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Employment Screening Validation #1

I recently posted about the formula for hiring success, and a couple of people questioned a component I should I include.  I don’t want to be the guy who says, “I’ll get back to you on that later,” so let’s take a quick look at it.

As prospective employers, how do we know that somebody satisfies the successful hiring formula of Attitude, Ability, Skills and Knowledge?  We don’t.  There is no 100% guaranteed method to hire the perfect person to do the job every time — unless, of course, we are willing to set a performance standard that will satisfy neither us nor anybody who has ever wanted to turn a profit.

How do you validate your thoughts about a prospective candidate?  

Do you check references?  Many will say that it is a waste of time because a candidate will only provide “good” references. True enough, but It is your job to do a good job of checking.  

One of the first times I ever called a reference should help drive the point home.  30 years ago, I was hiring for an unskilled labor job, and my top candidate was a Cambodian refugee.  He had very little working experience in the US, and I wasn’t really sure about him, so I called his previous employer.

The call was profound.  I remember three things from that call:  1)  I had a checklist of questions;  2)  I had other candidates; and 3)  the reference slapped me in the face.

Neither the checklist of questions nor the qualifications of the other candidates are important any more.  What is important is the response when I asked, “Was he punctual?”  My ears still ring from the response.

“Are you going to just ask me a set a questions, or do you want to know about the man?”  He went on, “This man spent months in a refugee camp hoping to come to the US.  While he was there, he taught people English and Math so they could make better lives in America, and he sat on the same boat they did hoping that they would have better lives.  I hope that tells you what kind of man he is.”  The applicant never mentioned any of that to me.  He was simply looking for a job in the US, and he didn’t think that his life in Cambodia was important to me.

I was dumbfounded.  My view of this man changed immediately.  So did my method of checking references.  Checklists are no longer allowed.  Engage people in conversation.  Find out more about the applicant and get the person for the job.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are other important screening tools — aptitude and skills testing, interview techniques, etc. . ..   We’ll get into them later.  

Before then, though, ask yourself the question, “How many good candidate have slipped through my fingers because I have been checking boxes”?  Don’t check boxes.  The people you are screening are people, and they deserve to be treated like people.

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What’s the Secret to Success?

There has been a spate of articles on LinkedIn recently about hiring the right person.  That is a topic near and dear to my heart.  Having spent many years of my career in the staffing industry, I have been responsible for identifying candidates for both my clients and myself.

I have heard people ask, “Sell me a pen.”  I have heard people ask, “How many gas stations in our local city?”  Seriously??  I guess those people did not get the full benefit of their behavioral interview training.  Let’s admit something right now — interviewers would rather have a root canal than interview the next candidate who walks in the door and tries to spin their work experience in a way he thinks is most going to impress.  The interviewer yawns and takes a bite of his chicken sandwich before he goes on to the next candidate.

Most interviewers think they can rely on gut instinct and feeling to identify the next great employee.  They couldn’t be more wrong.  The truth is that they are A)  wasting a lot of time and productivity by not identifying their selection criteria; B)  gearing the conversation to those selection critera; and C)  listening to the candidate’s story in 4 critical areas.

What are the 4 critical areas?

AASK

A = Attitude.  Attitude is a word used frequently, and it has several nuances.  For our purposes, we work with Attitude as whether somebody is going to be a good cultural fit.  What is the candidate’s attitude about certain situations?

A = Ability.  Ability is the deal breaker for many candidates.  I would love to be an NFL football player, but a 50 something guy who hasn’t played organized ball in 25+ years is not a good fit.

S = Skills.  Skills are developed over a period of time, and they require experience.  I can’t teach you skills, but I can help you develop them.  What skills are really required for the job, and how long does it take to acquire them?

K = Knowledge.  Knowledge can be gained in many ways.  An MBA graduate has proven to have knowledge about various aspects of business.  Similarly, we gain knowledge every day by watching the news or reading a blog.

With those definitions in place, consider this. . . .  When hiring a new employee, which factors are you considering, and how much weight are you putting into each of them?  Would you rather have an employee who has all of the knowledge and skills required to do a good job but has a lousy attitude?  Would you rather have a great attitude with a long learning curve?

I can’t answer those questions for you.  You have to decide how to invest your time and money to make a good hire.  No matter what you do, have a plan when hiring somebody by following the Secret to Success.

 

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Are You Sourcing, Researching or Wasting Time?

Looking for a job and selling are very similar, aren’t they?  I spend most of my volunteer time helping people understand how to apply sales principles to job-seeking, and I had an interesting conversation today.  The gentleman with whom I shared coffee is a really nice guy.  He has an advanced degree and a generation of experience in senior management jobs.  He has exponentially increased his network in a very short period of time, and he is connecting with all of the right people.  On the surface, he is doing an amazing job.

He is, however, making one very costly mistake.  He is spending time with business analytic tools rather than lead generation tools to help him build his target lists and sales pipeline.  He doesn’t know the difference because he is an analyst – not a salesperson.  Will he achieve his goal of finding a job?  Yes, he will.  He is motivated and has a great background.  Will he achieve his goal as quickly as he would like?  He may, but it is not likely.

Why is that?  He is spending too much time and effort qualifying every lead.  He told me that his ideal prospect met three simple criteria that are easily identified through popular social media and/or free lead generation tools, but he spends time doing online research and reading corporate reports prior to making an initial contact.  He likes to meet with senior executives at his target companies, show them his knowledge/experience and talk to them about issues that are important to them.  What a waste of time.

