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Avoiding Fun and Games in Hiring

Avoiding Fun and Games in Hiring

Use your network of professional contacts to find the best candidates for your job openings.

One of the classic ways to hire an individual is to advertise an opening and then wait for resumes to come flooding in. Once those 500+ resumes start overwhelming your mailbox, someone must filter out the ones from unqualified people who were hoping their brilliance would land them an interview for a job they can’t possibly do. If you’ve ever looked for a sales engineer, you know the pain very well.

Those resumes that get to the next stage are almost guaranteed to be poorly written. And you want to sit and read all of those? Most will contain exaggerations, if not outright lies. For example, the least comprehensible resumes will all assert that the writer has “excellent communication skills.”

Photo credit: ziss/iStock/Thinkstock

Most of the candidates will follow some formula espoused by a book. They lard their resume with “buzz words” and include other recommended tricks. Many will hire a resume writing service, thus masking the applicant’s poor communication skills. Definitely not good if you’re looking for a project manager. You will have, at best, a hard time learning anything useful about a candidate.

Here are some things you won’t find on that resume:

• How well that person can explain to a customer why a bill is going to be more than expected.

• If that person has good hygiene, uses shoe polish regularly, and has acceptable decorum.

• Whether that person is passionate about this kind of work.

• To what extent this person has monetizable problem-solving skills.

• How committed that person is to working safely and methodically.

• If that person has integrity.

What do you notice about the aforementioned issues? If you know what you’re doing, those are key attributes of a great employee.

The classic hiring process has its advantages, but as you can see, it also has severe weaknesses. If you want to hire the right person for your organization and the right person for the job you need filled, consider taking a different approach. If it doesn’t pan out or you run out of time, you can always revert to the classic approach.

People in the industry tend to know one another, especially in a given metro area. They may attend the same workshops, visit the same suppliers, serve the same professional organizations, or in some other way cross paths.

Workers employed by different shops may be on the same job site(s) in a given year. They may work a few years for one employer then work for another. People move around, and they know people in other companies.

You can tap this network to help you find someone. When a person is identified, arrange to discuss the opening. Don’t ask for a resume. In fact, make it clear you do not want to see a resume. Yes, this is a huge departure from the classic approach. But remember what we discussed about resumes.

If your hiring situation can involve relocating someone, your network can expand to trade shows, industry association events, and other such situations that are out of town.

If you’re active in your industry, you should have already identified people who impress you. Now that you have an opening, you can discuss it with them. These people may be ones you’d like to hire, or they may be one who can connect you with a great candidate. Maybe they even know of an ideal hire, but did not have an opening for that person.

Do you invite the candidate for an interview? Let’s look at the classic interview. The interviewer uses an interview guide from one of those books about how to make a great hire. One of the questions is, “Where do you see yourself five years from now?”

Stop and think about why asking that question wastes limited interview time. Think about why it risks derailing an interview. Think about why the answer cannot possibly matter, if your goal is to hire a great employee (remember that bullet list of attributes).

Now, think about the candidate. This person bought a book on interviewing, and that book anticipates this very question. So instead of interviewing to find a good hire, you and the job candidate are playing a mindless game that doesn’t tell either of you anything about the other except that you let bad advice from a book get you off task.

Among the better ways to find a great hire—and this is a long-term approach—is to get involved in your industry and serve on a committee. So you’re on this committee. Steven, an engineer four years out of college, also is on that committee. He’s full of enthusiasm, yet is respectful of the more senior members. He’s shown time and again he does whatever task he’s given, and he’s thorough. You can see where this is going. Someone in your business network may be on a committee with a young Steven, too. So ask around.

Suppose you do decide to interview someone. Why are you hiring this person? Is it to help you solve a problem that’s keeping you up at night, or add to your payroll someone who can memorize replies taken out of a book?

What kind of discussion can you have with this person that will convince you that  you’re hiring the person who fills the reasons for hiring? Try conducting an interview as that kind of discussion, and see if both the hiring process and the hiring decision are better than using traditional methods.

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