Key Topics Covered in This Chapter
• Defining job requirements
• Recruiting promising candidates
• Evaluating candidates
• Making the decision and offer
L ike many other activities undertaken by organiza- tions, hiring is a business process—a set of activities that turn inputs into outputs.This process compiles informa- tion about job requirements, the applications of various candidates, and the deliberations of decision makers,and produces an outcome: new people on the payroll.This chapter describes a five-step hiring process. Execute these steps well, and not only will the quality of your hires improve,but you will also be more confident that you are hiring the right people.
Defining Job Requirements
Before you can make a good hire, you need to know what you are hiring for.You also need to determine which skills and personal attributes will be a good "fit" with the requirements of the job and the organization. To define the job and its requirements,you need to understand:
• the primary responsibilities and tasks involved in the job;
• the background characteristics needed to perform the job (education and experience);
• the personal characteristics required (for example,does the individual need to have strong interpersonal skills? Be highly intelligent?);
• the key features of your organization’s culture (for example, team-orientation,degree of conformity,reward systems);and
• your managerial style (for example,authoritative,coercive, democratic) and its implications for an effective working relationship.
Primary Responsibilities and Tasks
If you’re looking to rehire for an existing job, take a look what the current incumbent is now doing and evaluate their job description, if one exists. But don’t simply accept either of these perspectives as definitive. Use the hiring opportunity to reevaluate the primary responsibilities and tasks of the job. Make sure you can answer the question,"What does the employee have to do in this job?"
Education and Experience
Education and experience are the two most critical background characteristics to consider when evaluating candidates.In the case of education,you may wish to specify a certain type of degree or a cer- tain level. Be sure to ask yourself whether a specific educational background is truly necessary. Can you be flexible in this area, or can relevant experience be substituted for a certain educational background? Experience requirements should be based on a thorough analy- sis of the specific tasks and responsibilities of the position.Which would be most desirable:
• Industry experience?
• Functional experience?
• Large- versus small-company experience?
Industry and functional experience are particularly important for externally oriented positions requiring knowledge of products and competitors. However, if a good candidate has not been exposed to
everything required, consider whether he or she can learn what is needed and how long that learning will take.Various tests, for ex- ample,are available to measure an individual’s dexterity with numer- ical data,spatial acumen,mechanical ability,and so forth.Also,deter- mine whether the organization can afford the time needed for on-the-job learning.
Personal characteristics can indicate how the candidate will ap- proach the job and how he or she might relate to coworkers (see "Create Consensus on Personal Characteristics"). Evaluate the following personal characteristics relative to the tasks and responsi- bilities you’ve listed for the job opening:
• Analytical and creative abilities. A candidate’s abilities in these two areas determine how he or she assesses problems and comes up with new approaches to solving them.
• Decision-making style. Decision-making style is very individ- ual. Some people are extremely structured, analytical, and fact- based; others rely more on intuition. Some make decisions quickly,while others ponder them for a long time.Some depend on consensus, while others seek their own counsel. It is critical to determine whether a particular style is required for success in the job and,if so,what it is.
• Interpersonal skills. Since interpersonal skills and behavior are intimately connected, understanding a candidate’s interpersonal skills is an important part of the hiring decision process. To determine which interpersonal skills are most appropriate for a given position, think about the set of tasks that will be per- formed in the position.Which traits will translate into good per- formance, especially in view of the superiors, peers, and direct reports with whom the person will interact? For example, a controller should ideally be patient and formal, demonstrating careful, cautious, detail-oriented behavior. For a sales manager, high extroversion and low formality may be desirable.
• Motivation. The candidate’s personal goals, interests, energy level,and job progression often demonstrate their level of moti- vation.So ask yourself,"Does this job match the candidate’s per- sonal aspirations? Would he or she do the job with enthusiasm and energy?