Why is that a waste of time?  He hasn’t taken the time to talk to anybody in the organization – decision maker or not – to learn about what is really going on in the company.  With all due respect to our friends at all of the companies providing company and industry information, they are only one tool in the never-ending quest to learn more about the companies with which we would like to do business. 

People hire people.  People engage vendors and service providers.  Companies don’t.  Engage with people and do the right things.

Do:

  • Identify your targets based on a reasonable number of criteria.
  • Get to know the decision makers and influencers at your targets.
  • Have a product they desire.
  • Approach them with a message/delivery method that is meaningful to them.
  • Follow up appropriately

Don’t:

  • Turn target identification into a hobby.
  • Assume that your data source really knows who is in control.
  • Assume that you know what they want.
  • Turn your introduction into a sales pitch.
  • Be a pest by trying to sell something they don’t need right now (do, however, ask for leads)

As always, please comment or reach out to me privately if you have any questions.  Happy hunting!

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Run to Daylight

For those of us old enough to remember, Vince Lombardi’s impact on a professional sport is undeniable. For those of us not old enough to remember, think about why the Super Bowl winner receives the Lombardi Trophy.

Coach Lombardi was always good for a quote or ten. One that has always stuck with me is “run to daylight!”

Many people have misinterpreted that as a cheer to get his running back (quarterback or receiver) to simply run.

The fact is that Coach Lombardi was one of the first to implement game planning and individual play planning. He practiced his team every day to ensure that everybody knew what they should do during any specific play.

It would be very easy to say, “I planned it, and I coached it, but they didn’t do it,” and not doing that is what separated Lombardi from the rest.

When he said, “Run to daylight,” he was telling his players, “You know what we planned on doing, we have practiced it, and we think we know what to expect.
We have given you the tools by doing the research and designing the plays, but we can’t control what happens on any given play.”

Rely on your teammates, and know that they will make mistakes.

Rely on your coaches because they have spent hours studying the opponent and how they will react.

Count on yourself. Run to daylight. You have the ability to perform and make decisions, and we rely on you just like you rely on us.

Run to daylight.

Are you running your business to allow your people to run to daylight?

Have the coaches done their planning?

Have the coaches communicated that plan to everybody on the team?

Does everybody on the team understand his role and responsibilities?

Coach Lombardi did. That may be why the Super Bowl champion wins a trophy named after him.

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Fractional Executive vs. Consulting vs. Coaching. What’s the Difference?

We hear the question frequently, and it is an important distinction that has to be discussed with your trusted adviser.  If not specified beforehand, you run the risk of having a severe disconnect between your expectations and the service/results you receive.

After you have decided that your business will benefit from outside expertise, you have to determine how to get that expertise.  You can hire a new employee, or you can benefit from the knowledge, skills and abilities of one of the forms of contracted professional help.

First, let’s define each of those variations.  Then, we can take a look at the pros and cons of each.

Fractional Executives are valuable business assets.  When using Fractional Executive services, you are acquiring the strategic expertise and tactical oversight talents of an individual who is willing to work with you on a part-time basis.  This person will have the experience you need to develop your strategy, your people and your processes to help you accomplish your business goals.  He will become part of your “inner circle,” and he will lead your team in his area of expertise.  He will advise you.  He will take on responsibility for certain deliverables.  He will, also, make decisions on your behalf.

Consultants are an important part of doing business.  They have developed expertise in areas of your business, and they provide you the “horsepower” in areas where you either A) don’t want to be involved; or B) don’t have the depth of knowledge/skill necessary to be involved.  A good consultant will advise you and will take on responsibility for clearly defined deliverables.  A consultant will not make decisions on your behalf.

Coaches are becoming a more popular part of your management team.  Although they tend to have a great deal of experience in one or more of your business functions, they are deeply expert in helping you identify your strategy, your goals and your plan for achieving those goals.  Coaches advise you and help you develop plans that you will accomplish yourself.  They will never make decisions on your behalf.

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What Do Your Plans and Meteorologists Have in Common?

As I watch all of these computer models tell us where Hurricane Irene is going to go, where she might go and what her impact might be, I think about all of the planning we do.

In the case of an impending storm, we plan evacuations.  We plan first aid and supply kits.  We plan for our pets and how to communicate with loved ones.

So, is it different in our businesses?  We write business plans, sales/marketing plans, operations plans.  We have contingency plans and we plan for our planning sessions.

Just like the impending hurricane, we need to understand that nobody knows what is going to hit until it does.  You have to have a plan, adjust your plan, seek guidance on your plan, and make darn sure that you make the necessary course corrections while you are implementing it.

Just like when you live in a low-lying coastal area right now.

Be safe over the next couple of days.  Do the right thing for you and your family and work your plan.

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What are you going to do with it?

I recently took part in a discussion when somebody asked, “What is the difference between information and knowledge?”

Participants quickly fell into their undergraduate mode of scrambling for an answer to make people happy with their well-reasoned responses.  On the other hand, I was reminded of a small business owner who was able to cut to the point of the matter by asking, “What decision are you going to drive with that information?”

In the world of data, information, knowledge, reporting and social media, don’t fall into the trap of trying to become the smartest guy in the room.  It’s far better to be the one who makes the best decisions.

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