Thursday, July 5, 2012

7 ways to hire the perfect employee

Every employer has excuses for why employees don't work out at their company. But at the end of the day, most bad hires are due to missteps and miscues during the interview process.

The interview process is crucial to garnering a complete and detailed picture of a candidate -- their skills, experience, and talent. That's why we've developed an interview process that is thorough, rigorous, and well-defined.

Our entire interview process is designed to find individuals who reflect Stroll's core values:

1. Strategy-mindedness
2. Mental toughness
3. Ownership thinking
4. Results oriented
5. Being the best

To find these individuals, we've made our interview process intensive and exhaustive. You can read through Stroll's interview process on our website. But more than that, we wanted to share some best practices for finding individuals who can unleash untold growth potential for your company.

1. Know what you want. Recruiters often simply create a recruitment ad and take to the phone to screen candidates. It's all done without fully understanding what the organization needs in a new hire. Before beginning to recruit, you need to identify the specific expertise, talents, and worldview you are seeking in a candidate. We start by creating an HR scorecard that details the hard qualifications that are non-negotiable. These vary by job function. For instance, we might require HTML proficiency for our web professionals. For our call center professionals, we look for softer factors, such as their ability to effectively and diplomatically interface with customers. The HR scorecard lays out our needs in black and white, and gives us a definitive game plan to score our success.

2. Identify what you expect the candidate to do. Also, before setting out to recruit, high-growth organizations need to identify the exact duties they expect the new hire to perform. But these expectations should not be for just the first three months of employment. Rather, we look out over the first year, and create a rigid set of expectations as to how the new hire should develop and contribute in the first 12 months of employment.

3. Share your expectations with everyone involved in the interview process. Each team member must know what skillset you're interviewing for and the 12-month expectations applied to the position. The sharing allows all team members to evaluate candidates in the same light. Without common understanding, you risk diffusing your efforts, with some team members looking for different qualifications than others. This wastes time and fails to find those individuals who can power a high-growth organization.

4. Identify achievement trends. Nearly every job candidate is trained to answer a question about their greatest professional achievement. Don't stop with one. Rather, dig deep. Push the candidate to identify a number of professional achievements and look for consistency in his or her answers. We find that high performers can identify several professional high notes that create a melody of performance.

5. Push the value proposition of the position. During your first communication with candidates, be sure to describe the importance of the position to the company, and how it fits into the organization's overall business goals. We've discovered that high performers are motivated by the desire to contribute to the organization as a whole. They are problem solvers, and want to understand the issues a high-growth company faces and how they can help the organization overcome hurdles that unleash unimagined growth for the business.

6. Ask the "knock-out" questions right off the bat. Fast-growing companies don't have time to engage in idle recruitment chatter. So eliminate unqualified candidates quickly by asking knock-out questions upfront. For instance, our marketing analytics professionals must quickly see and react to trends in numbers. We have these candidates take an analytics field test early in our interview process. If they don't pass, there's no need to continue wasting their time and ours.

7. Track, monitor, and optimize. For every step in the recruitment process, you need to identify the number of candidates who progress through it. Obviously, the number of qualified candidates will decrease as you get closer to your final hire. However, there might be steps in the process at which you see an inappropriate number of drop-offs. By tracking and monitoring these numbers, you can evaluate each step to determine if you are eliminating qualified candidates or letting unqualified candidates continue in the process -- the kiss of death for a fast-growing company.

These best practices, when institutionalized, provide deep insight into candidates who can drive your business forward and help you achieve triple-digit growth. By systematizing our interview process, we've gained tremendous confidence in our recruits, assuring a higher level of success. That's because when you're confident in your recruits, the company is often more willing to train, motivate, and advance them quickly.

The corollary is never to cut corners or rush the process. Most important, never sacrifice quality. As I mentioned, our goal with our interview process is to screen candidates against Stroll's core values, because our values are the primary drivers in the success of our business. We never wander from them. We institutionalize them in our recruiting process, and make it clear to candidates that upholding our values is our #1 expectation. That focus alone cuts through the uncertainty of hiring, fortifies decision making, and leads us to high-quality employees who can withstand the stress of growth and contribute to our overall success.

This post is the first of a three-part series I'm planning to write about HR best practices. I'll follow up with advice on individualized candidate testing and employees performance evaluations in upcoming posts. More HR best practices to come.

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