Think you’ve just conducted a bad interview? You may be mistaken.
Walking back to our office in San Francisco’s SOMA neighbourhood one recent sunny Friday afternoon, I was excited about the job interviews I had scheduled for the afternoon. While some entrepreneurs hate this task, I’ve always relished it. To me, finding like-minded individuals with the requisite skills and a passionate desire to change the world – or something “like” that – is thrilling. Right?
At least it is for me: That afternoon, I would be conducting phone interviews for our open head of sales position, a notoriously difficult role to fill, not for a lack of candidates, but rather for the challenge of weeding out the perfect candidate truly skilled at closing sales and helping to build our health-intelligence platform.
That afternoon, however, reality set in, in the form of close to ten disappointing phone calls.
Picking up my phone once more, I made my final call – to the most unlikely candidate of the bunch. And, within two minutes, I was floored: This guy was quizzing me on my knowledge of our business space. Not only that, but he was also asking about my personal relationships with competitors. Huh?
Calling around to other founders after the interview, I quickly uncovered a strong consensus based on those founders’ individual experiences: This candidate’s comments weren’t weird or unwelcome, they said. In fact, they considered the best salespeople to be the ones who quizzed them.
For me, this was the first of many unexpected interview lessons that I learned “on the fly” as a start-up founder. One of those lessons was that, in conducting job interviews and evaluating candidates, most hiring managers rely on “pattern matching” – the idea that you can identify patterns in candidates, in terms of their personal attributes and skills which align with your organisation’s mission and values.
In the age of artificial intelligence and machine learning, this practice has intensified, as pattern matching has gone high-tech. Recruiters and organisations are turning to algorithms to more accurately identify talent “matches.”
However, even with this new data analysis capability, the concept of pattern matching can break down. Here are some further lessons I’ve learned that demonstrate the fallibility of “pattern matching” and why it may be challenging to rely on it during job interviews.
1. A “bad” interviewee could be the right colleague
We often want to hire people we get along with. When a candidate can quickly and seamlessly integrate into the team, we can almost immediately leverage that collaboration for better business results. What’s more, the likelihood of conflict diminishes significantly, removing obstacles that often impede organisations when team members have contrasting values.
Finding that seamless integration can be quickly determined through an interview, where we evaluate someone for his or her skills and ability to gel with team members. Yet, even a bad interview doesn’t mean the candidate won’t be a good match.
“Sometimes, a challenging interview does not equate to a poor hire,” Simon MacGibbon, my colleague and CEO of the health-monitoring company, Myia, told me.
“You need to be able to look at the scope of the entirety of the candidate, including background interviews, reference checks and work product. Basing hiring on interviewing alone puts many companies at risk of passing over candidates with valuable skill sets and different, but complementary, personalities.”
2. Hire for attitude. Train for skills
Herb Kelleher, the legendary co-founder of Southwest Airlines, said it best in the book Nuts!: Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success: “Hire for attitude and train for skills.” This, of course, is how Southwest grew from relatively humble beginnings into one of the largest airlines in the world.
However, interviewers may be biased toward skills over attitude. Naturally, it is easier to opt for a quantifiable metric than to dig into a candidate’s personality and disposition.
Consider Michael Lewis and his book Moneyball, which recounts how professional baseball started using Sabermetrics to determine a player’s skill level and performance potential. Other industries have likewise leveraged specific metrics and assessment tools to identify the right candidates for open positions.
However, stringent metrics aren’t everything and may not always deliver the right candidates for a constantly evolving business environment. Some of the nation’s top entrepreneurs are now hiring candidates who are demonstrably adaptable and who can forge their own paths.
“When hiring, we focus on grit and fit over pedigree and expertise,” Daniel Fine, founder of Neu Brands, told me. “All are relevant and important, but when you’re building a rapidly scaling company, culture and team alignment have to be the top priority. This isn’t something I’ve always been successful with, but having learned the hard way, it’s now a focal point.”
Related: The Exit Interview
3. Interviewees who interview you know they can get a job anywhere
Going back to the example of our search for our head of sales candidate: The best candidates for a position will often interview the interviewer to learn whether they can be successful in the role. These days, they know they can go anywhere; record low unemployment works in their favour. Yet, remarkably, a lot of entrepreneurs and managers do not respond positively to this shift in power which gives talent the upper hand. Many positions go unfilled, as a result.
A 2018 research report confirmed this. Titled Talent Intelligence and Management Report, from Eightfold.ai and Harris Interactive, it compiled findings from 1,200 interviews with CEOs and found that 28 percent of positions went unfilled. Also in the study, 87 percent of CEOs and CHROs stated that they were facing at least one talent-related challenge. Employers are even giving up college-degree requirements in an attempt to widen their candidate pool.
