I immediately file résumés in the trash.
Today's talent climate is a really strange beast. What employers are looking for seems hard to define and even harder to reflect on paper. Oftentimes, it's a challenge to articulate what the "X factor" even is--we just know we want it.
For years at LeadMD, our team tweaked, changed, and overhauled the hiring process until one day we realized we were going about it all wrong. Two years ago, we transformed our hiring process one last time.
Whereas most traditional interviews revolve around asking insightful questions that illicit revealing questions, we wanted the candidate's actions to be the true revelation. And so, we implemented what we call practical hiring.
What It Is
The practical hiring method boils down to intentionally created exercises explicitly designed to reveal how a potential hire listens, gathers information, designs a deliverable, and takes constructive feedback. Utilizing this technique has the power to reveal everything that truly matters in an employee that a company so often misses during a traditional interview.
Why It Helps
We also found in the past that the hiring process presented a very false environment. Both sides are hyper-sensitive in the hiring process, because it's a courtship. But what happens when the honeymoon period ends? All of the insights we garner through switching to the practical hiring process would have remained hidden until it was too late.
That said, practical hiring is not a normal process. If you're looking at "A level" candidates, you will need to resign yourself to the fact that they can easily get a job down the street at a different company--perhaps even your competitor--without subjecting themselves to this gauntlet.
Deep down, all employers are secretly afraid of pushing candidates away with their hiring process. I'm an optimist, so the thought of letting that game-changing team member slip away immediately induces panic. But we had to get over it.
How It Works
To grow in the hiring process, we had to let go of those concerns and embrace the fact that this process was going to change the way we hired talent. If we wanted to truly up-level our teams, we had to up-level the data we were gathering to build those teams, which brings me to my point: When it comes to how candidates operate, the most impactful trait we've uncovered during these practical exercises is self-awareness--and it's so easy to test for.
Each exercise culminates with a deliverable. This end work product may vary greatly depending on the position you're hiring for. Perhaps it's a presentation for a sales rep or maybe it's an app you've asked a developer to create--the point is, it doesn't matter. The journey is what you have evaluated. And now for the culmination.
What to Ask
After you have evaluated the candidate's process and you've seen the deliverable they've assembled and presented to your team, lean back in your chair and simply ask what the candidate would do differently next time.
This is the single most powerful question we ask in our process. Their answer is as insightful as it comes when determining self-awareness.
I've seen candidates that stammer and stutter, painfully reaching for an answer that never comes. We are never hiring that individual. And then I've seen directly into the soul of candidates that immediately respond with an answer that was already top of mind. Truly self-aware individuals are always looking for ways to learn.
They inherently recognize behaviors and decisions that did not lead to the best or most efficient outcome. They acknowledge them and they don't dwell on them. However, they yearn for the chance to implement these experience-driven tweaks, constantly striving to be one degree better.
As you work through this process you'll quickly realize two things. First, hiring and talent management will begin to consume a large part of your day--and that's how you know it's working. As a CEO, I never expected to spend the lion's share of my time recruiting and managing talent. Today, I realize how naive that was. The second realization is, you'll be so amazed at how rare self-awareness is that you'll do anything in your power to hire the candidates who have it.
We've all heard the cliché about life's joy residing in the journey and not the destination. Practical hiring will certainly reinforce that. In the end, however, you will find that the individual who excels at the journey but also looks back at their trail with honesty and self-reflection is the candidate who becomes more sure-footed with every step.