Category Archives: Hiring Talent

What’s So Important That You Can’t Do This?

Management Myths and Time Span
The Research of Elliott Jaques
Public Presentation
October 6, 2016 – 8:00a – 12:00 noon
Holy Cross Hospital Auditorium
Fort Lauderdale Florida
More information and registration
__________________________________________
From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. We are growing fast. I am the manager-once-removed with three managers that report to me. Between the three of them, they need to hire five people. You say that I should be the quarterback, that I am accountable for the quality of the hiring decisions made by my team of managers. I have more important things to do than to screen resumes and conduct interviews. I say that is their job.

Manager-once-removed – O
_________________________

Hiring managers – O O O
_________________________

Open Roles – O O O O O

Response:
Perhaps you are right. You can’t do it. Maybe your role is overwhelming. Or maybe you think all that other work is more important.

What more important thing do you have to do, than to build the infrastructure of your teams?

Look, I know you are busy. And I know it seems like a lot to ask of you, to hire five people. So, let me pose this question. If you had to hire, not five, but fifty people, how would you do it? And I am not asking you to just open the flood gates, but make fifty effective hires, how would you do it?

The answer is, you would enlist the help and support from your hiring managers, your HR department, your technical person, your culture person. You cannot do this alone, but you are still the quarterback.

The central document in the hiring process is the role description. I don’t think you could write fifty role descriptions fast enough to keep up, so how would you do it? You would gather your team together and delegate out the pieces. You are still accountable for making sure quality role descriptions are written, but I would not expect you to personally do the writing.

And what is that other stuff you are doing, that you think is so important? -Tom

Interview Questions Do Not Come From the Resume

Management Myths and Time Span
The Research of Elliott Jaques
Public Presentation
October 6, 2016 – 8:00a – 12:00 noon
Holy Cross Hospital Auditorium
Fort Lauderdale Florida
More information and registration
__________________________________________
From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
You said, in your workshop, that the resume wasn’t that important. I use the resume for all my notes and to help guide me through the interview.

Response:
I use the resume as a reference. It’s in the room with me, but it is not the piece of paper I hold in my hand. I only use it to nail down the name of an employer, the name of a project or a specific date range. I rarely read the resume for content, because the content has been carefully fluffed.

My questions do NOT come from the resume and I do not make my notes on the resume. I do not ask questions to increase my understanding of the resume. I do not need to correlate candidate responses to the narrative on the resume.

My questions come from the role description. I make my notes on a sheet, left column for my written questions, right side for my notes. I ask questions to increase my understanding of the candidate’s experience related to the role. I correlate candidate responses to the critical role requirements of the position.

When I evaluate each candidate to the same criteria in the role description, I can more easily distinguish between candidates’ capability and skill related to the role. The crucible that helps me form my judgment is not the candidate’s resume, it is the role description that defines what is necessary for success in the position.

How to Interview for Passion at S-IV Level of Work

Before we can interview for interest and passion, we have to define the work. It’s always about the work.

Most S-IV roles are integration roles, integrating systems and sub-systems for total organizational throughput. The tools at S-IV are system metrics. The role is typically an executive manager, VP or C-suite. Longest time span goals and objectives would be 2-3-4-5 years. Learning would be long-term (longitudinal) analytic. Highest level problem solving would include systems analysis (Senge-Fifth Discipline). Value-add to the organization is multi-system efficiency and total throughput. It is the role at S-IV to optimize multi-system output so that no one system overwhelms or drags on other systems, and to improve handoffs of work output from one system to the next system. One of the most important functions at S-IV is as the manager of S-III and the manager-once-removed (MOR) at S-II.

Managerial roles at S-IV are accountable for the output of the team at S-III.

