Over the past 40 years I've personally worked with at least 1,000 hiring managers in a variety of industries and functions at all levels, from rookies to senior executives. Only a few had a consistent track record of hiring great people. While Gallup and Google did some exhaustive benchmarking to identify the traits of great managers, the following is what I discovered the best managers do differently.
The biggest one is that being a great manager starts by hiring great people.
So what do the best hiring managers do differently?
1. They take responsibility for hiring and are fully engaged.
The best managers I worked with saw filling the role with the best person possible as a strategic decision, and they invested their time and energy into the process. Most managers view the hiring process as a burden, not an opportunity to upgrade the team.
2. They know what top talent looks like.
The best managers naturally focus first on a track record of past performance focusing on the results achieved, how decisions were made and the process used to achieve these results. The most significant accomplishment question was based on observing how they got this information.
3. They value potential and performance over skills and experience.
As long as a candidate had the basic skill set, they were more concerned about the person's upside potential. They evaluated this on candidates' trend of growth over time, how they handled stretch jobs, their assertiveness and how they thought on their feet handling challenging job-related problem-solving questions. Much of this was incorporated into the second question in our two-question Performance-based Interview.
4. They clarify expectations up front.
While most didn't prepare a complete performance-based job description, they did have a clear vision of what needed to be done in terms of three to four critical performance objectives. During the interview they focused on the candidate's ability to do this work.
5. They conduct extensive due diligence.
It's impossible to assess competency, motivation, cultural fit, soft skills and potential in an hour or two. The best managers recognize the importance of these hiring decisions and don't make them based on a narrow range of technical skills, generic competencies or their intuition.
6. They invest their valuable time in recruiting and closing.
The best managers are similar to the best college coaches. They know recruiting top talent is the first step in building a great team and they won't compromise on the effort required.
While 75 to 80 percent of the 1,000 managers involved in this semi-formal benchmarking process all thought they were great at attracting and assessing top talent, only about 20 to 25 percent actually were. As a recruiter running an external recruiting firm, I didn't want to waste time and effort finding great people that never got hired so I tried to work with only the best 25 percent. But then something remarkable happened. I discovered that if the middle 50 percent of hiring managers did what the best managers did, they'd also get similar results. This was how Performance-based Hiring was born. There is no reason HR and talent leaders can't also systematize these same best practices. Here are some ideas on how to start:
1. Reward hiring managers for their ability to attract, hire and develop top talent.
If a company is serious about hiring top talent, it should be a documented part of every manager's performance review.
2. Open every new job requisition describing the employee value proposition (EVP).
Before approving any new job requisitions have the hiring manager clearly describe why a top person who is already fully employed and not looking for another job would want this job. Key: you must capture the ideal candidate's intrinsic motivator in a one to two sentences.
3. Define the job before defining the person taking the job.
A job is what a person needs to do to be considered successful. It's not a list of skills, experiences, competencies and educational requirements.
4. Implement a minimum four-interview policy.
Each manager needs to interview the final candidate at least four times. Start with a 30-minute exploratory phone screen to determine general fit. If positive, invite the person onsite for a full Performance-based Interview. Have the final candidates present their response to a realistic job-related problem in a panel interview. Finally, meet the final candidate offsite in a more relaxed session to discuss everything else.
5. Don't let managers make the hiring decision alone.
Weaker managers should never make the decision alone. On top of this, most managers naturally overvalue their short-term needs. A hiring team using this type of Quality of Hire Talent Scorecard offers a means to gather and share all of the information needed to make a balanced long-term decision.
6. Don't promote people who can't hire, attract, manage and develop top people.
Success at building great teams that achieve great results should be the primary reason managers get promoted.
There is, and always will be, a scarcity of top talent. Hiring top people is always every CEO's number one business objective. The quality of the people in any company is always its most important asset. Yet despite the importance of each hiring decision, we don't reward hiring managers for their good ones nor hold them accountable for their bad ones. There is no other business process that's wrong 43 percent of the time, yet most companies spend most of their efforts trying to be wrong faster. It might be better to focus on being right slower.