Dear Sharon – December 2018

Q. There is no easy way to say this: I suck at hiring. For every 10 hires, I maybe keep one! My interviewing skills obviously are not great. Any tips that you can share so I can stop wasting my money on bad hires?

A. Before you beat yourself up, hiring is not easy and has changed a lot in the 23 years I have been in the search business. I can share a few techniques, knowing this is not a perfect science.

(1) It is much easier to interview and hire for technical skills than attitude and energy. My motto is “hire for attitude, train for skill.” It’s the head versus heart part of interviewing. Certainly, ask the technical questions, but my suggestion is to spend more time on the “heart” piece. List out your core values and design interview questions to get at this “heart” piece of potential candidates. Training becomes the easy part with the right attitude.

(2) Have your potential candidates make two lists – the first list is what they are naturally good at – not what they are educated or trained to do. The second list is what they are passionate about. I promise if you hire to people’s “natural gifts,” they will get off to a quicker start and enjoy their job because it speaks to their natural skills.

(3) Appreciate the differences in “what” is important to the candidates. The millennial/baby boomer differences are very real. The younger generation is not motivated by the ability to work overtime, have a clean plant or even make a ton of money. They are motivated by purpose and impact. Can you articulate your company’s story on purpose and impact? In the world of search, we have found the better “storytellers” (not false tales, but exciting truths) we are, the more likely a rock star will be excited about joining your firm. Again, this is not an easy thing to master — the reality is, if it was, my business wouldn’t exist! Getting good at asking culture-based questions will increase your odds of a good hire.

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