How to Hire?

I am invited to  a HR seminar on next Friday  3rd April at the Hilton hotel. Some 150 professionals will flock to discuss the challenges of HR in Mauritius for the coming years with the background of greater mobility of the work force and the economic and financial adjustments of the world. I am told that the liberations would be pod casted live.

Perhaps  one of the main theme in HR could be the hiring of people. Matching people to jobs which have been clearly defined.

Stephen Covey had much to say with his laws of hiring in my work active days.  The fundamentals  are still valid,one needs to adjust and supplement  Stephen Covey’s ideas  with today’s reality. I am a great believer of  “you are allowed to copy me provided you improve on me” as we shall not start reinvent the wheel all over again.

10 Laws of Hiring

How do you break those bad hiring habits? Here are my 10 laws of hiring.

1. First, realize that hiring is more important than training. Most executives hire on the basis of urgent need. Because they desire most earnestly to fill the position or solve a pressing problem, they believe most easily that virtually anybody will do. They read resumes and interview candidates with eyes and ears of hope, but hope, writes John Updike, “reads a word where in fact only a scribble exists.” They don’t explore in depth the complete track record of that person. They don’t find out the pattern of that person’s motivations. And when they don’t pay the price in the hiring process, they pay ten times the price later with the problems that come down the road. They may then try to train, mentor, coach, and counsel people in an attempt to compensate for bad hiring decisions.

2. Pay the price to know each other well. Let them know you and the mission of your organization, so they have to make a decision before you ever hire them. Take the time, even if it takes a few weeks, to go in depth with the person. Let them know you and your vision and mission. They need to feel in harmony long before they make the decision. Also, you need to know them, particularly in the gap areas of their lives—those things they don’t write in their resumes. Pay the price to get to know these people. Don’t be in a rush.

3. Start with the person’s early life, and ask him or her, “What is it that you did very well that you loved doing?” You might ask, “What did you really enjoy doing when you were in grade school?” “What did you do well?” “What made you feel good about yourself?” “What did you really love about your childhood?” “Tell me a little about the paper route you loved.” When he or she talks about the paper route, you may discover this person is very proactive and took much initiative. Ask, “How did you collect the money you received?” “Did your parents drive you around?” “Did you get yourself up early in the morning?” “What did you do well that you loved doing, starting from your early years?” Then ask about high school and college, and you will see what the pattern of their life has been.

4. Study the life pattern, and you will begin to discover their deepest motivations. You may find, for example, that the pattern is one of independence, not one of interdependence. That teaches you a lot. It may be a pattern of self-glorification rather than contribution, or the opposite. When you see eyes light up, you begin to realize this is what excites this person. When you ask him or her about high school, college, graduate school and first jobs, you begin to see patterns that persist over time. Now, people can break those habit patterns if they are sufficiently self-aware, have strong desire, exercise their talents, set themselves on a new path, and surround themselves with a strong social support group. Still, it’s not easy.

5. Determine if the person’s habit patterns, motivations, values, and lifestyle fit well with the culture of your organization. Generally, I find that those motivational patterns persist in the future. You can tell if people are independent or interdependent, selfish or service oriented. You can begin to see the totality of their lives. You can then better determine if they will fit well with the culture of your organization.

The natural tendency is to clone yourself rather than to set up a complementary team where that person’s strengths compensate for your deficiencies.

6. Allow team leaders to hire and fire. To take the time to hire right in every position at every level would be difficult, if not impossible, unless you allow team leaders to hire their own people. The personnel department or human resource department shouldn’t do any hiring. They should do the announcing, screening and processing. The people who should be hiring are the team leaders. Candidates should come before the teams, present themselves, and get to know each team member. When people approach me for a job, I tell them, “I don’t do the hiring. You’ve got to sell yourself to these people, and they are going to get to know you.” Even when my personal friends approach me, I say: “You have to go through the process.” Most of them are not hired. It’s also the team that does the firing. If some people aren’t pulling their oar, it’s the team that throws them overboard, not the helmsman.

