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Hiring Handbook: Letting People Go

Last week, I had the chance to hear Dominic Barton speak to a business audience at the Rotman School of Business.  He was the long standing Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company.  This guy knows a thing or two about talent.  In fact, he has just published his fourth book, called Talent Wins.

He made it his mission to interview CEO’s to learn about the things that were critical to them.  One of the major themes that emerged was people. Looking back, CEO’s wished they had spent as much time worrying about their people as they had worrying about their budgets.

In fact, one of the top statements was “I should have let people go sooner.”

You could have tipped me over with a feather……Let people go sooner?  That’s quite a thing to say.

But he makes a good point. If you think back to your stellar performers, you knew who they were right away.  They just seemed to “get” everything.

Others seemed to take longer.  Maybe you were nervous in the first month, but after that, they were up to speed and by six months in, you had forgotten that you were ever concerned.

Then there is the group that never gets up to speed.  There is always a cloud of concern creeping around their interactions.  You spend more time with them, or put them on some kind of improvement plan.  Maybe you even get them a coach.

If those investments don’t pay immediate benefits, then you have some decisions to make and the sooner you make them, the sooner you can get productive again.

Take a look at the strengths that the person demonstrates.  Is there anywhere else in the organization where they might be better suited?  If not, then let them go.  Chances are, they know it is not working out and consciously or unconsciously, it is bugging them too.

Do a confidential search to find a replacement (with more accurate assessment criteria) and then make sure you provide for a gracious exit.  You will all be better off for it.

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Thanks – 401 Times

No career or hiring advice today.  Nope.  Today is a day for celebrating and giving thanks.

This is, according to WordPress, my four hundred and first post.  I wrote out the number to make sure that it looks as big as it is.

I don’t remember what I hoped to achieve when I started this blog, but it has far exceeded anything I ever imagined.

And it’s all because of you.  Whether you read it every week or just once in a while, I appreciate it.  

To my parents who have read it since the beginning – thank you.

To my current and former colleagues who point out good content and bad content (as in spelling mistakes) – thank you.

To the people who think I am funny and tell me so – a special thank you.

To my husband who is my biggest fan and search engine optimization guru – a very special thank you.

You all form part of a great community where meaningful work and supportive colleagues win the day.  Thanks for spending part of that day reading my stuff.

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Hiring Handbook: Using Positive Interview Questions

Unemployment is very low.  It’s sign that the economy is cruising along and companies are growing.  When someone leaves an organization, they are actually being replaced as opposed to the last few years when the work was just spread around.  People are pretty happy. They are not desperate to find a new gig.  They don’t hate their boss and they are not being laid off.  In many cases, they are up for bonuses for the first time in years.

That means that when people are exploring new job opportunities, they are doing just that: exploring.

When candidates are in this state of mind, it does not work to start an interview with this question:

“So, why are you looking to leave?”

Chances are they are not looking to leave their current job.  They are just interested in finding out more about the job you are looking to fill.

It’s not that you have to do a total sales job on why your company is amazing and how you are a shoe-in for the manager of the year.

But you do need to focus on asking for and providing positive information.  You can ask questions about why the candidate is interested in your company.  You can also ask about their every day work and the successes they have had. They can talk about what kind of manager brings out their best.

These types of questions will elicit a positive discussion and let the best qualities of both the candidate and the organization shine through.

Asking the typical questions that come from a more interrogative point of view and elicit more negatively toned answers are not going to do either party any favors.

So, before your next interview, take a look at the questions you plan to ask. Evaluate whether they will provide the framework for a positive or a negative answer and adjust accordingly.

It will be worth the investment.

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Hiring Handbook: Dealing with Internal Applicants

Internal job postings are a really important part of the hiring process.  They don’t always provide the best candidate but having interest from internal candidates for a new role is great.  You want to have the kind of work culture where people feel good about moving forward and are willing to putting up their hand.

There can be awkward moments too.  There is always a candidate who is totally under qualified. And the one that you want to apply doesn’t.

Treat all internal applicants with great respect.   This is one of the best examples of internal customer experience. How they feel about the interview process will have a significant impact on the rest of their time with your organization no matter what the outcome.   

Even if someone is not at the level to be considered a realistic candidate, spend some time with them.  Listen to their objectives and why they are interested in the role.   This is a rare opportunity to have this kind of candid conversation.

Chances are they already know they are not qualified.    They were really just looking for a chance to talk with you when it was not a work situation or a performance review.  Talk with them openly about what they need to do to get ready for a role like this.  Give them some guidance on laying out a plan and help them understand the resources are available to them through the company.  You’d be shocked at how many people are not aware of what programs are available to them.

When you have your eye on someone and they don’t come forward, you can reach out to them directly to see if they will talk with you about the role.  They may be under the impression that they are not qualified or they may not have realized the process was underway.  Make sure you let them know that you will keep it confidential if they’d prefer.  They may be nervous about even whispering about something new because of their relationship with their manager.  Be aware and be sensitive.

