can’t be held accountable.”

“But, you said, part of the role of the regional manager was to give guidance and direction to the supervisor?” I pressed.

“You know how it goes. I think it rarely happens.”

“It rarely happens because you haven’t made it necessary. In life, people only do two things. They do the easy thing and they do those things that are necessary. Hiring is not easy. Your regional manager is allowing your hiring supervisor to twist in the wind, without guidance and direction. Your regional manager gets away with it because you haven’t made it necessary for them to be involved.” I stopped.

Regina’s eyes opened wide, so I continued. “Your regional manager is the quarterback of your recruiting process. It’s the regional manager who should be driving the candidate sourcing. It’s the regional manager who manages the screening process and puts people into the qualified candidate pool. The hiring supervisor gets to make the final selection, but from a qualified talent pool created by the regional manager.”

“But they don’t have time to do that,” Regina defended. “They have more important things to do as a regional manager. I can’t have them get bogged down in the hiring process. I mean, they can give guidance, but it sounds like you want them much more involved.”

“What more important thing does your regional manager have to do, than to build the infrastructure of your technician teams? In fact, the reason they are so busy, with management issues and motivation issues, is they did a lousy job of this in the first place. You do this job well, your life as a manager will be wonderful. You do this job poorly, and your life as a manager will be miserable and for a very long time.” -Tom

Results Can Be Misleading

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

In hiring, you caution against the myopia of results-based-performance. We may naively “assume that a company’s results were created by the candidate’s performance, when there are a hundred other things that contribute – reputation, price point, product superiority, terms, another supplier that failed to deliver.”

I would think that a track record of consistent results over an extended period of time would hold a tremendous amount of value. So the question is, are you minimizing the use of results even when there is a proven track record of results over an extended period of time? Or is it just in situations where the “results” are much more limited where it would be difficult to verify that they really are the result of the individual’s actions?

Yes, results for short sampling periods are always suspect, and, yes, I also have my red flags up, even with a longer term statistical track record of positive results. I am more interested in the behaviors that created the result than in the result. Especially during an interview, I am not in a great position to judge the cause and effect relationships that ended in a positive result. I may be encouraged with positive results, but I will still focus on behaviors.

Hiring Talent in the Heat of the Summer

Hiring Talent in the Heat of the Summer starts on August 1, 2016. September marks the run-up to the 4th quarter. Are you prepared? Is your staff at capacity?

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 3-4 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

How to Interview for Teamwork

“The new guy just doesn’t seem to fit,” Cynthia said. “Our company is built on a culture of teamwork. He doesn’t seem to be a team player.”

“You hired him. What questions did you ask about teamwork?” I wanted to know.

“Well, I asked him if he thought teamwork was important?” she replied.


“And, he said yes. He said teamwork was very important at his last job.”

“What did you expect him to say?” I pressed.

“Well, I wanted him to say teamwork was important, because, to be successful at this company, we have to work as a team,” Cynthia insisted.

“So, the candidate gave you the response you wanted to hear?”

Cynthia was silent.

“Look, teamwork is a state of mind,” I nodded. “It’s like an attitude. You cannot interview for an attitude. You cannot interview for a state of mind. You can only interview for behaviors connected to that attitude. Ask yourself, how does a person, with an attitude of teamwork, behave? Once you identify connected behaviors, you can ask a better set of questions. So, what are some behaviors connected to teamwork?”

Cynthia thought for a moment. “Cooperation, support, listening, constructive feedback,” she replied.

“Okay, try these questions.”

  • Think of a time when you worked on a project where teamwork was critical for the success of the project?
  • What was the project?
  • What was the purpose of the project?
  • What was your role on the team?
  • What was it, about the project, that required a high level of teamwork?
  • Describe how the team worked together?
  • What worked well?
  • What went wrong?
  • What did the team do to pull together?
  • What was your role in pulling the team together?
  • What was it, about the project, that pulled the team apart?
  • How did the team respond to that?
  • What was the outcome?
  • What did the team learn about working together from the experience on this project?

“Would these questions give you some insight to the candidate’s attitude toward teamwork?” -Tom

How to Interview for Project Management

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

All of our projects are different. We never know what our customers will want, in advance. It’s almost always a custom solution. So, when we are hiring a project manager, it’s difficult to determine what skills the candidate will need to be successful. That’s why, most of the time, we wing it, when it comes to interview questions. How can we do a better job in the interview, instead of just working off of the resume?

We may not know anything about the project, but we can still work on preparedness. So, think about behaviors connected to being prepared.

  • Diagnostic questions
  • Project planning
  • Short interval planning
  • Project adjustments
  • Discipline

The only way to work through an ill-defined or unknown project specification, is to define the project. You are accurate, that many customers don’t really know what they want. Sometimes your best contribution, in managing the project, is helping the customer to define the project. What are the problems to be solved and the decisions to be made as the project meanders its way to completion?

Determine questions related to diagnosis, planning and project adjustments.

  • Tell me about a project you worked on where the customer was not clear on what they wanted?
  • What was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • What was the purpose for the project?
  • How did the customer describe the project?
  • What was the real project?
  • How did you determine the real project specification?
  • What changed about the project when it was better defined?
  • What changed about the resources required when the project was better defined?
  • What changed about the budget when the project was better defined?
  • How did you explain the changes in resources and budget to the customer?
  • How many people on your project team?
  • How did you explain the changes to your project team?
  • What mid-course corrections were required?
  • How did you discover the mid-course correction?
  • How did you determine the overall project met the initial purpose of the project?

These questions will get you better data, than just winging it off the resume.