Interview questions –

  • The purpose of these next questions is to look at some of the systems in your prior company and examine the way those systems worked together?
  • In your last role, list the functional systems that existed?
  • What was your role title?
  • Which single function were you most focused on?
  • Looking at that system, what impact did other systems have on its output?
  • Describe the balance or imbalance of your focus system and its surrounding system?
  • When one system in your organization was out of balance, in your role, how did you discover the imbalance?
  • When one system in your organization was out of balance, in your role, how did you influence or take direct action to correct the imbalance?
  • How did you communicate the corrective steps necessary to re-balance the systems?
  • How long did it take to re-balance the systems?
  • How did you know, what metrics indicated the systems were back in balance?
  • Step me through the work flow, start to finish as work moved from one function to another in your organization?
  • As work moved from one function to the next, how was that work transferred, communicated, handed-off?
  • Looking at the work transitions between functions, in your role, how did you detect problems?
  • Looking at the work transitions between functions, in your role, how did you influence or take direct action to improve the hand-off transitions?
  • How did you communicate the necessary steps to improve the hand-off transitions?
  • How did you document the hand-off transition steps?
  • How did you know when the hand-off transitions improved?
  • Tell me about another example?

Each of these questions asks for a specific piece of data about the candidate. And though we are trying to find out about an attitude or feeling, the questions are still laser focused on the work.

How to Interview for Passion at S-I Level of Work
How to Interview for Passion at S-II Level of Work
How to Interview for Passion at S-III Level of Work

How to Interview for Passion for Work at S-III

Before we can interview for interest and passion, we have to define the work. It’s always about the work.

Most S-III roles are system roles, building systems that don’t solve problems, but prevent them. The tools at S-III are work flow diagrams, time and motion studies, schematics, sequencing and planning. The role is typically the manager of a functional team (marketing, sales, business development, estimating, operations, QA/QC, warranty, research and development, HR, legal). Longest time span goals and objectives would be 12 months – 16 months – 20 months – 24 months. Learning would include analytic. Highest level problem solving would include root cause and comparative analysis. Value-add to the organization is consistency and predictability. It is the role at S-III to create the system, monitor the system, constantly improve the system. One of the most important systems at S-III is the people system inside the function.

Managerial roles at S-III are accountable for the output of the team at S-II.

Given a large customer problem, the central question for the S-III manager is, why didn’t our system prevent that problem, or at least, mitigate the damage from that problem.

Interview questions –

  • The purpose of these next questions is to look at some of the systems you built and how you built them. Tell me about a project you were accountable for, containing several steps, that was similar to other projects you completed in the past?
  • What was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • Using this project as an example, tell me about a system you created to solve its problems and make its decisions?
  • What were the circumstances in the project that lead you to create a system?
  • Step me through the system that you created?
  • How did you communicate the steps in the system to the team?
  • How did you test the steps in the system to make sure they were in the best sequence?
  • During the project, did any of the steps in the system change?
  • When steps in the system changed, how did you track the changes and modify the system?
  • When the project was totally complete, what parts of the system could be applied to other projects?
  • Think about the next project where that system was useful?
  • What was the project, why was that project a candidate to use the same system?
  • What modifications did you have to make to the system, so it had a positive impact of this next project?
  • How did you document the modification to the system?
  • How was this system important to the effectiveness of your functional team?
  • Tell me about another system you created related to a project in your company?

Each of these questions asks for a specific piece of data about the candidate. And though we are trying to find out about an attitude or feeling, the questions are still laser focused on the work.

How to Interview for Passion at S-I Level of Work
How to Interview for Passion at S-II Level of Work

How to Interview for Passion for Work at S-II

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
How do you interview for interest and passion, value for the work at S-II?

Response:
Before we can interview for interest and passion, we have to define the work. It’s always about the work.

Most S-II roles are coordinating, supervisory roles, using checklists, schedules and short meetings. The role could be project management, coordinating and first-line management. Longest time span goals and objectives would be short term, three months, six months, nine months, up to 12 months or one year. Learning would include documented experience, written procedures, articles, research, books and conversations with colleagues. Problem solving would include best practices, matching problems with proven (documented) solutions. Value-add to the organization is accuracy (quality), completeness and timeliness. It is the role at S-II to make sure production gets done, meets spec, totally finished and on deadline.

Managerial roles at S-II are accountable for the output of the team.