7. Seek to build a complementary team in an interdependent culture. If you are trying to develop an interdependent culture, you don’t want to hire independent-minded people because the fit isn’t there. You have to decide, “What do I need and who do I want on my team?” The natural tendency is to clone yourself rather than to set up a complementary team where one person’s strengths compensate for your deficiencies. Since likeness attracts, you clone yourself, and your strength becomes your weakness, rather than saying, “Where am I strong, and what are my deficiencies? I’ve got to hire for strength in my areas of weakness. That means I need to hire people who are different from me. That means they are going to do things differently. Am I emotionally prepared to go in that direction?” Most entrepreneurs are not. But entrepreneurs and corporate managers alike must learn: don’t clone, complement. That takes a lot of emotional strength, and a lot of self-awareness.

8. If you must choose one among many good candidates, invite those who aren’t hired to keep trying. If all six hiring choices are good, you say to the other five, “Keep us in mind. Keep at it. Now is not the right time, but come back in six months.” When people make a second, third, fourth, or even fifth attempt to get in, they usually do. That’s a measure of the power of their motivation. People who are highly motivated usually get the job they want. They begin to adapt themselves; they learn the culture; and they learn how to make an effective presentation.

9. Avoid being shocked and surprised at entry or exit by having clear criteria. Train the people who do the hiring to use the same criteria you were hired under. Set guidelines and criteria for team leaders to work with when they are hiring their own people. The criteria should come from your mission statement. If the culture buys into that mission statement, then the criteria is written in people’s minds and hearts. Our own Client Services Group is a good illustration of this. They have inside themselves these criteria for hiring.

Also, departure should not surprise or shock an organization, yet it often does because managers fail to practice preventative hiring, nor do they anticipate turnover and attrition. So, they allow a key position to go vacant for six months. The more all members of the culture have the criteria of the mission statement inside them, the less shocked they are with hiring and firing decisions. The less members of the culture have those criteria, the more shocked and dismayed they are when someone departs. They wonder “What is happening around here?” Then they wait for the next shoe to drop. “When is it going to happen to me?” They feel guilty or depressed about the person being laid off—and that usually robs them of their highest level of motivation and contribution.

The more all team members share the criteria of world-class performance against world-class standards, the fewer people are shocked when someone leaves the organization. The more the criteria is based on performance rather than the politics, on principles rather than the principals, the more congruent your hiring and firing is with the concept of principle-centered leadership.

10. Create a covenant, not just a contract, and have a few ceremonies. Remember: when hiring, you’re creating an economic marriage, hopefully one based on covenant, not contract. In a covenant relationship, both parties give 100 percent instead of 50-50. In a covenant relationship, there are really two decisions: the decision of one party to hire, and the decision of the other party to be hired. That produces a powerful covenant.

In a typical employment contract, only one party (the person who is doing the hiring) is making a decision and commitment; and so both parties feel that the relationship could end at any time. The relationship is transactional, not transforming.

Also, when entering into a covenant relationship, you expect to pass through some sort of ceremony, symbolism, initiation, or rite of passage. Consider: what ceremony would best symbolize the “covenant” that comes with joining this organization? For example, many churches baptize their new members; many clubs have an initiation ceremony; many schools have an orientation; many families have a celebration with the birth of a child. In some way the new person gets inaugurated into the society.

Being Hired Right

The proactive person is smart about being hired right. To be hired right means knowing full well what you are coming into, having common expectations, and hammering out clear performance and compensation criteria. Ambiguous expectations lead to disappointment, because people act in good faith in the beginning, but as events transpire, and expectations are violated, they get into an accusatory spirit, defensiveness, and adversarialism. Then they look for evidence to support their claims, and, of course, they find the evidence. It’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy.

To clarify the expectations up front, create a win-win performance agreement, a mutual understanding and commitment regarding expectations in five areas. First, identify specific desired results in terms of quantity and quality, targets and timelines, allowing people to select the best methods and means. Second, set guidelines in terms of principles—go light on policies and procedures to allow for individual initiative and judgment. Third, identify available resources, including yourself, to assist people in meeting goals. Fourth, define accountability—performance standards along with evaluation criteria (usually a combination of measurement, 360-degree feedback, and discernment). Fifth, agree on consequences: rewards, compensations, and possible punishments.

Take the time and make the effort to hammer out those guidelines and the criteria for assessment. Before you make the decision to be hired, get to know the organization—its leaders and its vision, mission, and values—and know how you will be evaluated. Then think about it; talk it over with your spouse, mentor, or advisor. Ask yourself, “Am I really prepared to give myself to this?” If the answer is yes, you come onboard well prepared to succeed.

The hiring process should be one of the best proofs of the win-win spirit of your organization.


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