Develop a Job Description
Once you understand the position’s requirements, you are ready to create a job description.A job description is a profile of the job, its essential functions, reporting relationships, hours, and required cre- dentials.This description will make it possible for you to explain the job both to potential candidates and to any recruiters you may be using to help identify candidates. In some cases, your organization may have a required format or a standard job description to use as a model. A clearly written,results-oriented job description can shape the beginning of the employee relationship, and can help everyone understand the mission, culture, needs, and goals of the company. It can also form the basis of a legal termination of employment should that become necessary.Your job description should include the following:
• job title,business unit,and the name of the organization
• job responsibilities and tasks
• hiring manager and reporting manager
• summary of the job tasks,responsibilities,and objectives
• compensation,hours,and location
• background characteristics required
• personal characteristics required
Many of these items will have to be cleared with the human re- source department. Developing the job description can be an opportunity to redesign a job, instead of just filling the one you already have. For Many hiring decisions start off on the wrong foot because the company hasn’t clarified exactly what it wants in the new hire. For example,the different people with whom the new hire will interact (or who have a say in the hiring decision) may have their own ideas about the perfect job candidate. Consider the hypothetical case of a company that wants to fill a product-designer position but hasn’t reached a consensus about key hiring factors.The design director wants a seasoned individual who has gained extensive design experience at one of the firm’s toughest competitors.The head of finance prefers a bright new (and more affordable) college graduate.The market- ing director is pressing for someone with marketing experience in the kinds of product lines the company currently offers. Meanwhile, the new hire’s immediate supervisor is looking for someone with "people skills." Pity the poor job applicant who walks into this situation! To avoid this type of confusion,try this procedure:
• Ask everyone who’ll interact with the new hire to privately write down exactly what they would consider the attributes of the ideal candidate.
• Meet and openly discuss differences in the various wish lists.
• Decide together which requirements have priority.
• Create a new list of requirements that everyone agrees on.
• Stick to that list when evaluating candidates.
Create Consensus on Personal Characteristics example, the last person who held the position may have had a strong strategic focus, but if you decide that a more hands-on man- ager is now needed, then recreate the job description accordingly. As you go through the exercise of describing the job, observe the following:
• Distinguish between knowledge,skills,and abilities.Some jobs require advanced degrees.Some require special skills,such as knowing how to program in Java.Others require physical abilities,such as hand-eye coordination,or mental abilities,such as the ability to work with numbers.Figure out what you need in each area.
• Take the time needed to do it right.Yes,you need that new employee to start next week,but the cost of getting rid of the wrong employee more than outweighs the cost of time spent finding the right one.
• Be sure to comply with all legal restrictions.Your stated job requirements must be clearly related to getting the job done and must not unfairly prevent racial minorities,women,people with disabilities,or other "protected classes"from getting hired. 1 (U.S. readers should see Appendix C,"Legal Landmines in Hiring.") For a sample job description,see Appendix A at the end of this book.
Recruiting Promising Candidates
Gaining access to qualified candidates is critical to the success of your hiring effort (see "Tips for Finding the Right Person").That means creating a pool of qualified applicants.You can accomplish this by getting the word out through as many channels as possible. However, the word "qualified" is important. A large pool of med- iocre candidates isn’t nearly as valuable as a small pool of qualified candidates. Utilizing targeted, relevant channels to get the word out about your position can help ensure that the proportion of qualified candidates in your pool is as high as possible.
Typical channels include recruiting agencies, newspaper ads, referrals from colleagues, trade publications, professional associa- tions, networking, campus recruiting, and the Internet. In addition, you can enhance the pipeline of qualified candidates through pro- grams such as internships and partnerships with colleges, universi- ties,and community organizations.
Personal referrals from current employees are another favored method of expanding the candidate pool, and many companies encourage this through the payment of "rewards" to employees whose referrals are actually hired. In general, this practice is much less costly than others and often produces more satisfactory new hires since it’s unlikely that current employees will suggest a candi- date who is unqualified or likely to be a bad employee.
