(Published, November 2012 in SatNews Magazine)
Many regard “A Problem” as a bad thing that gets in the way before goods things can happen. Webster’s defines a problem as: “A question raised for inquiry, consideration, or solution”.
Our business world is faced with problems. It could be argued that if there was no problem to be solved, each of us might not have a job. Assuming that were true, it would then make “A Problem” a pretty good thing!
So how does “problem” relate to recruiting critical talent?
Three simple questions ought to be incorporated into every recruitment and into the thinking of every candidate:
- What is the business problem?
- Do we have someone who can solve it?
- Do we want them to solve it?
First, for the employer to acquire the right talent, the employer must articulate their business problem. It is hard for an employee to join an organization and be expected to deliver value when they don’t know what is expected or what they are there to improve.
Well written position descriptions are an excellent means to describe the business problem and for possible candidates to understand the business problem. In my experience, a lot of recruitments never get off the ground because the employer was unable to state their business problem.
Once the detailed position description has been developed to describe the business problem, candidates can then determine if they have the qualifications to fix the problem. Much of this involves having or not having the technical experience or technical abilities or technical aptitude.
Second, upon deciding that a candidate feels qualified, the candidate can provide the employer with their qualifications saying “I have the technical skills or experience to solve the business problem”. This is why the employer would acquire critical talent…..”To make the problem go away”. Communicating the candidate’s qualifications can take many forms which include interview questions, written questions, personality assessments, samples of past work, etc.
Up to this point, the problem discussion has been technical. In summary, first, state the problem and second can you fix the problem.
After progressing through two of the three “Problem Questions”, the third requires more time and is more important than the others. Get this one right, and the employer and employee are on their way to a lasting relationship.
Remember, best practice recruiting is not about the “wedding” or the hire, it is all about the “marriage” or long term employment. Long and successful marriages and long employments have strong chemistry or fit.
The final “Problem Question”, is “Do you want them to solve your problem?” While the candidate should be asking, “Do I want to solve this problem?” Just like dating, answering this question should include multiple meetings between employer and candidate in several settings. You are going to be spending a lot of time together. Wouldn’t you want to be sure than rush it, get it wrong and face the expense of a failed hire? During the interaction, ask yourself, “Do I like this candidate?” or “Do I like this employer?” Chances are if you can’t answer with a resounding “YES”, you may be better served considering an alternative option.
Problems can be good for you.
QUESTION: Dear Bert, With the acquisition of talent focused on skills and on the expertise of specific subject matter, how much weight do you place on technical skills versus chemistry when recruiting for critical needs? Thank you. (From Craig M, Chief Operating Officer, Prime Contractor, Government Sector)
ANSWER: Dear Craig, There is an important balance between technical fit and cultural fit. Obviously, the person you are going to hire needs to have both. The market place today is full of changes and daily challenges. Being able to technically adapt is important. Being a good cultural fit means the new hire has a much higher probability of successfully embracing changes and challenges as a productive contributor.
In the December 24, 2011 issue of the Wall Street Journal, questions asked during an interview with Google were published.
1. Using only a four-minute hourglass and a seven-minute hourglass, measure exactly nine minutes—without the process taking longer than nine minutes.
2. A book has N pages, numbered the usual way, from 1 to N. The total number of digits in the page numbers is 1,095. How many pages does the book have?
3. A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?”
These are good examples of technical interview questions. More traditional ones might focus on demonstrated experience in a specific field. Technical questions help to determine if the candidate has the skills and or background to meet the challenges and handle anticipated technical changes.
In some cases, technical questions determine that a candidate is more of a generalist or an “athlete” then an expert. Technical “athletes” are well suited to embrace change and can adopt accordingly.
While the technical fit is important, I regard cultural fit or chemistry as being more critical to the outcome of a successful hire.
By defining a successful recruitment by the long-term contribution made by an employee who enjoys their work, we have to focus beyond simply the date they are hired.
Interviewing for chemistry or cultural fit is hard to test. It requires an investment of time by the hiring manager. It requires several meetings for there to be an opportunity to develop a bond. It is based more on a feeling and a rapport between the candidate and hiring manager. The candidate is being hired because the hiring manager has a problem or challenge that needs to be addressed. The hiring manager is likely to hire the candidate who has developed the best chemistry. It may or may not be the candidate who is the best technical fit.
