How To Hire With Excellence In Mind

Let’s face it: recruiting and hiring the “right” team members for our organizations is incredibly challenging. Keeping our top performers for any length of time, in many instances, is more difficult than getting the individual to sign on the dotted line.

With shrinking workforce participation and the proliferation of remote workplace policies, the competition for talent is fierce. The process is stressful, and time-consuming—and we are never sure of the candidate’s decision and commitment until the first day they start work.

Company Growth Should Be Key

Unless we are adding additional headcount or filling a role vacated by an employee who has been promoted, we hire new employees because we have lost someone in a role that is important to our organization. We might also have an employee who has consistently failed to meet performance standards or was a poor cultural fit. We therefore needed to replace them with someone who can do what needs to get done.

Whatever the case, hiring is one of those things that we have to get right, especially with the high cost of recruiting, developing, and rewarding the types of individuals that we want and need.

Our objective for a successful recruiting and hiring process is that the new hire will be with us for a long time and will grow with the organization.

If we can really become outstanding at hiring, developing, and keeping great people and top performers, guess what? A “halo effect” will attract a pipeline of like talent that can sustain our organization and create a sustainable competitive edge for us against other market contenders.

So, how do we get it right?

The 7 C’s of Hiring

Over my career, I have developed a systematic approach to hiring for excellence. It wasn’t always that way. In the early years, I made several “bad choices,” to quote my wife, on the hiring front. More on that in a moment. With time, I have developed the “7 C’s” of Hiring.”

For a good part of my career, I was a salesperson or a sales leader. That experience in those roles has allowed me to realize that a candidate is on their best behavior during the interview process, and if they are genuinely interested in the role, are trying to “sell” me on why I should hire him/her over the other candidates.

However, success in securing the role up for grabs takes more than good sales tactics on the part of the candidate. (And, because I was a salesperson for so many years, I have been trained not to reveal all we have to offer on the first sales call, so you won’t get all seven of my C’s in this one blog!)

In truth, I don’t have the space or time to discuss all of the seven “C’s”, so let me focus on two critical ones. If you like what you get here, maybe that will be a compelling reason to learn about the others, which you can do in my book, The Winding Road to Excellence.

(Wink, wink, nudge, nudge…and a bit of a preview of the “Reverse-Negative Sales Model”, which is the subject of my next blog. Stay tuned!)

The Top Two: Competency and Character

Early in my professional career when I was still a bit green myself, I learned about the importance of two of the seven C’s, Competency and Character, the hard way. Thinking I knew what I was doing when I first started hiring people, I put “character” in front of “competency” in my list of desired traits, and it got me in trouble.

I knew I wanted to hire people of good repute and integrity, yet I failed to follow what Marcus Buckingham talks about in First, Break All the Rules. In his book, Buckingham reminds us that we can transfer knowledge and teach skills, but we can’t do anything about talent.

I dutifully set about finding people who were hardworking and disciplined and who possessed the integrity to be honest and forthright—people who consistently demonstrated good character in their business dealings.

While I absolutely stand by the importance of character as an essential trait of the type of employee that I want on our team, the problem was that the talents and competencies of some of my “high character” hires weren’t aligned with the requirements of the roles for which they were recruited.

In short, I hired good people, but in some cases, they weren’t competent people, at least not relative to the roles for which I hired them. The first lesson of hiring is that while we want to employ high-character people, we must ensure that our first filter is “competency.”

Experience Matters Among New Hires

If your budget allows you to hire someone experienced, and he/she also carries the quality of character and brings good chemistry to the team, not only will they grow the area of the business for which they are responsible, but they have the potential to become a credible leader.

These individuals can develop into a player/coach who will lead and grow their team and meld well with the rest of the organization. Character shows up the most not when things are going right for someone, but when they are going wrong. Do they own their mistakes and are they able to say — and mean it — “It’s my fault. Blame me”?

What If You Don’t Have an E2 Budget?

One other important point relative to hiring: If we don’t have the budget required to hire an E2 candidate (E2 = expertise and experience) with a proven track record, then we need to look for “raw” talent that can be developed into a top performer.

The temptation is to hire someone with a reasonable degree of experience who knows the industry, but who hasn’t been a top performer. My perspective is “Don’t hire someone in the middle because those in the middle tend to stay in the middle!”

When we don’t have the budget to hire someone with a long history of being a top producer or a stellar performer, we look for someone “green” who meets the criteria of being hungry, humble, and smart, as described by Patrick Lencioni.

I slightly modified Lencioni’s criteria to form an approach that I call I3, which stands for initiative, integrity, and intelligence. When hiring “green” candidates, we are eager and committed to investing in their development when we know they possess those three qualities.

Hire Great or Hire Green: A Winning Formula

People we hire should have a history of proven competency or possess the qualities that will propel them toward competency rapidly. Once you can first check the “competency” box, then administer the test for character.

Oh yeah…and then you’ve got five more traits to validate if you truly want to achieve excellence in your hiring.

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