A sizeable pool of applicants assures that you will have choices in the hiring process;it also means that you’ll have more sifting to do in finding the best choice.And that sifting begins with résumé screen- ing (see "Tips for Screening Résumés"). • Consider current employees. • Look outside your organization to bring in new outlooks, skills,and experiences. • Know what kind of person you’re looking for in order to locate a good fit. • Remember that a person’s past job performance is the surest guide to future performance. • Remember that the right education + the right experience + a compatible personality = a good fit. • Beware of the "just like me"trap.This trap encourages man- agers to favor candidates who share similar education back- grounds,are of the same age,gender,or race,and who enjoy the same pastimes.To avoid the trap,focus on the objective requirements of the job and the candidate’s qualifications.
The cover letter and résumé are the candidate’s first introduction to you. In order to merit your further attention, they should convey the qualities you are looking for.When you have a large number of résumés to review, use a two-pass process to make your task more manageable.In the first pass,eliminate the résumés of candidates who do not meet the basic requirements of the job. In the second pass, look for résumés that include:
• signs of achievement and results—for example,a profit orienta- tion,stability,or progressive career momentum;
• a career goal in line with the job being offered (be on your guard here,as applicants are often coached to tailor their pur- ported career goals to match those of jobs to which they’re applying);and
• attractive overall construction and appearance. In this pass,also consider the subtler differences among qualified can- didates—for example,years and quality of experience,technical ver- sus managerial backgrounds, the quality of the companies they have worked for in the past, and so forth. Then develop a list of the strongest candidates. When reviewing résumés, be on the alert for red flags that can indicate areas of weakness such as:
• lengthy description of education (possibly not much job experience);
• employment gaps (what was the applicant doing during these gaps?);
• a pattern of short-term employment,especially after the appli- cant has been in the work force for more than a few years;
• no logical job progression;
• too much personal information (possibly not much job experi- ence);and
• descriptions of jobs and positions only,with no descriptions of results or accomplishments.
A hiring interview has one primary purpose:To provide both the interviewer and the job candidate with an opportunity to obtain the information they need to make the best possible decision. Since the time spent with any particular job candidate is limited, a well- organized approach helps make the most of that time,yielding more and better information. When you are selecting someone for an important position,you will probably go through at least two of the following stages for every job opening.In some cases,you may even go through all three.
1. Telephone-screening interview. This may be done by you,a recruiting agency,your HR department,or someone else in • Spend the least amount of your time eliminating the least- likely candidates and the greatest amount of your time care- fully considering the most-likely candidates.
• Separate fluff from substance.Get right to the core of the candidate’s accomplishments.
• Avoid comparing candidates to each other.Instead,compare each candidate to the high-performer candidate profile and look for a match.
• If you have great numbers of incoming résumés,or tap Inter- net résumé postings,consider using résumé screening soft- ware to automatically identify suitable applicants (more on this in Chapter 2).
your own department.Its purpose is to confirm that the candi- date meets the qualifications stated in the ad or other recruiting material,and it can be as short as necessary to accomplish that goal.It is a good opportunity to get some initial impressions of the candidate:Does she call you back at the specified time? Does she communicate well?
2. Initial in-person interview. Try to narrow the field to four to seven candidates before holding an initial interview.This inter- view will probably last 30 to 60 minutes.For less demanding positions,you may find out everything you need to know about the candidate in this interview.Otherwise,you will need to see the person again.
3. Second interview. Be very selective about who rates a second interview.At this point,other people with a stake in the process may participate,for example,direct reports,potential peers,or other managers.This interview often brings out more of the "real"person.
Structured versus Unstructured Interviews
In a structured interview, you ask all the candidates the same ques- tions so you can compare answers.Structured interviews are used in order to be fair and objective,but they may not elicit as much infor- mation from the candidates. Unstructured interviews are individual conversations that do not necessarily cover all the same questions with every candidate. Instead, they follow lines of inquiry that appear promising.You may learn more about the candidates, but it will be more difficult to compare their responses.And you may miss key information you need in order to make a decision. It’s probably a good idea to steer a middle path between these two approaches—i.e., be flexible in your line of inquiry, but be sure that all interviewees respond to a core set of questions.By preparing those core questions in advance, you can assure yourself and the decision-making team that all key points are covered, and that all candidates respond to them. The unstructured element of the interview opens the door to productive areas of inquiry that neither you nor your colleagues may have anticipated.
