Category Archives: Hiring Talent

Hiring Criteria

“Tell me, Julian.  Why did you pick this person out of the candidate pool?  Is he really the best candidate for the open position on your team?” I asked.

“I don’t think you understand,” Julian replied. “I don’t only have to think about the best person for the job. I also have a budget to think about. I get a little spiff on gross margin, but my net to the bottom in my department makes up the biggest part of my bonus.”

“I am looking at the salary requirements of the three final candidates. They are all within the salary range for the position. Why did you pick this one? I know his salary requirement is $20,000 less than the other two candidates, but is that really why you picked him?”

“Well, the best candidate is the one from Missouri,” Julian explained. “Best experience, interviewed the best. He has already relocated here. But his salary requirements, that’s almost as much as I am making. I just don’t think we need that much horsepower in this role.”

“And, the candidate you picked?”

“You’re right, not as much experience, especially on the equipment system we use. He will require a little training, maybe some hand holding until he gets the hang of things.”

“And, this new candidate, if something happens to you, would he be able to take over your position in time?”

“Of course not,” Julian pushed back. “If something happened to me, it would be tough. The company would have to recruit someone from the outside. I have a big job. I wouldn’t be easy to replace me.”

Talking to Candidates?

“You want me to read resumes and talk to candidates?” Roger protested.  “I am not the hiring manager.  The hiring manager is on my team, it’s his responsibility.  I just hope he does a good job.  That position has been a rotating door for months.”

“And, what are you accountable for?” I asked nonchalantly.

“Let me give you a long laundry list,” Roger replied. ” I have four projects in play, we have some capital equipment I have to vet and approve. Plus, I have a couple of personalities to straighten out and I have a huge communication issue between operations and quality control. And, you want me to get involved in this hiring process?”

“Sounds daunting,” I said. “What more important thing do you have to do than to build the infrastructure of your team? In fact, the reason you have all these issues is you did a lousy job of recruiting in the first place. You do this job well (recruiting), and your life as a manager will be wonderful. You do this job (recruiting) poorly, and your life as a manager will be miserable, and for a very long time.”

Best Perspective of the Candidate

Byron was a bit unsettled. “Do you mean that I should read those resumes? I’m not the hiring manager,” he stated flatly.

“No, and we already established that the hiring manager is too close to the position, is threatened by the hire and does not have enough perspective to see the correct talent pool. That is why it is your role.”

“But, I am not the hiring manager,” he continued to protest.

“No, you are the Manager Once Removed. Are you threatened by this hire?” I asked.

“Well, no, this position is two levels down from me.”

“Exactly, and do you have better perspective on what is really required for success in this position?”

Byron nodded. “But reading resumes. I don’t have time to read resumes and this is not my hire.”

“I am not asking you to make the hire. That is still Ron’s job. Your role in the hiring process, as the Manager Once Removed, is to create the Talent Pool. You create the Talent Pool of qualified candidates. Ron makes the hire from the Pool.”

Early Decisions in Hiring

Ron settled in a chair across from Byron, his manager. We exchanged appropriate pleasantries and set the context for the conversation. Byron finally drilled in.

“Ron, you know I don’t think these three candidates are qualified for the position,” Byron started. “But you said these were the only ones who fit our budget.”

“Yep, I know things are tight around here,” Ron replied. “I figured I could save the company some money, bring in one of these people. I could show them the ropes, take them in under my wing and everything would be fine.”

“Were there other candidates that were too expensive for us?” Byron asked.

“Sure, we had seven other resumes, but they were no bargain. We would have to pay full boat for any of them.”

We thanked Ron for his time and he left Byron and I to debrief.

“Byron, I don’t know, but my guess is that there are seven resumes of candidates that we need to look at. So, tell me, why do you think Ron is having difficulty with this hire, looking at the wrong talent pool of people?”

Byron was troubled, but the fog was lifting. “I think Ron was threatened by those resumes that he described as too expensive. You are right. Some of the salary requirements are close to what Ron is making. And I don’t think Ron has enough perspective to truly understand what will be required in this supervisor position.”

“Byron, let me recap. This whole process started at the bottom with Irene, the receptionist, through another supervisor and finally to the hiring manager. None are making good decisions in this selection process.

“So, who should be driving this? Who is left? Who understands what is truly required and is not threatened by this hire?”

“Do you mean, me?” Byron asked.

Exactly as Designed

Tyler thought for a minute. “If we do something wrong, then we have been doing it wrong for some time,” he observed. “That’s the way we have always hired people from the outside.”

“And how is that working out for you?” I asked.

“Ten percent of the time, we get lucky, most of the time we get someone who is okay, and ten percent of the time, we get stung.”