How does it feel to put a checklist together, and then hour by hour through the day, check things off as they are completed? What is the satisfaction, at the end of the day, to have a checkmark in every box? Some people get their daily juice from checklists. Some accountants get their daily juice from a bank reconciliation that balances to the penny. Interest and passion comes from work on which we place a high value. If we place a high value on the work, it is likely we will be interested and passionate about that work. Here are some questions about interest and passion for the work at S-II.

  • Tell me about a project you were accountable for, that had several steps in it that you had to coordinate and keep track of?
  • What was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How was the project communicated to you by your manager?
  • Step me through how the project was organized, step by step?
  • How did you keep track of the steps?
  • How did you communicate the steps to the team?
  • At any point in the project, how could you tell the progress of the project?
  • During the project, did any of the steps change?
  • When steps in the project changed, how did you track the changes?/li>
  • When the project was totally completed, how did you communicate that to your manager?
  • When the project was totally completed, how did you communicate that to the team?
  • How were records about that project kept? stored? archived? or discarded?
  • Tell me about another project that had several steps in it that you had to coordinate and keep track of?

Each of these questions asks for a specific piece of data about the candidate. And though we are trying to find out about an attitude or feeling, the questions are still laser focused on the work.

How to Interview for Passion for the Work at Stratum I (S-I) Level of Work

How to Interview for Interest and Passion (for the work) at S-I

From the Ask Tom mailbag-

Question:
You say in your book that there are four absolutes for success in a role, and that it doesn’t matter what discipline.

  • Capability for the level of work
  • Skill, both technical knowledge and practice
  • Interest, passion for the work
  • Required behaviors

How do you interview for interest and passion?

Response:
Interest, or passion (for the work) depends on the value we place on that work. If we place a high value on a type of work, we will likely be interested in or passionate about that work. If we place a low value on the work, it is likely we will NOT be interested or passionate about the work.

So, stratum by stratum level of work, let’s start with Stratum I (S-I).

Most S-I roles are production related, using real tools or machinery. The role could be clerical, mechanical or technical. Goals and objectives would be short term, one day, one week, one month, up to three months. Learning would mostly be learning-by-doing (kinesthetic). Problem solving would mostly be trial and error (and high S-I would be highly skilled at trial and error problem solving, rapid trial and error). Value-add to the organization is quality (product quality, service delivery).

I was talking to a finish carpenter. I asked him the difference between quality workmanship and shoddy workmanship?

“Do you see that piece of trim?” he asked. “Show me the nails that attach it to the wall.”

“I don’t see any nails,” I replied. “You’re the finish guy, where are they?”

“Exactly, you can’t see the nails because I made them invisible. We use a tiny nail with a tiny head. We tap in the nail almost flush, careful not to put hammer marks in the wood. Then we tap the nail head below the surface of the wood with this tap-it device. Smear a fingernail of plastic wood to cover the indention, brush a little stain or paint and you will never find the nail. I dare you to find a single nail in this entire room.”
This was just a casual conversation, but my carpenter friend was dead serious about the quality of his finish work. In an interview, this understanding would guide my questions.

  • I want to ask you about three projects. And, they have to be real projects. First project, you had a lot of time, there was plenty of budget and schedule to go slow and pay attention to detail. Second project, you had to keep up a reasonable pace with a firm deadline. Third project, you were under the gun to knock the project out and could take any reasonable shortcut you could muster.
  • First project, plenty of budget and schedule to go slow, take your time, pay attention to detail. What was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How was the budget and schedule communicated to you for the project? How did you understand the schedule and detail required?
  • What details were most important on this project?
  • What additional preparation was required?
  • What special tools or techniques were involved?
  • How much extra time did it take?
  • What were the visible results, different from other projects?
  • How was this work inspected by your manager, or the customer?
  • On this project, what were you most proud of?

Note, these same questions could be asked about many different kinds of roles working on many different kinds of projects.

  • Second project, standard production pace, nothing special. What was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How was the budget and schedule communicated to you for this project? How did you understand the schedule and detail required, different from the first project?
  • What details were required, what details were less important on this project?
  • What preparation was required, different from the preparation on the first project?
  • What special tools or techniques were involved, different from the first project?
  • How much time was saved by foregoing some of the detail?
  • What were the visible results, different from the first project?
  • How was this work inspected (reviewed) by your manager?
  • On this project, what decisions did you personally have to make related to pace and quality?