Would you go into a meeting with a vendor to discuss a $500,000 to $1 million custom software package without preparation? Hope- fully, you would not. You’d give lots of thought to what you expected the software to do and the features you needed. You’d probably formulate a list of key issues to discuss. Chances are your hiring decisions are costing you something in this same range. So, should you walk into a job interview with notes and prior prepara- tion,or should you simply wing it? You will gather more of the information you need to make a good hiring decision if you take the time and trouble to prepare.To prepare for a hiring interview, review the job description and make a list of the key responsibilities and tasks of the job, associated train- ing and experience needed, and personal attributes required to do the job well. For each of the areas you need to explore with the candidate, prepare several questions in advance. Figure 1-1, the Interview Preparation Form, is a handy way to organize your- self and gives you something you can take into the interview itself. For consistency, other interview- ers should use the same form but ask their own questions. There are three phases to the interview: the opening, the body, and the close.Let’s consider each in detail.
Generally, this should take about 10 percent of the allotted time. Your goal in this phase is to make the candidate feel sufficiently comfortable to open up.There are several things you can do to cre- ate this sense of comfort.Be on time.Be friendly.Introduce yourself and tell the candidate something about yourself. Explain the struc- ture of the interview:
"I’m going to ask you about your experience." "I’m interested in finding out about you as an individual." "We’re interested in finding out whether there is a good fit between your interests and abilities and our organizational needs."
"I will give you information about our organization." "I’ll be glad to take your questions at the end of the interview." You should also use this interview phase to establish rapport with the candidate.Acknowledge some of the difficulties or awkwardness of being interviewed, such as meeting a lot of new people or being tired at the end of the day.A little humor is generally effective in dis- pelling the tension that undermines communication. Find informa- tion on the résumé that will help you build rapport, or compliment the person on some aspect of his experience.Acknowledge that you have something in common, such as having lived in the same city, a mutual acquaintance,or the same outside interest.
Plan to use 80 percent of your allotted time in this phase. Use that time to gather the information you will need to evaluate the candi- date and to "sell" your organization. During the body of the inter- view, you need to assess the candidate’s qualifications, skills, knowl- edge, and experience and compare those to the job description you have created. Pursue a direct line of questioning based on the résumé.Identify similarities and patterns of behavior consistent with your ideal profile.Ask for samples of work and references to review after the interview. Samples, if they are not confidential or propri- etary, may include a sales brochure, product, customer survey, or training course designed by the candidate.These samples can tell you a great deal about a candidate’s capabilities. It is sometimes difficult to get a candidate to be specific about the accomplishments listed on their résumé. But don’t allow difficulty to stand between you and the information you require.Remember,a mistake in a hiring deci- sion can be costly and difficult to undo,and enormously expensive if the person is applying for a key decision-making post.So ask directly for details,and probe for tangible measures of success.Table 1-1 pro- vides some examples of typical résumé statements and how you can respond in order to get more detail. You are also assessing the candidate’s personal qualities during this phase, such as leadership, problem-solving ability, communication, teamwork skills, and motivation. Use scenario-based questions to determine how people tend to handle situations, such as:
• For a process manager candidate: "Suppose that the loan processing department you’d be managing in this position was taking two days more than its competitors to make its decisions and notify customers.How would you approach that type of problem?"
