As a leader, there is perhaps nothing more important than appointing people to your team. It’s relatively easy to hire someone, but it’s much more difficult to exit them if you make a mistake.

There are typically lots of ‘best practices’ for hiring managers to follow in any good organization. The focus of this blog is on simple tactics that, in my experience, are not widely practiced, but have an exponential impact on the outcome.

Let them speak

In any first conversation, the candidate should speak for at least 80% of the allocated time.

If you do most of the talking in a first interview, the candidate will be able to tell you what you want to hear, you will think it went really well, but you will be no closer to figuring out whether they’re truly the right person for the role.

A better practice is to provide the candidate with some context for the role before the conversation, ask them to hold their questions to the very end, and get them talking right away. In this way, you can evaluate their fit for the role, without unwittingly coaching them to give you the right answers.

Align on values (first)

It’s great to find someone who has the skills and experience you’re after, but if they don’t ‘fit’ with your culture, you’re setting yourself up for significant pain down the track. Before you get into the specifics of the role, focus the conversation on values; your values, your organization’s values and, most importantly, those of the candidate.

You can prepare by reflecting on the following questions;

  • What are your most deeply held values and what do they look like, in practice, every day?
  • When you think about the perfect candidate for this role, what are the values that they would exhibit naturally, every day?
  • What would tell you, during the interview, that these values are perfectly natural for the candidate?

Now, you have a criterion with which to assess the candidate’s fit with your team, regardless of their skills and experience.

Asking the candidate what their values are, will likely illicit platitudes and clichés. To get a more authentic feel for their values, you can ask some or all of the following questions;

  • Outside of work, what’s really important to you? Why?
  • Who do you enjoy spending time with? Why?
  • Tell me about the best team that you were a part of; what made it such a great experience?
  • Tell me about the worst team that you were a part of; what made it such a poor experience?
  • Tell me about the best boss that you worked for; what were his/her best attributes?
  • Tell me about the worst boss that you worked for; what were his/her worst attributes?
  • When do you feel happiest and most on purpose?

If the candidate expresses the kinds of values that represent a great fit for your team, then you have a potential fit. If they don’t, there’s not much point in going any further. Take solace in the fact that you probably just dodged a bullet, and move on to the next candidate.

Align on the exchange of value

If you have an alignment of values, you now need to figure out whether you can create a compelling exchange of value for one another.

Start by reflecting on the following questions;

  • What is the contribution you need the person in this role to make?
  • How will you know if they have been successful?
  • What are the expectations you have of this person; including desired standards of behavior, attitude, commitment, as well as how and where they do their work?
  • What are you prepared to offer in order to receive their contribution; including financial compensation, career development opportunities, coaching, mentoring, and workplace flexibility?

Of course, it’s important that you know the answers to all of these questions before you meet the candidate, but you should still let them speak first. Ask them the following questions;

  • What attracted you to this role?
  • What are all of things you are looking for in your next role?
  • How would you rank those things, in order of importance?

It’s easy to assume what will be attractive to the candidate, but they may surprise you.

A few years ago, I interviewed a candidate for a research and product development role in my consulting organization. We had a very strong alignment on values and he had a great skillset for the role, so we got into the ‘exchange of value’ conversation. At the very top of his list was his desire to learn how to be an entrepreneur, so that he could start his own business in about five years’ time. He didn’t really care too much about pay or work-life balance; he wanted me to teach him about entrepreneurship and to see it up close. We hired him on that basis and he made a fantastic contribution for four years, before leaving to start a successful business of his own. It was a fantastic exchange of value for both parties.

As a leader, there is perhaps nothing more valuable than appointing the right people to your team. Of course, skills and experience are important, but ‘fit’ is absolutely critical. I hope this blog will help you in that endeavor.

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about PETER

For two decades, Dr. Peter Fuda has been a Sherpa to leaders, teams and organizations across the globe. He’s coached more than 250 CEOs to measurably higher levels of performance. His consulting company has delivered dozens of cases of business transformation and thousands of individual cases of leadership transformation, at a success rate of greater than 90%.

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