“As you look at your process, who is the first person to touch the resumes on their way to the Hiring Manager?”

“That’s easy,” Tyler replied. “HR.”

“And, you, you’re the Manager Once Removed. When do you finally see the resumes?”

“Well, right before we extend the offer, I usually see the last three resumes. Often, I will bring back the strongest candidate for a final interview.”

“And, what would happen, if you turned your system upside down, so you were the first person to review the resumes?”

“Now, wait a minute,” Tyler stepped back. “I have enough to do without looking at dozens of resumes.”

“Tyler, what more important thing do you have to do than to focus on building the infrastructure of your team? In fact, the reason you are so busy, is because your hiring process is designed to produce exactly the people you end up with.”

Find the Needle in the Haystack

“What went wrong?” I asked.

Tyler recounted the steps they used to qualify candidates. First, they killed a couple of trees printing resumes. Because there were so many, the stack was moved to the reception area. The large stack was divided in two, those from out of town were discarded, those in town were delivered to an area supervisor. The area supervisor was familiar with the job tasks, so that’s where the first real cuts were made.

The final forty resumes were delivered to the hiring manager. The hiring manager was very busy and a little put off by having to deal with forty resumes. He made quick work of the process, however, quickly finding some defect in thirty-five candidates. In the final five, two wanted too much money, two were working somewhere else, so that left one candidate who could easily start within 48 hours. Too good to be true.

“So, where do you think you went wrong?” I repeated.

One Most Important Thing

“What’s the one most important thing you do?” I asked. “In a year’s time, looking back, what one thing have you done that has had the most impact on your company?”

Kristen was thinking. She had some stuff up on her walls, some recognition plaques, a framed letter from a customer. “I don’t know,” she started. “My highest contribution? I guess it’s just making sure my people are always busy and not wasting time. That’s what managers do.”

“No, on your team of 19, you have two supervisors, that’s what they do, keep people busy. What is the most important thing you do?”

“I guess I never really thought about it. No one ever asked me, or told me. In fact, when I got promoted last year, the only difference is that I go to management meetings once a week. I spend the rest of my time dealing with problems and issues. Who is arguing with whom? Who wants time off? Why someone is constantly running behind? Why things don’t come out right? Motivating my team? I stay pretty busy doing all that.”

“What would you have to do differently, so that you did none of those things?” I challenged.

“Well, there’s no way. The people I have on my team just wouldn’t be able to get along and stay productive without me in there.”

“So, what would you have to do differently?”

I’m Too Busy

“You are right,” Kristen relented. “I really am too busy. My priorities are focused on short term fires. I feel like all I do, all day long, gets consumed with management issues and keeping people motivated. I don’t have time to work on basic stuff like writing role descriptions. When I look at doing that, it is so far down my urgency scale, I almost think writing a role description is silly.”

“What would be the payoff?” I asked.

“The payoff? I can’t even think about the payoff. I could write a role description and then I would have a role description, but I would be further behind dealing with all the crap,” she explained.

“Kristen, you are not unlike most managers,” I nodded. “If you could truly focus on getting the right people, most of the crap you deal with would largely go away. Stop working on crap and start working on systems. Your life will only improve when you start working on systems. And the most important system is the people system.”

Looks Great

“I think we have a good candidate, here,” explained Kristen. “Profile looks great. I think it’s exactly what we are looking for. Let me show you.”

“The profile assessment, the one about dominance, influence, sociability and compliance behavior?” I replied.

“Yes, the profile looks great,” she repeated.

“Before I see the profile, can I look at the role description?”

Kristen stopped, a puzzled look on her face. “Yes, the role description. I know we have one, but, it must be in my office. Here, you can look at the profile while I go see if I can find it.”

“Tell you what? Why don’t you go see if you can find it, while I go get a cup of coffee.”

“You don’t want to see the profile? This looks like a really good candidate.” she urged.

“Not really, not yet.”

How Would They Behave

“Can we try another value? We had a problem with our last supervisor. He would never follow the guidelines on expenses for his work area. If he needed something, he would always buy the most expensive item available. Is that a value? I would like to interview for that.” Patricia sat down, satisfied that we would now work on her hiring issue.

“If I were a Boy Scout,” I said, “and I was, I would call that the value of thrift. So, here is how we create the interview question. How does a thrifty person behave?”

Patricia was back in the limelight. “A thrifty person would evaluate whether we truly needed something or not, then look at the alternatives, along with our budget and make a responsible decision within the guidelines.”

“So, frame a question from that,” I pushed.

Patricia thought. “Tell about a time when you had to buy a piece of equipment for your work area. Step me through, how you determined the need, and how you bought the equipment.”