Make sure that you provide timely feedback for these candidates just as you would for external ones.  Again, this is a true representation of your internal brand.  A positive career conversation for internal candidates is a win for the company and a win for the employee.

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Hiring Handbook: The Dinner Interview

Interviews over meals are tricky.  I’m not just talking about formal job interview type lunches.  If your manager or even a client invites you to lunch, it’s really an interview too, isn’t it?

This is not about your gang at work going out for pizza on a Friday.  Those meals are meant to be fun and casual.  If you spill your iced tea or end up with pepperoni in your hair, it just becomes fodder for the Christmas party.

Accepting a lunch invitation is like accepting a new project.  Scope out where you are going and who will be there.  Have a few ice breaker questions in your back pocket and chew a piece of gum on your way over.

I arrived at a lunch yesterday and the person I was meeting was already there and had ordered a beer.  It was tempting but instead, I opted for Diet Coke, citing my waist line.  Truthfully, while it was a benefit to my waistline, it was really a way to keep myself from getting light headed and giggly.

The menu was harder.  How do you choose something tasty and minimize the risk of looking like a goof while I eat?   Carrying a Tide Stick is not enough.  Prevention is the way to go.  Trust me.

Here are some things to avoid:

  • Any pasta or noodle that may require slurping.
  • Things that come with a red sauce.
  • Be careful with food that you eat with your fingers.  This may sound silly but only choose this option if the filling is solid or holds together.  I attempted a club sandwich yesterday and no matter how well I managed to wrap my fingers around those little triangular layers, they fell apart resulting in a shower of bacon and tomato pieces.  Ugh.
  • Burgers.  They look so good but ketchup and mustard running down your arm leaves a) a nasty residue and b) a sketchy impression.
  • Food with a lot of bit and pieces.  Poppy seeds are a real killer.  The person across from you will be staring at your right incisor instead of making eye contact.  Even if they are gracious enough to tell you that there is a seed in your tooth (which they won’t), it’s almost impossible to dig it out without floss.

So good luck and bon appetit!

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Hiring Handbook: Interview Like You Mean It

As a manager, interviewing is one of the most important things you do. You can’t build a great team that will reach great objectives if you don’t hire great people to be on that team.
Interviewing is the first step to hiring those great people.

When you interview someone, you are trying to figure out if they are the right person to help solve the problem or gap in your team.

Do they have the right skills and attitudes to be the fixer you need?

You establish this through questions and conversation and most importantly, concentration. We expect candidates to be highly engaged in the interview process. It is reasonable, therefore, that the hiring manager should be present in body and mind as well.

Before you step into an interview, take a few minutes to put aside the million things that you are working on. Think about the role (and problem) this person might be able to fix. Take another look at their resume.

Put down your phone, square your shoulders and head in to shake hands and say hello.

Try to start with an open ended question as an ice breaker. “Tell me about yourself” is a bit tricky. It can lead to a really long answer if the person is nervous. It also could sound like you are covering up the fact that you did not take time to look at the person’s resume.

  • How did you get started in this industy?
  • Why are you interested in our company?
  • What have you heard about our technology?

These are all open ended but with relatively controlled answers that will give you some insight into the the person right from the get-go.

Pay attention. Call out something interesting. Ask follow up questions. This is your chance to figure out how they think and how they might fit with you and your team.

If you are, at this point, rolling your eyes because interviewing is a drag and you never meet interesting candidates, then get with your recruiting folks and get that fixed.

The world is full of interesting people. Find them, talk to them and hire them.

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Hiring Handbook: Interview with Efficiency

The first interview is a funny thing. It’s a bit like a first date but in many ways, has more riding on it.

This makes the opening questions really important. The wrong question can end up using way too much of the allotted time while adding very little value.

To be effective, an interview has to have some structure. I am not saying you need to run it with an hourglass, but thinking about how much time you want to devote to each question can provide a strong foundation for a good exchange of information.

It’s nice to start with a bit of an ice breaker. You can comment on the weather, ask if they found the office easily or if there was a lot of traffic, something innocuous and universal. It’s really just to warm up their voice and help you, the interviewer, shift gears from what you were doing before.

It’s tempting to launch into their career history with something like “tell me about yourself” or “how did you get here”. There is no doubt you will learn a lot about the candidate but it may not be the stuff that is relevant to the position you think (and hope) they can fill. You are also opening the door for a very long answer.

Think about a question with a more contained answer.
• Why are you interested in this role?
• What do you know about this role?
• Tell me about your current position.

This will give you more of a “here and now” starting point. You can then use that answer to tease out their skills profile and motivation and easily loop in things like how their education has contributed to their success and development.

You will still get all the information you need but you are less likely to lose a bunch of time at the front end hearing about their formative years as a server or fitness instructor.

Keep it moving and interesting – it will better for you and the candidate.

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