• For a sales manager candidate: "Let’s say that one of the people in your sales district was well liked by customers and company personnel,had great potential,but wasn’t pulling her weight after two years on the job.How would you deal with a situation like that?" Responses to scenario questions like these will give you an idea about how the candidate approaches problems. Also, ask the candidate about how he or she handled past situa- tions similar to those he or she would likely encounter as one of your employees: "Tell me about a time when you had to [fire an employee/handle a key customer whose business you’d just lost/lead a process improvement team/etc.]." Be on guard, though, as some
people have developed canned responses to some of the more likely scenario-based questions. Maintaining control of the interview is very important (see "Tips for Conducting the Interview" and "Case Study:A Take-No- Prisoners Interviewer"). The key to maintaining control is to ask most of the questions and do most of the listening.You should be lis- tening 80 percent of the time.You can also maintain control by fol- lowing a logical line of inquiry.If the candidate strays from this line, return him or her to it. Be sure to take notes during the interview. Notes will help you recall significant facts about the candidate. But be unobtrusive about it,and tell the candidate up front that you will be taking notes. Remember that your interview notes will become part of the employment file. Avoid writing anything down that could be construed as inconsistent with equal opportunity employment laws.
Plan on 10 percent of your allotted interview time to wrap things up.The close is your opportunity to:
• Thank the candidate for coming in.
• Explain how and when the person will hear about follow-up interviews or decisions,depending upon your company’s policy and your interest in him or her.
• Ask if the candidate has questions,especially those that might affect his or her decision to participate in the next step of the process.If you have reached the interview’s time limit,invite the person to call you later with further questions.
• Ask whether there is anything that has not been covered or is unclear.
• Promote your organization.Remember to target the features of your organization that are most likely to appeal to the candidate.
Brad Smart is an industrial psychologist who specializes in a "chronological in-depth structure" interview, or CIDS, and "topgrading," his term for a lengthy, rigorous executive grading process applied to both incumbent managers and job applicants. As described in a Fortune interview, Smart’s goal is to identify "A" players, whom he defines as individuals who represent the best-in-class in their job categories. a These, he says, are the top 10 percent of the talent available within particular categories. Smart’s interview methodology is more intense than what usually passes for good practice.For example,he asks every seri- ous candidate hundreds of questions about his or her life and career, going back to the person’s school years. He inquires about every job and every boss the candidate has had. And to insure that the responses he gets are truthful, Smart lets them know in advance that he will speak with every one of the person’s bosses over the previous ten years,as well as many of their direct reports.So when he asks them,"What would your former bosses describe as your strengths, weaknesses, and overall perform- ance?"they know they must be absolutely truthful. Smart was motivated to develop his detailed method by an experience he had observing traditional interviews. As he explained to Fortune: I got an epiphany while working for a human resources manage- ment consulting firm 28 years ago. One day my boss asked me to sit in on a job interview to screen a candidate for a client looking to hire a vice president of marketing. I noticed the interview was an hour and a half of general scattergun questions, none of which probed the patterns of how this person developed competencies throughout his career.Things like: "Tell me about yourself" and "How would you handle this?" I immediately saw flaws in the process. Six executives of the client had different opinions about what the job was.They really hadn’t analyzed it. I realized most companies hire this way.So I decided to attack the problem. b
• Shake hands and make eye contact.
• Walk the person to the door or to the next destination.
Some candidates will have questions about salary or benefits at this stage. In some organizations, the human resource department ad- dresses these questions. Others allow the interviewer to disclose the salary or salary range. Once the candidate has departed, immediately write down any additional notes or observations while they are still fresh in your mind.
We’ve already given examples of some typical interview questions. Questions put to the candidate are both a means of controlling the interview and eliciting the information you need to effectively eval- uate the prospective employee. It is important to remember, how- ever, that there are good questions, there are aimless questions, and there are outright bad questions.A good question has a purpose, is tied to your decision-making criteria,encourages communication,is job-related, and is nonthreatening. Good questions reflect favorably on you and demonstrate your interest and your preparation. Good questions include:
• Self-appraisal questions that require the candidate to give some thought to his or her interpersonal skills and abilities.These allow the candidate,rather than you,to interpret the facts example:"Why do you think you were selected to lead the task force?")
