Tag Archives: hiring talent

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.”

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.

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.”

Three Accountabilities

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

You talked about Managers and systems. And you described the most important system for a Manager as the People System. What’s inside that system?

There are three primary accountabilities for any Manager.

  • First, is that the Manager is accountable for the output of the team. I don’t listen to excuses that some team member failed to perform, or some other team member fell short. I hold the Manager accountable for the output of the team.
  • The ingredients that support that output are the ability of the Manager to assemble the team together. This has a great deal to do with identifying and selecting talent.
  • Once assembled, the Manager must lead the team to work together, competently and with commitment in pursuit of the goal.

Failure in any part of this system falls to the Manager.

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.”

Upside Down

Julia hesitated before she asked the obvious question. “So, you think I should become involved earlier in the hiring process?”

“Probably,” I replied. “Step me through your process?”

“It’s pretty straight-forward,” Julia replied. “I’m the division manager, so I am the last to see the candidates. It starts with a listing on the internet, resumes sent to the receptionist. The receptionist follows some basic criteria to sort the resumes into two piles, in and out. Two supervisors, then, pick through the in pile. They make a few phone calls and get some candidates to the office for interviews. If they like them, they kick the candidate upstairs for another round of interviews with the department managers. Those who pass muster finally get to me.”

Julia’s description was predictable, “But, I can’t believe these candidates make it this far in the process. They are awful, totally unqualified, but the managers say, that’s the best out there. It’s really difficult to find good people these days.”

“Julia, did you ever consider your process might be upside down. The front end is handled by the wrong people moving candidates up the food chain. Yes, I want you to get involved earlier in the process. The first decisions about candidates are being made by someone who answers the phone, who has only worked here for three weeks. Don’t you think you can spot the best resumes quicker? There is no higher calling for you than to recruit and build a strong team. If a manager did nothing else, that would be enough.”


You will never ever get what you want!!! You will only get what you focus on.

At first I am disappointed, because I really want what I want. It makes me feel bad to understand that I will never get what I want.

If I really want it, I have to focus on it.

If you tell me – “It is really hard to find good people these days. We just never seem to hire the kind of people we really want.” My response – You will never get what you want! You will only get what you focus on.

It’s not that you can’t find good people out there. You just have not focused your concentration and energy to find good people. So, what does focus look like? Think about finding good people, talk about finding good people, have meetings about finding good people, plan a campaign to find good people. Roll out an action plan to find good people.

You will never get what you want. You will only get what you focus on.

In a Hurry to Hire

“Here it is,” Kristen announced. “I couldn’t find the job description, but here is the job posting that we put on the internet.”

“So, you don’t know if you have a job description?” I asked.

“You know, we were in such a hurry to get this posted, I don’t think we actually wrote a job description.”

“So, how will you evaluate the candidates who respond?”

“That’s why I asked you to look at the profile assessment. Everything is there. That’s why I think we have a good candidate,” Kristen curtly replied.

“Oh, really,” I mused.

“Yes, based on this personality profile, I think this is someone I could really work with.”