Many successful business leaders will tell you their key task is making the right call. When important decisions are required, they step up and make them. And hiring is at the top of that list. Nothing is more critical than getting the right team in place. It’s the single most controllable feature of a great business. This is the fundamental difference between poor, average and great companies. It’s how and who they hire that determines their future.
In my last article, I lamented the poor track record we have in choosing the right people or company to work for, in spite of these often being life-changing decisions. I finished up by saying I would follow up with some positive actions anyone can take to tip the balance in their favor.
Change Your Mindset
All hirings are important and will ultimately determine the success of your company and you. And that requires the right mindset, because embracing a process and being immersed in it is something beyond delegation. You need to enjoy the challenge of finding great people, rejoicing as they grow and celebrating their achievements.
Of course, you’re not going to hire everyone personally, although I know companies where the CEO insists on meeting every senior manager before they’re signed up. That isn’t necessarily about deciding whether they’re right—it’s a commitment from the very top that hiring is important to them. In great companies, this is embraced, and it shows how they set a high bar. And of course, who wants to risk presenting an unsuitable candidate to the big boss?
The Ideal Onboarding Process: The Company
Here we present our organization and what people say about us, including reviews from investors, current and past employees, customers, family and friends. We will share information about our culture, communication, the things we do well and what we’re trying to improve. We offer questions you should ask us to help determine whether we’re the right fit for each other. We can also provide reasons why some people have worked out well and some where we both made the wrong decision. What do you need from us to help you make your decision? Is there any more information you can provide? If you join us, we recognize that starting a new career, however senior, can be unfamiliar. We have an onboarding process to support you and give positive feedback. You will be assigned a colleague familiar with your role who will provide guidance in the early days until you’ve found your feet.
The Ideal Onboarding: The Candidate
As an ideal candidate, I provide evidence of my experience, why I believe I’m right for the role, and how this hiring could be successful for both of us. Here are examples of my work, and names of both personal and professional references you can contact about my background and experience. The main tasks are in the job description: may we explore those in detail to ensure my experience and potential can match or exceed what you require? I would like to have the opportunity to show what I can do by completing relevant tasks as part of this process. In the past, I’ve had personality profiling and strength tests, which I’m happy to share. At the right moment, may I meet others in the company to help ensure I’m a good fit?
A Successful Example
Here’s a company that has a rigorous selection process of trainees—the next generation of leaders, from group interviews and tasks to individual sessions with managers who compare notes throughout, reviewing strengths and weaknesses. Often, people already doing the same or similar work would be available to share their experience of the company, providing real-world examples of how the role would play out. The candidates were in no doubt about the company they were joining and the organization had clear expectations of their new recruits. Unsurprisingly, the company was mostly able to promote from within its own ranks. For more established organizations, this is without doubt the preferable alternative.
The above process is designed around openness and honesty. It recognizes bias and provides a framework to improve the chances of success. It won’t help you to like someone you instantly don’t care for, but it should ensure you remain objective!
Recognize that great hiring is by far and away your best and achievable competitive advantage. Make it your job description to hire great people. When someone asks you what you do – tell them that answer. Read this article again (and my previous article!) and circulate them to your colleagues. Use the scenarios to redesign your hiring process and constantly assess and improve it. Collect feedback regularly from all involved and fix meetings to review. And re-visit soon: I’ll be publishing a final article in this three-part series shortly, which should ensure better hires and more success!