April 14, 2011

How to Hire the Best Candidate: Get Out of Your Own Way

Shannon Tinker

Shannon Tinker

How to Hire the Best Candidate: Get Out of Your Own Way

By Shannon Tinker

Last month, I offered some pre-resume reviewing steps for preserving time and sanity during the hiring process.  Hiring isn’t rocket science.  You get approval, decide what you want and need and then go about finding “It.”  What’s surprising is what happens when you do find “It.”  Managers make tough decisions daily, yet when faced with a viable candidate they don’t always make their move.

Even veteran managers accumulate reasons for why they shouldn’t extend a job offer to the right candidate. I’m not suggesting that you should jump on any candidate with Java on his resume and a pulse.  (This isn’t 1999!)  But it is interesting and heartbreaking when “best practices” and fear get in the way of hiring your next star employee.

Belief: I can’t hire the first candidate I’ve interviewed:

The first one CAN be the right one…Yep, really, it can happen.

Unfortunately, most of us are conditioned to think that nothing in life worth having comes easily.  The truth is, the right guy or gal can show up at any time, even if you just started the search.  Sometimes the first fish is the best fish, so grab it and leave the water as quickly as possible.

Belief: I want it all, and won’t settle:

You really like George, but he doesn’t have experience with Windows 7.   Deciding not to budge on certain things is important, but consider if you are willing to spend the next six months searching for George’s lone with a little Windows 7 mixed in.

It’s been said many times and it’s true; it’s far easier to teach a smart person new technology than it is to teach him to fit in with your team. Even the best trainers can’t teach the wrong George intelligence or the importance of a strong work ethic.   Consider loosening up on your criteria.  Spare yourself the pain and suffering of scouring the universe for someone as good as George, only to learn that George is working for your competitor…yep, in Windows 7.

Belief: We hire by committee and it needs to be unanimous:

It is important to solicit feedback and get different perspectives from the people that will be working with your new hire.  However, it seems a little unrealistic to expect 100% consensus.

Does everyone in your team like the same TV shows, type of pie, or music?  Why do we expect that they will all feel the same way about a person?  Be prepared to hear the feedback and to respectfully disagree.  It may cost you the Miss Popularity crown; however the popular decision is not always the right one.

Belief:  We need to interview more people to compare and contrast:

Why?  Because that’s what all of your bosses always did? Or because if you trust your instincts and you are wrong the sky will begin to fall?  A candidate cattle call and expectations around needing to interview a dedicated number of candidates can lead to months of non-hiring.

Interviewing at a slow and steady pace can be unproductive and lead to self-inflicted frustration as you watch the top candidates fall off the map.  Think back to the fact that “the first one can be the right one” and question your real reasons stalling.

Belief: I don’t want to lose him, but I’m not sure yet.  Can you keep him warm?

Consider the pros and cons of losing a candidate.  If you can easily walk away without hesitation, you should probably set him free. However the thought of him going to another company keeps you up at night, you should probably pull the trigger.

There are no guarantees.  Even if you second guess, interview the entire population and poke around in backdoor references, you can still make the wrong hire.  Weigh the risks vs. rewards and try to move quickly.  Keeping a candidate on the backburner might send the wrong message. Meanwhile, good ole George is still interviewing and wants to work for a company that is excited about employing him.

Belief: How can I be sure?

Your gut deserves a vote in every hiring decision.  Have a real honest to goodness chat with yourself both when you have concerns and when you feel really good about a candidate.

Trust your instincts; they are why you get paid the big bucks. Most managers are smart, intuitive and have a good sense for people.  Believe you’re qualified to assess what is right for the company and team.  You and your gut are possibly the most important stakeholders in the group.

About the Author:

Guest blogger, Shannon Tinker, successfully recruited for over a decade in various high tech fields. She is a multifaceted writer who entertains in her blog Reinventing Tinks on coming to terms with post-burn out. Shannon’s professional writings encompass subjects on hiring, interviewing, talent management, and other recruiting-related subjects.

See all Shannon’s articles.

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1 Comment »

  1. I enjoyed reading your article. Many of these issues we ran into during our hiring process so we decided to hire a consultant to help us figure out our HR practices. Our consultant was Kathleen Ranahan. She helped us with all our Human Resource issues including recruiting, teambuilding, employee relations, and performance improvements. Wow! what a difference she made in helping us hire excellent people.

    Comment by Betty — April 14, 2011 @ 6:21 PM

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