Hire Slowly & Carefully

Shawnee Love   •  
March 10, 2016

In my experience, most businesses don’t spend enough time on hiring.  I first blogged on this topic back in 2011 when I advised managers to hire slow and fire fast.    A few years have past and I am tweaking my recommendation from “hire slow” to “hire slowly and carefully”.  Because slow is only good if you are doing something with the extra time you are taking.

Slow and careful is a better way to hire.

And since hiring is ground zero for all other aspects of people management, HR, and your culture; here’s what slow & careful looks like:

  1. Constantly being on watch for great talent and bring those very talented people who fit your company when you find them.  Note this approach is contrary to old fashioned HR which looks to fill openings as they arise.  But it makes sense if you want the best people, to open the door and hire them when the opportunity Closed Red Doorcomes knocking.  It also means that when a vacancy opens, you already have someone in your back pocket rather than having to start when you are desperate to have the work done.  Frankly, hiring slowly when you are desperate to fill a position is a bad idea because you risk overtaxing your current staff and losing business.
  2. Having a thoroughly developed screening process which not only evaluates technical skill and experience for compatibility with the likely job(s) the candidate could do, but also measures qualities, soft skills, ethics, and values for fit with the job, team, and organizational culture.  This requires you to really understand the scope of the job, and what it takes to be successful in the job, team and company.  This is a lot harder than it looks if you aren’t trained to recognize the unspoken aspects which affect an employee’s success.  In fact, providing this analysis is the main reason we started helping our clients with their hiring.  The activities of receiving and responding to candidates and screening out those who clearly don’t fit are really administrative in nature.  Fortunately, we have tools to help us manage the volume of candidates and be more efficient with that process than many of our clients.  However, where we add value is in evaluating candidates and assessing whether or not the top candidates meet the “hidden” job requirements like alignment with company values, extent of professionalism, respect, empathy, confidence, etc., attitude, and so on. Not only do we do our own evaluation usually reducing how many candidates need to be seen by clients, but we also provide clients with methods and tools to do their own evaluations of “fit” on the finalists.
  3. Including other tools and activities to evaluate candidates such as informal meetings, job skills testing, profile tools (we administer a great tool for evaluating emotional intelligence if you are interested), group meetings, presentations, a google search, etc.  Additionally, because you are better to hire a decent candidate who everyone likes than a super star who no one likes for any job that involves teamwork, we encourage stakeholder involvement in the hiring process.
  4. Ensuring you are also analyzing the context in which the employee has previously worked in your interviews and reference checks.  This information is of particular importance because the ability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment isn’t something you can learn in a book.  I have seen many failed hires with extensive credentials who couldn’t cut it in the nimble environments that most of my clients have.

Slow careful hiring takes time of course. Not only the candidate’s time but also that of your other people.  It also requires commitment to the process of those involved and being proactive, rather than reactive.  But the ROI for a great hire is clear.  A bad hire is a serious cost which will undermine your  business if not checked.  Organizations wanting to stop throwing good money after bad are prime candidates for this slow and careful approach.