• Accomplishment questions that ask for evidence of the candi- date’s demonstrated qualities.They help you learn why and how something was accomplished,and reveal a candidate’s level of involvement in past accomplishments.(For example:"Tell me about your contribution to that team effort.") • Broad-brush questions that make the candidate think about a big topic,choose an answer,and organize his or her thoughts. (For example:"Tell me about your experience as a project manager with the fiber optics group.")
• Comparison questions that reveal a candidate’s analytical and reasoning abilities.(For example:"How would you compare working with the fiber optics group to working with the poly- mer group?")
Bad questions include:
• Leading questions that direct the candidate to the answer you want.(For example:"Would you say you have the motivation required for this job?"Would you expect anyone to say "no"to this?)
• Irrelevant questions that waste everyone’s time.(For example,"I see that you are a University of Minnesota alumnus.My daugh- ter may apply there.What are its best programs?") Appendix B at the end of this book includes suggested interview questions organized around key issues such as the candidate’s most recent job,work experience,and skills.
Questions to Avoid
United States laws and regulations are clear about which questions are illegal. If you are not familiar with these laws and regulations,
• Control the situation.It’s your show.
• Don’t buy first impressions.Most people make up their minds about an applicant within the first ten minutes.This can be a big mistake.You may miss the real person.
• Help interviewees feel at ease.They’ll open up and talk more freely.
• Spend more time listening than talking.Interviewers mistak- enly talk about half of the time.Get the candidate to do 80 percent of the talking.The person asking questions and listening is the person who’s in control of the interview.
• Have a purpose for every question,otherwise you’re wasting valuable time with the applicant—and if that person is a hot commodity,he’ll think less of you and your organization.
• Take notes.Put candidates at ease by telling them you will be taking notes before you begin writing. • Don’t make assumptions.Look for repeat patterns of behav- ior to draw conclusions about the candidate.
• Don’t telegraph the right response to the applicant.Author William Swan advises against statements like this one:"[I]t’s critical that anyone in this position be able to work on a small project team....Tell me about your experience and interest in working in such a setting." a Ask this question and your applicant will know exactly what you want to hear.
• Be systematic.If you’re interviewing several candidates,be sure to query each on the same general set of issues:for example,their backgrounds,what they would bring to the position,their long-term career objectives,and so forth.Their responses to this common set of queries will put you in a better position to compare the candidates.
consult your human resources specialist or legal counsel. Prohibited questions in the United State include the following:
How old are you?
Are you married?
What is your citizenship?
What is your sexual orientation?
How much do you weigh?
Are you disabled?
When did you graduate from high school?
Do you have children?
What country are you from?
Where were you born?
Have you ever been arrested?
Would your religion prevent you from working on weekends?
For a more complete discussion of legal and illegal interview questions, see Appendix C,"Legal Landmines in Hiring," at the end of this book.
Evaluating the Candidates Once you’ve interviewed all the candidates,you and others involved in the hiring decision must conduct an objective evaluation of each one. A decision-making matrix such as the one shown in figure 1-2 can be a helpful tool for comparing the candidates to one another.Complete this form after you inter- view each job candidate for a particular position,entering a score for each of the key areas.By tallying the total scores and reviewing your notes from the interviews, you will reduce the chance of making a nonobjective evaluation.
Common Evaluation Mistakes Even though you may take a structured, methodical approach to evaluating your candidates, the evaluation process is still, in the end, subjective.You can neutralize some of that subjectivity by avoiding:
• being overly impressed with maturity or experience,or overly unimpressed by youth and immaturity;
• mistaking a quiet,reserved,or calm demeanor for lack of motivation;
• mistaking the person’s ability to play "the interview game,"or his or her ability to talk easily,for intelligence or competence;
• allowing personal biases to influence your assessment (for example,you might be tempted to judge someone harshly because she reminds you of someone you dislike);
• looking for a friend or for a reflection of yourself in the candidate;
• assuming that graduates of certain institutions or employees of certain organizations are automatically better qualified;
• giving too much weight to familiarity with the jargon of your business;
• focusing only on one or two key strengths and overlooking the absence of others;and
• failing to value motivation to get ahead.
