Violate these laws of Human nature at your peril…

Written by Lou Adler
Created on Wednesday, 01 August 2012

Here are some basic truths about people regarding hiring and getting hired:

1. There are very few people who have an economic need to look for another job, are willing to take a lateral transfer, and are high achievers. Yet most companies spend most of their time and resources looking for these kinds of people.

2. The military has a tough screening process for selecting officers. But once selected – and with no experience – they are given some serious training and responsibilities far in excess of their current ability and are asked to deliver extraordinary results. Most of them succeed. Yet these same people when they leave the military aren’t given a fair chance because they don’t have the “right” experience.

3. There has been more research done on why people perform at peak levels, why they underperform, and why they leave jobs, but much of this is ignored when it comes to assessing competency and fit. Very little has to do with their level of experience. More of it has to do with their determination, discipline, motivation, and success doing somewhat related work in somewhat similar environments. Contact us if you’d like to apply this concept in your hiring process.

4. Candidates who are too eager turn people off, and those that aren’t eager enough turn people off. Companies that are too eager when they find a hot prospect either turn them off, or pay too much to hire them. Asking insightful questions is a better way to demonstrate interest, whatever side of the desk you’re on. It’s best to demonstrate eagerness by asking insightful and challenging questions.

5. Cultural fit is critically important – but few companies actually define it, and even fewer know how to measure it. For proof, ask the next 10 people you meet at your company to define its culture and how they would determine it during an interview. This is a good way to determine if your company’s culture is real or imaginary. If you’re a candidate ask every interviewer the same question.

6. Most managers would hire a top achiever who is a little light on skills and experience and modify the job accordingly, but their hiring systems prevent them from ever seeing these people.

7. In the first 5-10 years of a person’s career, people who get promoted more rapidly or assigned to the toughest projects tend to have less experience than those who don’t. Yet when we hire someone from the outside we want more experience.

8. First impressions and interview presentation skills do not predict on-the-job performance – even for sales positions – but most people think they do. Worse, we are all subconsciously affected by this whether we like it or not.

With these basic truths in mind, here’s my quick list of corrective actions for recruiters, hiring managers, candidates, and everyone else on the interviewing team:

1. If you don’t know what it takes to be successful on the job in your company, don’t interview any candidates until you do. How else are you going to determine competency, motivation, and fit? Here’s an article that will show you how to figure this out.

2. If you’re a candidate being interviewed, and the person interviewing you doesn’t know the job, ask this question: “What does the person taking this job need to accomplish in the first 6-12 months in order to be considered successful?” Then ask: “Why is this important and what resources are available to pull this off?” If the person interviewing you is the hiring manager, and doesn’t know the answer, or stumbles about, I would be concerned about taking the job if offered. To gain a sense of how concerned you should be, ask everyone else on the interviewing team the same question, and if each person gives you a different answer, be very concerned. If the recruiter doesn’t know the answer, don’t trust the recruiter to give you other honest information. It will be equally superficial.

3. If you’re a recruiter don’t present an opportunity to anyone unless the hiring manager tells you what it takes to be successful on the job. If you do, you’ll waste your time screening people on the wrong criteria.

4. If you’re a passive candidate talk to every recruiter who calls and see if they understand the real job, its importance to the company strategy, and how well the company is doing overall. Make sure you ask about the real culture, and get examples for proof. Make sure you ask these questions before you ask about the money or the location. If you filter jobs out too soon because of the money, you’ll never get a chance to hear about true career opportunities. Most jobs can be scaled up or down to meet the needs of a top achiever, but you’ll never get the chance if you measure opportunity by the wrong criteria.

5. From a career growth standpoint it’s better to be underpaid than overpaid. Compensation increases always follow performance, not lead it. So if and whenever you get the chance when changing jobs, don’t fight for a big short-term compensation bump. Instead ask for a six month review based on your ability to hit challenging performance objectives.

6. If you instantly like a candidate, force yourself to ask the person tougher questions. If you don’t like the candidate right away, force yourself to assume the person is extremely qualified, treat the person as you would a consultant, be respectful, and listen carefully to everything said. If you do this for just 30 minutes you’ll be shocked. For one thing, you’ll discover many of those you thought were initially tops are more personality than performance. Even better: there will be a few who initially turned you off who are great. These are the people that everyone else overlooked.

From what I’ve seen over the past 30+ years, most hiring problems can be attributed to the problems described here. While the solutions offered are pretty simple, they do require some discipline. First, make sure you understand the performance expectations of the job in the real environment and culture before you interview any candidates. Second, don’t make any instant judgments: wait at least 30 minutes before you make a no decision. It takes a least a few more hours to make a yes. Third, don’t be too surprised when you start making fewer mistakes and start hiring more top performers who are excited about the work you’re offering. Common sense sometimes makes sense.