3 Rules For Hiring The Right Person Every Time

Hiring the wrong people over and over again is exhausting. Here's how to break free.

How many times have you had to fire someone who looked great on paper, but failed to perform? If your answer is more than once, then you're not alone. No one wants to hire people who don't work out, yet most people continue to repeat their mistakes over and over again. Here's how to remove yourself from this hiring loop:

Hire for passion. Hire people who feel strongly about what they are trying to achieve. Roy Ng, senior vice president, head of business operations for SAP Cloud, is a firm believer in this philosophy. In fact, Ng was hired by a number of companies who sought him out because of his passion and potential. He now does the same when he is seeking top talent.

Passion is one of those things that you can sense when someone walks in the room. Do they have a bounce in their step? Does their face light up when they talk about the future? Do you find yourself nodding your head and going along for the ride when they suggest a new way of looking at things?

Hire for fit. Someone who is a great hockey player may not be a star player in the NBA. The same holds true in the business world. Someone who is accustomed to having a support team around them will most likely falter at a startup where employees are expected to wear multiple hats. Look for people who will fit into your organization.

"You can't judge the book by its cover. But the fit piece is pretty critical," notes Ng. "At Goldman Sachs, we had stacks of resumes from top schools from people with top grades. In the end, the paper only tells you so much. I'd trade some of the paper achievement for some of the intangibles."

Before you can hire for fit, you have to know what you are looking for. What traits do your most successful people have in common? What core values are near and dear to your organization? What does it take to be successful in your organization?

Be open to all possibilities. Not too many people would expect to hire their next corporate sales person from a retail store. But then again, not too many people have obtained the levels of success that Julie Kahn, senior vice president at Entercom New England, has.

"You can identify the traits of a successful salesperson early on," says Kahn, who has hired waiters who've impressed her in restaurants. "Seize the opportunity when you see someone who blows you away."

Vow to make changes in your approach to hiring this year. Then take advantage of your extra time by finally taking that vacation you promised yourself.

--Roberta Chinsky Matuson is president of Matuson Consulting and the author of Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top-­5 Leadership pick. Her new book, The Magnetic Workplace: How to Hire Top Talent That Will Stick Around, will be published in 2013. Sign up to receive a subscription to Roberta’s newsletter.

[Image: Flickr user Kevin Schoenmakers]

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6 Comments

  • Maggie Coffey

    "Be open to all possibilities" - this is SO true. Don't just eliminate a candidate from the running because they don't have the experience you are looking for. Keep your options open.

    More importantly, you need to use a guide/script and scorecard during these interviews. This helps to ensure you're keeping the process the consistent, and are hiring based on qualifications, culture-fit, and growth potential rather than a "gut feeling."

    This is a great guide that walks you through the benefits of interview scorecards and what to look for when selecting one - http://hireolo.gy/1s331L7.

  • ritaashley

    Well said.  I would add, "Hire outside your comfort zone." If you are CEO or President with Sales and Operations background and need to hire an IT or Development executive, chances are, you will have little in common. The person with whom you feel most comfortable is probably not the best IT or technology development professional you can hire. Refine your interview to reflect the tasks and look at experience. Rita Ashley, Executive Coach

  • happyHenry

    I'd add one key point on recruitment: Get people to do the job (or as close to it as possible) in their interview. Too many companies hire on the basis of talking about how you'd do something, rather than doing it.

    So when we hire trainers, we get them to train people in the interview. For techies, we get them to fix things. For customer service, we get them on the phone and inter-acting. Test people's ability to do the job, not talk about how they would do the job.

    Oh, and ignore qualifications. Look for potential. We hire for attitude and then train them int he skills they need.

  • Paul H. Burton

    My add to this: Ask interview questions a candidate is not prepared to answer. What I mean is that most people review a resume, then interview a candidate using the resume as the guiding tool of the interview. WRONG! The resume was written by the candidate. Therefore, the candidates (if they're worth any salt at all) is prepared to any question that could possibly come from the information they've provided you. Better to ask questions they aren't prepared for, such as:

    1. If this was your office, how would you arrange the furniture? Reasons: (a) How does the candidate respond to unexpected situations? (b) Does the candidate pause to consider the answer or just start fishing for the right answer by talking right away? (c) Is the candidate wiling to make any suggestions different than what you've done? (d) Are there any good ideas you can learn from the candidate (which is purely selfish on your part.)

    2. What is the worst customer/client experience you've encountered? Most candidates are prepared to answer that questions, but here's the follow up question - How did you make the situation worse? Reasons: (a) All bad situations take two people to make them truly bad. (b) Is the candidate reflective of how their behavior contributes to all dynamics? (c) Does the candidate care enough to consider how they can improve by reflecting on bad situations after-the-fact?

    I've used these tools and several like them in hiring people for our company. Since going to this method, our turn-over has largely stopped and our people are more engaged with the team because they are the "right fit" from a personality side, rather than a skills side. (Note, the skills side got them to the interview by way of the resume.)

  • Amanda Strungs

    Agreed!  We always try to hire on culture fit first and aptitude second. It's much easier to teach specific skills than force someone a bad fit.  This is a good reminder as hiring kicks off for the new year.