Reference checks verify claims made by the candidate during the interview process and fill in information gaps.They can also provide valuable outside perspectives on the candidate and his or her potential fit with the position. Check references when you are near the end of your recruiting process and close to making a decision. But be sure to obtain permission from the candidates first to avoid affecting someone’s current employment—for example, the applicant’s com- pany may have no idea that he or she is interviewing for a job else- where. In checking references you have two aims.The first is to verify what the applicant has told you about his or her work experience: where, how long, last position held, and particular assignments.The second aim is learn about the applicant’s successes and failures,work habits,strengths and weaknesses,and so forth. The business of reference checking is critically important since it helps assure the hiring company that the job candidate has truthfully represented his position,work experience,and accomplishments.The comments of a reference can also provide another slant on the candi- date’s persona.Unfortunately,particularly in the United States,many companies are wary of saying much of anything about a current or former employee for fear of being sued for libel or slander if the employee fails to get a job because of something they said.So getting straightforward comments from some references may be difficult. Here are some tips for checking references:
• Use the telephone to check references.Since nothing is written down,a person who might be wary of being sued for saying something negative about the applicant is more likely to give you a candid response.Don’t check references via letter;you probably won’t get much information.
• Take a little time to build rapport with the reference;that will make him or her more comfortable with sharing information with you.
• Briefly describe the job that the candidate is applying for and ask if this is something for which the person would be well suited.
• Ask about the candidate’s style,character,strengths,and weaknesses.
• Avoid asking vague questions,such as:"Did Jack do a good job managing his department?"Instead,ask more specific ques- tions,such as:"What was Jack best at?";"What did his subordi- nates like best about him?";"What did they like least?";"Are there any jobs that would be inappropriate for Jack?";"What kind of organizational environment would suit Jack best?"
• Let one reference lead to another.If a reference gives you some information,ask,"Do you know anyone who could tell me about Jack’s experience in this area?"The more people you talk to,the clearer a picture you will get. Many people find reference checking a distasteful chore and give the task limited attention. Checking references for candidates "is about as appetizing as eating fish eyes,"says Pierre Mornell. 2 But the stakes are so high that you must make the effort and be persistent in digging out the information—even though people may be unwilling to share it. In his book, Hiring Smart!, Mornell offers this fast and legal hint for reference checking:
Call references at what you assume will be their lunchtime—you want to reach an assistant or voice mail.If it’s voice mail,leave this simple message.If it’s an assistant,be sure that he or she understands the last sentence of your message.You say "John (or Jane) Jones is a candidate for (the position) in our company.Your name has been given as a refer- ence.
Please call me back if the candidate was outstanding." 3 The results, says Mornell, are both immediate and revealing."If the candidate is outstanding or excellent, I guarantee that eight out of ten people will respond quickly and want to help." In contrast, if very few or no references return your call, their silence speaks vol- umes about the candidate without making any derogatory or libelous statements.
Making the Decision and Offer
Résumés, interviews, and reference checks all inform the decision- making process.At some point, you must ask yourself,"Do we have enough information to make a good decision?" If the answer is "yes,"then it’s time to move ahead with making the hiring decision. Rank your top three candidates, and then ask this question of each: "Do we want this person to work for us?" Remember that the goal of the hiring process is not to simply choose the "most qualified"of the existing applicants,but to hire a person who can help the organ- ization meet its objectives (see "Avoid These Two Hiring Mistakes"). Once you’ve answered both questions affirmatively, make an offer to the candidate who is most able and most likely to help your company meet its goals.If you do not have sufficient information to make a good decision, then determine exactly what additional information you and your colleagues need, how you will obtain it, and what uncertainties you can reasonably expect to reduce. To reduce important uncertainties you may need to call a candidate back for yet another interview, or you may need to do more refer- ence checking.