Decision making as S-I level of work typically revolves around pace and quality. As you ask about these decisions, you will see the candidate’s attitude about the work, the value the candidate places on the work.

  • Third project, one where time was of the essence. You still had to meet the quality spec, but you had to really hustle to meet the deadline. What was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How was the budget and schedule communicated to you for this project? How did you understand the schedule and detail required, different from the first two projects?
  • What details were required to meet the minimum quality standard, what details were less important on this project?
  • What preparation was required, different from the preparation on the first two projects?
  • What special tools or techniques were involved, different from the first two projects?
  • How much time was saved by foregoing some of the detail?
  • What were the visible results of the allowed shortcuts, different from the first two projects?
  • How was this work inspected (reviewed) by your manager?
  • On this project, what decisions did you personally have to make related to pace and quality?

Each of these questions asks for a specific piece of data about the candidate. And though we are trying to find out about an attitude or feeling, the questions are still laser focused on the work.

Next time, we will take a look at interest and passion (value for the work) at S-II. -Tom

Who Should Be on the Hiring Team?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
It sounds like you favor hiring teams, but I can’t tell if you recommend team interviews. How many people in the room?

Response:
Yes, I recommend hiring teams. Not an ad-hoc team, but a purposeful team, a reason for each person on the team. First is the hiring manager. The quarterback of the team, is the hiring manager’s manager, the manager-once-removed from the open role. That’s two people on the team, so far. I like a technical person, someone who knows the skill part of the job. I like a culture person, someone who understands, models and can explain the company culture. Each person on the hiring team will listen for things that others will miss.

I like hiring teams, but not in the room at the same time. Too many people make the candidate nervous. I don’t need nervous candidates. I need candidates who can calmly describe what they have done in specific situations in the past, related to the critical requirements of the role.

In addition to the candidate, no more than two people in the room. And one of those should not talk, only observe. The purpose of the interview is to collect organized data about the candidate and their past experience. Disconnected questions disrupt the continuity of details we need. And, yes, we need details. -Tom

Trapped by First Impressions

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
Our hiring team debriefed a candidate yesterday. Everybody liked her but me. As we went around the table, I was shocked. Every single member of the hiring team said they made their decision in the first three minutes of the interview. They were proud they could make a positive hiring decision that fast. I was the lone dissent. The candidate will never work out. But I got outvoted, she starts on Monday.

Response:
Many hiring managers report they make the decision in the first three minutes of the interview. You are correct. It is a problem, but one that is easily fixed.

During the first few minutes of the interview, the interviewer receives a variety of potent non-verbal data about the candidate. We observe the clothes, the polished shoes, the haircut, posture, tone of voice, pace of speech. Our perceptions are unconscious, but very powerful. During the first three minutes, the interviewer is awash in first impressions.

The problem is, those first impressions have little to do with the qualifications of the candidate. The interviewer has to get beyond initial impressions and collect more data. But most hiring managers attend the interview ill prepared. They have no written questions, or only a handful at best. “Tell me a little about yourself” is NOT a diagnostic question. Your hiring team fell into the same trap. They sat in the interview room without preparation.

If the interviewer asks few questions related to the work in the role, the only criteria on which to judge the candidate is those powerful initial impressions. It’s that simple. Your team made their decision three minutes from the start of the interview, because they collected no additional data to counter first impressions.

The fix is simple. It’s all about preparation. Most roles have 5-8 key areas of responsibility. Preparation consists of identifying the work in each key area and crafting ten questions. Simple. Five key areas, ten questions each, fifty total written questions.

I can feel the push-back from here. Fifty questions seems like a lot of work, but you have a hiring team. Five people on the team nets out at ten questions each. Spread the work, but don’t let them into the interview room without a list of 50 questions. First impressions will still occur, but your team will collect all kinds of data to balance out those first impressions. -Tom

Necessity Checklist Before the Hire

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
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.

Response:
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 –

Question:
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.

Response:
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