In my last column, our heroine Lucinda Slate encountered a few hiring horrors. She managed to ultimately select a candidate and hire her. But after only 3 weeks at Slate and Associates, Rosemary, the new office manager turned out to be a hiring disaster. In that short time, she caused utter chaos, and created a rift between Lucinda and the rest of her staff. How could one person make things so bad so fast? Put simply: The hiring process was flawed.
You don't have to cause terror in your company with poor hires. Here are three simple ways to improve the process and increase your odds of bringing in the right person.
1. Ask for a joke in your ad.
Reading resumes and cover letters is a drag. They all sound alike and rarely tell you much about the candidate. Years ago I started requiring candidates who answered my ads to send a joke with their resume. I benefited from this approach in multiple ways. First, anyone who didn't send me a joke or at least acknowledge the request, showed me right away that they couldn't read or at least couldn't follow directions. Generally speaking, more than 50% eliminate themselves right off the bat.
Second, I enjoyed the many emails in my box from applicants because they kept me laughing. And I was able to eliminate candidates who surprised me with inappropriate jokes. While I may want to hang out in bars with these people I certainly don't want some of them representing my company. Why hire someone who doesn't exercise discretion with a complete stranger?
2. Tell people why they won't want to work for you.
Hiring the right person is like finding the right mate. It's better if you know yourself well and address your faults up front since they are going to find out sooner or later anyway. Your other employees deserve better than a one-night stand you regret soon after. Get with your team and list all the cultural aspects of your company that will repel most people. Maybe your company enjoys chaos over organization. Maybe your team thrives on sarcasm and irony. Perhaps you expect after-hours dedication. State these traits clearly in your ads and interviews. You may get fewer applicants but you'll attract the people who will fit best and you can pick the most highly skilled from that list without the worry of cultural dissatisfaction down the line.
3. Let candidates sell you in the interview.
There is nothing wrong with being an evangelist for your company. It goes with being dedicated and excited about what you do. But be careful during interviews not to sell, sell, sell, no matter how much potential you see in the candidate. Interviews are your opportunity to listen carefully and identify potential conflicts with your company culture. Most candidates are heavily prepared and genuinely excited in the interview. It will be hard to see them for real until 60 days later, when the excitement wears off and the real work begins. If you need to speak, ask lots of questions. The more you make the applicant fill the talk time, the greater the chance that he or she will get beyond prepared remarks and show true personality traits.
One bad hire can cost time, money, and the loss of good employees. Remember to hire slow and fire fast--not the other way around--if you want your culture to be consistent. Take your time and learn good hiring skills so you can get the right people on board to move your company forward.