The Job Offer
Be sure that you understand your organization’s policy on who makes the job offer.In some organizations,the immediate supervisor or manager makes the offer. In others, it’s the job of the human resource department. Job offers are usually made in person or by telephone. After extending a verbal offer, you should also send a written confirma- tion. In both cases, make the offer with enthusiasm and a personal touch, perhaps by referring to something positive that you recall from the interview. Even as you make the offer, continue to gather information from the candidate regarding his or her concerns, the timing of the decision, and other organizations he or she may be considering.
The Offer Letter
An offer letter is an official document,so be sure to seek advice from the appropriate channels before sending it. Do not imply that the offer is an employment contract. Include important facts in the letter,such as:
Watch out for these commonly made mistakes when you make your hiring choices:
Desperately seeking the "hottest" prospects. Don’t assume that that your firm has to hire the hottest,best,and brightest job candidates on the market.Why not?
• Winning them may cost your firm more than it can comfortably afford.
• Their educational or professional background may be more than what the job in question actually requires.
• They may be so confident of their desirability that they won’t bring a healthy dose of appreciation and gratitude to their new job at your firm—and they’ll always have one eye out for the "bigger,better deal."
Hiring in your own image. Another all-too-common mistake is to hire people who are just like you.Many managers assume that they can build strong departments or teams by gathering people who all have the same strengths and personalities—those defined by the managers themselves.But remember:Diversity in personality,work styles,and decision-making approaches
• creates richness in a department’s or team’s culture,
• increases the group’s chances of generating creative ideas and solutions,and
• lets members complement one another’s strengths and make up for one another’s weaknesses.
• starting date
• job title
• expected responsibilities
• benefits summary
• time limit for responding to the offer
Don’t Forget Process Improvement
This chapter has described hiring as a process with a number of identifiable steps. In this sense hiring is similar to other business processes:billing,order fulfillment,manufacturing,customer service, and so forth. Like other processes, hiring should be the focus of continual improvement.Every major hiring experience should be followed by a postmortem in which participants evaluate the effectiveness of each process step, pinpoint weaknesses and seek their root causes, and identify opportunities for improvement. The individuals involved in hiring should ask:
• How effective is our approach to defining job requirements? Are the right people in the company involved? Are we more concerned with how the job has been designed than with how it should be designed?
• Is our current mix of recruiting methods producing an attrac- tive mix of candidates? If it isn’t,what can we do to attract more and better-qualified candidates? • Is our method of screening applicants efficient and effective? What are best practices in this area?
• Does our interview process produce the information we need to make good hiring decisions? Is there consistent quality across interviewers and interview sessions? Do some interviewers need more training?
• Is our candidate evaluation process objective,rigorous,and consistent? How could we make it better?
• When we make a job offer,is the offer clear and compelling? When we strike out with a job offer,do we find out why our offer was rejected?
When an effort is made to improve the hiring process,the quality of your hires will likewise improve.
This chapter has described hiring as a process with a number of key steps:
• Defining job requirements. You have to know very clearly what you’re hiring for,and the package of skills,experience, attitude,and personal characteristics that you and other people involved in the hiring process require.
• Recruiting. This step involves casting your net strategically in order to create a pool of qualified candidates.Screening résumés is part of this step.
• Interviewing. The interview process aims to provide both the interviewer and the job candidate with an opportunity to obtain the information they need to make the best possible decision.The best interviews have a core of questions asked to all candidates,and these provide a common base of comparison and evaluation later.
• Evaluating the candidates. Once all candidates have been inter- viewed,the people involved in the hiring decision must con- duct an objective evaluation of each.Here,a decision-making matrix can help to organize the interview notes and recollec- tions of many people.
• Making a decision and offer. The last step of the hiring process is making the decision and extending a job offer.Always aim for the individual who can contribute the most to your organi- zation’s success. Like any process, hiring is amenable to continual improvement.You and the organization as a whole can become more effective at hiring if you treat each encounter as a learning experience. Reflect on what you did well and what you did poorly.Then incorporate that learning into your next hiring experience.