Recently, Adam Bryant of the New York Times published an excellent article on hiring entitled, “The Hiring Manager’s Guide to Hiring the Right Person.” In speaking with over 500 corporate leaders for his “Corner Office” series, Mr. Bryant asked each of them, “How do you hire?” Those conversations are synthesized in this article, and the results are some of the smartest and best hiring strategy recommendations I’ve seen.
Here’s what Mr. Bryant says are the keys to successful hiring:
(1) Avoid doing a standard interview. Instead, be creative and be challenging.
(2) Get away from your desk. Instead, take the candidate out to lunch or on a tour of your office. Engage in other social interaction to gauge how the candidate interacts with others.
(3) Throw some curveballs during the interview. Don’t ask the usual questions everyone asks.
(4) Turn the tables and allow the candidate to ask questions of you and your company. Use this to judge the candidate’s curiosity and preparedness.
(5) Get second and third opinions. Have a candidate meet with several decision-makers within the firm so that your perceptions can either be confirmed or proven wrong.
(6) Push for diversity. Hiring an innovative team starts with finding people who think differently.
(7) Assign some homework. By giving a candidate a small task to complete at home, you can see them “in action” and assess their performance.
(8) Trust your instincts. If you have a nagging concern about a candidate, chances are that concern will be magnified 100 times after you hire him/her.
I’ve been recruiting and hiring for clients for almost 15 years. I agree with most of Mr. Bryant’s suggestions. I would add a step at the beginning — that is, I would encourage employers to engage with candidates by email or telephone prior to inviting them in for an interview. The goal is to avoid the person who wants any job at any firm; instead, you want to find the person who wants your particular job at your particular firm working in your particular culture and environment. Explore this with candidates who express their interest before committing to bring them in for an interview. I am always amazed at what I learn in these preliminary back-and-forth email exchanges and telephone conversations.
I also think that current economic conditions also need to be considered. If the economy is doing well, and unemployment is low, you’ll see fewer qualified applicants searching and applying for openings. As a result, you’ll likely end up needing to lure already-employed folks to come join your company. That requires a change of strategy because, under these conditions, the employer needs to work harder to sell the candidate on its company, its culture, and the opportunity — and to convince the candidate to leave her existing job.
We have a very low unemployment rate now in the San Francisco Bay Area. My clients are reporting that it’s very difficult to find good candidates to fill open positions. For this reason, right now I would not give otherwise good candidates homework projects or subject them to writing assignments or other “tests” during the interview. I think that is asking too much now in this market where the “sellers” — i.e., the candidates — have more power and more leverage. So I would delete that from the list of recommendations, at least for right now.
You can read Mr. Bryant’s article in the New York Times here.