So, the next time a candidate interviews you, in his or her job interview, you may want to think again. This person is probably more sought after than you think.
It’s time to win the right talent
It may not be a good feeling for a founder or executive to come to grips with this new reality. However, it’s also a valuable opportunity to change your interview approach and start evaluating candidates on more than experience and skills. By accepting this new shift in power, you can improve your position in the race to hire the best talent.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Are You Hiring A Cultural Fit? Do You Actually Want To?
Acknowledge your culture, and share it with applicants before they even get to the interview phase.
Who should you hire: The superstar with great skills who feels like a poor fit with the culture, or the person with weaker skills but who fits in culturally? Even though I believe in hiring the stranger, cultural fit really matters.
I once had an interview set up with a candidate who looked strong on paper. Within one minute of meeting him, it was obvious that he was too crude in his language and thinking for the culture I was building. I would have been embarrassed to have him introduce himself as affiliated with our company. I terminated the interview faster than I had ever done before.
Forty-six percent of newly hired employees will fail within 18 months, while only 19 percent will achieve unequivocal success, according to a study by Leadership IQ. Of those that fail, 11 percent lack the necessary technical skills. The remaining 89 percent have other difficulties integrating into the workplace. That statistic – the 89 percent – is startling, but even more startling is that a majority of employers are not addressing it sufficiently. How many interviewers make a formal assessment of cultural fit? Even the most impressive candidate may turn into a mis-hire if he or she onboards into a poor cultural fit.
Cultural fit includes both a firm’s personality – values, interpersonal skills, extracurriculars – and how a firm works – management, hours, pace, etc. I know one well-known start-up that, in its early days, required that every hire be interviewed by the entire team. Not only that, but any one person could veto a candidate. “I think there is something to be said for the ‘airport lounge test,'” a colleague said to me. “If you don’t want to sit with somebody when stuck waiting for a plane, you probably won’t want to work beside them either.”
At the same time, cultural fit should not become a euphemism for hiring a bunch of people who look or think just like you. “Don’t hire people you know.” If you do, you’re not going to get the best fit for your organisation. An organisation that selects for the highest performers cannot possibly also be a homogeneous organisation.
It’s also worth assessing if your culture is what it should be. Let’s say you interview someone who tends to be very frank, and therefore irritates people. In your culture, people tend to speak indirectly about sensitive matters. They say, “If I could make a suggestion” and “perhaps” before saying, “We’re screwed.” On the one hand, you might say this person is going to irritate folks.
On the other hand, is your firm burying problems rather than addressing them? Every hire shapes future culture; the new person might be an infusion of useful straight talk.
Related: Hiring Your First Employees
For employers, here are six steps that you can take to increase the likelihood of attracting candidates who will be cultural fits within your firm:
1. Have a company mission plus values statement, and list it on the job posting and your website
Every firm has a culture. What is yours? We recommend to acknowledge it, and share it with candidates. In particular, highlight what is unusual, not generic, about your firm. If everyone in your office is obsessed with sports, then mention in your job posting. “Benefit: Get to attend home Rangers games with many of your colleagues!” This allows for candidate self-selection based on their values and whether they would feel like they fit into the culture.
2. Obtain data on a candidate’s behaviour, values and most preferred/least preferred company culture
My executive coach observed that it’s helpful to ask candidates to describe their ideal corporate environment, their “most preferred” culture, as well as to describe a place where others might like the culture but where they would not. This is to discourage them from describing a company culture that no one would like. These open-ended questions encourage candidates to free-associate about their company culture wish list, and can enable you to assess whether their ideal company is close enough to your real company.
I recommend to screen for cultural fit values and technical skills separately, in order to minimise the risk of missing something. Some firms make a point of screening for cultural fit, before even bothering with the technical fit interview, on the grounds that it’s a waste of time to do otherwise.
Related: When To Hire A Consultant
3. Enforce a standard rating system
I suggest formally assessing against the mission values of the firm. Show the mission statement to the candidate, and give an example of the mission conflicting with itself or other imperatives. Example: We have committed to a deadline of July one for a client, but the product still has bugs. What should we do, given our cultural imperative of keeping promises? See what the candidate recommends.
4. Assess a candidate’s interactions with other employees and make observations
Take note if they fit in with the rest of the firm’s people by observing how the candidate participates in group exercises and how effectively the candidate communicates with the rest of the employees.
Ask people at all levels to interview the candidate. After all, the candidate will interact with people throughout the organisation once they start the job. To encourage interaction, pay attention to how they talk with the receptionist, security guard and/or other candidates in the waiting room. The candidate is more likely to show his/her true self in these interactions.
