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Hire Hard, Manage Easy: Committing to Higher Standards of Hiring


By Joseph Skursky, President of Market Leader Solutions

{#/pub/images/HireHardManageEasy.jpg}Hiring the right people is a difficult task when the result you seek is to onboard individuals that will fit nicely into the culture, are easy to manage and have a positive impact on the business’s profitability.  That is the ideal outcome right?  But how many times do you, as a manager, HR professional or recruiter, use this criterion as the basis for your hiring process?  Although most people like the “motto” Hire Hard, Manage Easy, many don’t want to endure the hard work that goes along with it.


The system of Hire Hard, Manage Easy is as much of a mindset as it is a process. It takes as much deep thinking about real outcomes and intestinal fortitude, as it does to follow “the system”. There are three components that address both the mindset and process.


Committing to Higher Standards of Hiring – 3 Components to Address


1) Defining The Role & Establishing Outcomes

It all begins by properly defining the role. By properly, I mean throw out the useless job descriptions and get to the real meat of what defines success in the role. Not enough of the right kind of emphasis is placed here. And here is where it begins to define your real outcomes.


Outcomes can be traced back to character, character to competencies, and competencies to attributes. Once you know what is really required versus all of the nonsense found in most job descriptions, you’re well on your way to making it work.


As you enter the marketing phase, write job ads that attract “A level” candidates and clearly eliminate anything below a “B+”. I know it sounds harsh, but otherwise you set yourself up for failure by overwhelming responses and will drown in information overload. Frankly, I’m not a fan of Applicant Tracking Systems that automatically parse keywords. It means that the net was too wide.


I’ll tell you in advance that most people get nervous when they don’t see the volume of responses that they’re accustomed to. This is the time when your commitment to higher standards of hiring will be tested. Don’t flinch! It comes at a high cost. 


2) Interviewing: How to Overcome 3 Common Mistakes

Let me address interviewing. There are a few reasons that most people don’t do it well:

1. They hear only what they want to hear.

2. They don’t go into it looking for the right substance.

3. They ask the wrong kinds of questions.


They hear only what they want to hear:

Not everyone is completely honest when it comes to interviews, so it is important for the interviewer to ask questions to learn about the person they are interviewing, not just the words coming out of their mouths.  There are some questions I ask that I don’t even listen to the answer. Instead, I pay attention to tone. Do they have the right confidence and conviction? Are they answering the question the way it was asked – meaning if I asked for details, did they give me details, or did they talk “theoretically” or in abstracts? *Please note that this is only for 1 or 2 questions, not the entire interview.


They don’t go into it looking for the right substance:

When looking for the right substance, I’m referring to the character, competencies, and attributes that are known to be required for success in the role. As an example: resiliency is one of the biggest factors for success in sales. I test it early and hard in order to determine if they really have it. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, how will you know when you find it?


They ask the wrong kinds of questions:

The questions you’ve probably used, heard, or endured in most interviews are often approached from the wrong angle. “Tell me about yourself” is a great example of the wrong kind of question because it doesn’t tell you anything…not really, because people rehearse this one, and quite frankly, many embellish or lie. Instead, you should focus on what are you looking for, the qualities you detailed in your job definition and desired outcomes. Prepare some behavior-based questions such as “Tell me about a time when you had to implement change in your area of responsibility, how did you go about initiating that change?”  Use these questions sparingly and dig deeply into their answers asking for quantification of success and what they learned along the way (what would they do differently in the future). Find out why they did it one way versus another. Learn their thought processes as they were accomplishing success. The answers to these questions are far more telling of future success.


3) Using Assessments

Now I’m going to touch on something that may make some a little queasy – assessments. I use them and I trust them. Not only does it help to provide the most objective view of the person, but it often makes the interviews go far deeper because you have a preview of their strengths and weaknesses. The interviews are more productive as a result. It is best to use them near the beginning of the interview process in order to create more productive interviews.


Casting a smaller net to attract and interview the best people requires a shift in mindset and process, but it also allows you to focus deeper on each of the three components that have a critical impact on your desired outcome.  As you address defining the role, interviewing and assessments, always keep in mind that you are evaluating the candidate’s ability to do the job well, how well they will fit with both their boss and the team, and if you can live with their weaknesses. Beyond this point, reference checks, competent onboarding, and effective leadership are still required for long-term success. We’ll get into that another time.


As I explained earlier, most people like the concept but don’t want to endure the work.  Here are a few common concerns, as well as the shift in mindset required to overcome them:


Q: Will this make it more difficult for me to recruit?

A: I guarantee it will. How hard do you want to manage? What level of results do you want to achieve? They come in direct proportion to how hard you hire.


Q: What if the hiring manager tells me that she needs someone ASAP?

A: My answer is, “how soon does she want to do it again?” I would rather walk away from a candidate that I’m not fully convinced can do the job than to put a warm body in a seat. Furthermore, if the manager is responsible for P&L, how much is she willing to lose to “immediate mediocrity?”


Q: Will I be able to find enough qualified candidates? The playing field is pretty thin.

A: For one thing, get over your scarcity mindset. There is abundance if you look for it. Also, the very process itself attracts “A players” because you demonstrate how serious you are about hiring. They expect to be in the company of other “A players” as a result, and that’s a significant drawing power.


Let me conclude with this. My friend and colleague, Mark Herbert, often says that you should hire smart people because you can teach them anything, yet you cannot change the character of the individual. Why do I mention this? Because some of you will be tempted to lower the bar or overlook something in the recruiting process that will later haunt you. Once again – don’t flinch! It’s too costly, and I want you to be successful. 


{#/pub/images/JosephSkursky.jpg}Written by Joseph Skursky, President of Market Leader Solutions    For almost 20 years, Joseph Skursky has been growing businesses and advising leaders in companies across North America. His model of Leadership, People, and Execution provides a clear roadmap to grow almost any business. It has been field-tested and proven effective for over 9 years. Joseph Skursky helps companies hire with confidence, manage without frustration, and increase both productivity and profitability. His “Hire Hard, Manage Easy” system  has earned the respect of colleagues and clients alike. More importantly, it delivers consistent results.


Do you have a question for Joseph?  Please visit our Human Resources Community, he will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


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