Making your first hire as a manager
Your team is your greatest asset, but your team can also be your biggest liability. Jim Collins calls it having the right people on the bus first, and then having the right people in the right seat on the bus. There is no greater opportunity to get the right people on your proverbial bus than during the hiring process. Many managers, including me, have made our share of mistakes during the interview process, only to live with months of poor performance and stress. You can learn from my mistakes here.
Below are 5 tips I offer, which make the hiring process rewarding and fun.
#1 Take your time
Hiring someone is very similar to buying a house. You will not do it every day but you live with the consequences for a long time. I once hired a candidate who said everything I wanted to hear during the interview. She smiled, had a sociable personality, and presented herself very well. I made her an offer the very next day. She was the only candidate I interviewed for the position. In less than 2 weeks, she became a cancer on the team, often fueling gossip and idleness. It took 11 months to manage her out of the organization. Take your time. My rule of thumb now is, interview at least 5 people, and never settle. Take your time!
#2 Beware of gossip
You will not find this in interview manuals, but it is very important that you keep your ears tuned to any gossip during the interview. How a candidate speaks about his or her former boss or former coworkers is a reflection of their character and their heart. This cannot be taken lightly. As the Bible says, "Put them in mind to ... speak evil of no man" Titus 3: 1,2. And elsewhere we see, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" Matt 12:34. If a candidate is comfortable bad mouthing former colleagues to a perfect stranger, namely you, it is only a matter of time before they start bad mouthing you and your organization.
#3 Hire for character first, technical skills second
I'm not advocating that we minimize someone's technical skills; but I see that too often, managers put so much weight on technical skills, at the detriment of attitude and character. One of my first hires was a young woman who totally bombed the technical portion of her phlebotomy interview. She was fresh out of school did not have much work experience in the field. I told her I would "hold on" to her resume and keep her in mind should something else become available. That same evening, she sent me a thank you email and asked for a second chance. During the interview she was genuine, forthcoming about her level of experience, and very personable. So, two weeks later I invited her back for a second interview, where she demonstrated significant progress. I hired her. Six months later she was one of my top performers. You can teach people technical skills, but it's very hard to teach someone strong work ethic and to be kind to others. Focus on character!
#4 Use the STAR interview method
If you don’t want candidates to just tell you what you they think you want to hear, then you need to employ the STAR method right away. Avoid hypothetical questions at all costs. Questions like, “what would you do in such and such a situation,” are fluffy, because they fail to tell you anything substantial about the candidate. Remember, the interviewee, for the most part, will come to the interview seeking to make a good first impression. That is a good thing. But sometimes by seeking to make a good impression, they may fail to be completely forthcoming. It is your job as the interviewer to ask the right questions. Use the STAR method. Situation/Task. Action. Results. Instead of asking, “What would you do if a customer were unhappy with your customer service,” ask instead, “provide a specific example when a customer was unhappy with your services, what you did to mitigate the issue, and what the result of your countermeasure was.” See how much more loaded this question is? You will be sure to get a complete answer demonstrating the candidate's ability to diffuse conflict, resolve problems, and interact with people.
#5 Do panel interviews
“In the multitude of counselors there is safety” Prov 11:14. We all have blind sides and biases. That’s okay. I have made serious interview blunders interviewing candidates by myself. In the process of asking questions, listening for the response, and writing notes at the same time, I often miss more than 50% percent of the interview. A panel interview frees you up to ask the questions and listen, while your colleague takes notes, or vice versa. After the interview, compare notes to make sure that no stone is left un-turned. You’ll be surprised of the impact. I also suggest having multiple rounds of interviews, on different days. Some people behave very differently on a Monday than they do on a Tuesday.
Finally! You’ve interviewed a gazillion candidates and have made a strong hire. Don’t kick back and throw your feet up just yet! The hiring process is far from over. It is now your responsibility as the manager to set up your new team member for success. Remember, your team is your greatest asset. The more you develop, mentor, and coach, the better your team will perform. As a great teacher once said, you are the problem and the solution in your organization. Make sure your new hire has the tools needed to perform the role. Do a weekly check-in to make sure they understand your expectations of them, and to answer their questions. Lastly, celebrate as a team once your new hire makes it to the 90-day mark. More to come on this topic in another blog post…