5. Ask the candidate for their observations
Dattner suggested you can also ask the candidate what they observed about the culture in discussions and meetings with you to ascertain how attuned they are to the culture. You may get valuable feedback about how an outsider perceives you.
6. Execute a post-facto analysis
Review any mis-hires retroactively to determine what went wrong during the interview process. You can also interview any candidates you made offers to, but who did not accept, to get additional feedback about your company and its employment brand.
The candidate’s point of view
Here are some questions I suggest candidates ask before accepting a job offer:
Office personality and communication
- How have you responded to feedback from subordinates?
- Can you give me examples of how you support your subordinates’ growth and development?
- What does my working group do together outside of work, if anything? Friday get-togethers, other functions?
- When do most people arrive/leave work?
- Am I expected to be on call and/or checking email often in case any work needs to be completed outside of office hours?
- How formal is the firm? (Dress code, etc.)
- How many reporting layers are there?
- How often and how will I have access to senior management?
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
The Consequences Of Appointing People In The Wrong Positions
Let’s consider the consequences and impact of poor appointments.
We all know of someone who might have been appointed on a whim, based on someone’s gut-feel or because of their connections, just to discover that they do not fit the job description – or the organisation.
What are the consequences of this? Why should we care about recruiting the correct people for the correct positions? Simply put, the negative consequences of poor appointments can drain money and energy and have long-lasting effects on the organisation. In fact, I believe this to be one of the fundamental dysfunctions that negatively impacts leading purposefully. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, expresses the same sentiment advising to rather keep the position vacant than appoint inappropriately.
Consider the case of James who happens to meet the required qualifications for the post as advertised for Financial Manager at Company ABC. He is interviewed and seems to know his stuff. James is appointed in the position and starts with great enthusiasm. However, it soon comes to light that, despite his qualifications on paper, James does not fit into the company culture at all. He also seems to divulge a bit too much. A few weeks after having started, someone overhears him openly sharing information that is considered highly confidential.
He is approached about this by Company ABC’s Financial Director who explains that it is completely unacceptable for him to betray confidences and that there will be a formal disciplinary process if he does this again. James feels threatened and defaults to “water cooler talk” about his boss, belittling him and saying that the organisation obviously doesn’t recognise his worth, all while trying to justify his actions.
Needless to say, not too long thereafter – following a few more incidents – James leaves Company ABC. He also leaves a mess that now needs to be cleaned up.
Let’s consider the consequences and impact of poor appointments such as that of James:
- Severed relationships: in the case of James, team members have now become privy to information which they should never have known about. Leaked information can cause great discomfort within the team and impact relationships between leaders and teams negatively. This needs to be managed very carefully with all to move forward and regain trust.
- Lack of trust: those who appointed individuals such as James may be second-guessed if they are ever to appoint others in future. It might also impact the level of trust the team has in their other decisions, even if not linked to any appointments.
- Frustration: if the person who has been appointed simply cannot do the job, there is a huge risk for the organisation. Not only do others need to step up to guide the new team member (consequently taking time away from their own work), but it causes irritation and possibly resentment amongst those involved.
- Lost traction: we often appoint hastily because we can’t afford to lose time, but we don’t realise that by appointing inappropriately, we lose even more time. While the role is vacant, the work that needs to be done will most probably take a backseat or not get the amount of focus it requires. Also, if you appointed the wrong person the first time, you will have to do damage control on top of that. This causes a backlog which affects not only the organisation, but the team and the person who will fill the role in due course.
- Cost of re-appointing: once the person has left the organisation, it could take months before someone new is appointed. More than that, it takes a few months at least for the next new person to be brought up to speed and on track to fill the role effectively. Don’t forget the bottom-line costs of recruitment which could include a fee for finding a new placement, or opportunity costs of HR now having to spend time on filling this role at the cost of other roles that need to be filled.
While it is easy to think that the only cost of a team member leaving is that the work is less likely to get done, the above shows that it can also have dire impacts on culture and bottom-line. While most of us are aware of these consequences, we still fall into this trap. But there are a few ways to apply ourselves and avoid appointing poorly – although there are, of course, no guarantees:
- Hold panel interviews: even if doing this prolongs the recruitment process, it can be hugely beneficial to have more people involved in the selection process. It is important to make sure that everyone’s opinions count. If possible and appropriate, have the person who is leaving the organisation be part of the interview panel as well.
- Assess functionally: have the potential candidate/s complete a practical exercise or even give them the opportunity to spend a few hours in the office to see and experience ways of working. This will also give them the opportunity to see whether they feel comfortable in the environment.
- Assess psychometrically: have them complete suitable psychometric tests to gauge their suitability for the organisation and the role from a personality and aptitude point of view. Culture fit is vital.
- Interview references: it is important to ask the questions that really matter i.e. did the person welcome constructive feedback? Would you re-appoint this person if you had the opportunity? Are they self-driven or do they work better in a team environment? Which three words would you use to summarise this person’s work ethic?
While you can never be truly sure about a candidate, and chances are that you could appoint inappropriately despite your best efforts, it is vital to be as thorough as possible during the process. Don’t appoint on a whim or out of desperation to fill an empty position. Spending more time to make a well-considered appointment will serve all organisations and teams well. And if you realise that you have made a mistake, act quickly before too much damage is done.
Unemployment Is Way Down: 3 Tips To Attract Employees In A Tight Market
Now that ping-pong tables have become table stakes, it will take benefits with substance to attract the best employees.
Get creative. From remote work options to diverse compensation plans, employers like you can tailor your employment package to match the employee.
In this way, you’ll follow the path of the most successful businesses, which see competitive talent markets not as an obstacle but rather an opportunity to demonstrate their companies’ merits, and entice would-be employees.
Flashy perks are out of fashion
Startup culture glorifies fun fringe benefits like ping-pong tables, beer on tap and free pizza. After all, what employees wouldn’t choose to spend Friday afternoons goofing off with co-workers and snacks?
Turns out, most of them. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report found that most employees would leave their current job if a competitor offered substantially more flexibility and money – not perks.
Real adult workers might enjoy Galaga arcade games in the break room, but they would rather be able to leave early to pick up their kids, schedule longer vacations and pay for better lifestyles with fatter pay cheques.
When the job market puts the power in the hands of the worker, businesses can’t skate by on superficial perks. To attract high-quality employees who will stay, companies must offer practical, competitive benefits with long-term appeal.
Here is what the top talent really wants:
1. Assistance with student debt and housing costs
The student loan debt crisis is bad and getting worse. College graduates are finding jobs, but their wages aren’t going up. Those in the workforce are making payments late and falling into delinquency.
The problem isn’t limited to recent grads, either. Debt.org reports that the number of people older than 60 with student loan debt has quadrupled over the last 10 years.
Companies can help workers break this cycle by offering student loan support in addition to regular salary. Some providers of programmes now help employers offer student loan assistance programs, to attract new employees.
Employees saddled with debt often struggle to save up for big purchases like houses. In addition to student loan assistance, consider offering a mortgage assistance programme to help employees pay for housing. Not only will employees appreciate the fast track to home ownership, but they might stay with the company longer if they buy a house with a five-minute commute.
2. Forward-thinking travel policies
The Global Business Travel Association found that 59 percent of candidates surveyed consider travel policies when they choose an employer. And there’s a lot more to take into account here than just help booking a flight.
In fact, a movement is growing to make employee comfort a priority in business travel plans, since 79 percent of business travellers report that travel experiences affect their job satisfaction.
“The direct benefit of revamped travel policies is increased loyalty from employees and potential hires alike,” Scott Hyden wrote on Recruiter.com; he’s chief experience officer for RoomIt, a hotel-booking solution for corporate travellers.
What’s important is that smart employers not cram employees into the cheapest non-chain hotel closest to the airport. They take care of the little things (like storing and shipping business clothing) to make every travel experience go smoothly. They allow traveling workers to earn loyalty perks and points from hotels and airlines for personal redemptions. These small courtesies don’t cost much, but they make a big difference to workers.
3. Preparation help for retirement
According to PwC’s 2018 Employee Financial Wellness survey, most employees are not confident that their retirement savings will even make it to retirement; 42 percent surveyed believed they would need to use money from retirement plans for other expenses.
Leaders should work with retirement plan providers and financial services companies to provide employees with resources and tools to plan for the future no matter what their salary grade.
By providing retirement literacy and investment-education options, enterprises help workers make the most of their pay cheque and live healthy, fulfilling lives. Don’t just put the resources out there and let employees figure it out themselves, though. Invite financial advisors to come talk to employees every few months about their options.
Invest in workers’ futures, and they will be more likely to spend that future with the company that helped them. Even if it’s not currently possible to offer a pension equivalent, employees will appreciate the educational assistance in getting their savings plans up to snuff.
So, yes, ping-pong tables and puppy breaks are fine, but employees are more interested in stability and flexibility than entertainment. Use practical benefits to attract top talent, retain the best workers and ensure that people who work for the company have the resources they need to live successful lives.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.