As the new hire works with their hiring manager, changes and challenges will arise. By having good chemistry and cultural fit, the two are well on their way to successfully working through issues together.
Hope you have found this helpful and good luck on your efforts to look for strong chemistry during your interviewing efforts.
QUESTION: Dear Bert, Technology and the increased use of social networking appear to make recruiting, screening and referencing easier and more automated. Do you use these tools and do you think they simplify the hiring process? Thank you. (From JT, Chief Operations Officer)
ANSWER: Dear JT, Thank you for your note. I frequently hear questions on this topic. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn among others have become parts of everyday discussions. Social networking has gained full acceptance in our business lives. It only makes sense for it to be applied to recruiting and hiring.
First, let’s define: The goal of good recruiting. The answer: Hire a long term, valuable asset to your organization. Good recruiting should be measured beyond the candidate simply accepting your offer. The measurement should be the employee’s tenure and contributions made following the hire.
Before we view it as the “Holy Grail”, let’s think about what we did prior to social networking and technology. In earlier years, good recruiting involved determining the requirements, identifying candidates, screening, interviewing, reference checking and finally hiring. These are the same steps and processes that are used today and likely will continue into the future.
So, where is the use of current technology and social networking most useful? I find these tools to be best in identifying potential candidates. Technology has made it easier and faster to access information. Social networking has made it easy for people to promote their qualifications, offer their opinions, highlight their accomplishments and raise their visibility.
Candidates can be identified through numerous means that include networking, postings and tools including LinkedIn. However, identifying a potential candidate through technology tools and social networking tools does not necessarily mean they are ready to be hired. Candidate identification should not be confused with candidate development and recruiting.
Once a candidate is identified, the recruitment process remains in the early stage. Quality time needs to be invested by the hiring manager in getting to know the candidate. A critical part of good recruiting includes cultural fit and chemistry. Technology makes it appealing to accelerate hiring. Screening, interviewing and referencing still need to be completed prior to making an offer. Technology does not replace live discussions and in-person meetings.
While there is a temptation to take short cuts, be reminded that the goal of good recruiting is a long-term hire. Recruitment should not be measured by the number of candidate resumes or influenced by a hiring quota timeline.
Without following the recruitment process, there is a risk that you have not developed chemistry with the candidate and don’t know them. At the same time, the candidate has not had time to get to know the new employer. Short-cutting recruitment steps can lead to a failed hire where either the new employee leaves within a few months of being hired or is dismissed during the first 6 months because they were not a good fit. The total cost of a failed hire is significant which can mostly be avoided by remaining committed to good recruitment practices.
The tools of technology will continue to evolve. The tools offer us automation and simplify our business lives. They are still tools for us to choose or not choose.
Hope you found this to be helpful. Best of luck.
QUESTION: Dear Bert, We are a growing services and manufacturing company with the need to recruit a senior level sales professional. We have had mixed results hiring sales talent. What are your thoughts on the key areas of successfully recruiting a sales professional? Thank you. (From: DT, Division President)
ANSWER: Dear DT, Many business leaders feel that sales producers are a special breed. The good ones embrace rejection, work tirelessly, deliver new customers, compliment their support team and significantly contribute toward growth.
Many business leaders feel that sales producers are a special breed. The good ones embrace rejection, work tirelessly, deliver new customers, compliment their support team and significantly contribute toward growth. The bad ones make promises that are not delivered, generate internal conflict, drive customers away and deliver little or no revenue.
Here’s what I recommend. As with all good recruiting, the first step toward acquiring sales talent is to communicate internally and determine your requirements.
- Is your organization structured for performance based goals and rewards?
- Are you comfortable if an-over achieving sales performer earns more in base plus bonus than the senior leadership of your organization?
By determining what will work best within your organization, you can pursue the sales talent who will best fit your company and your corporate culture.
Revenue producing positions require that attention be given to a well-constructed compensation plan that is also a focal point in attracting and retaining the right talent. A good plan should be aligned so there are similar goals for the front line producer, the manager and the leadership team. A good plan also attracts the kind of talent you want and discourages the sales talent who is a poor fit.
Questions to ask when determining the best plan for your organization and defining the type of sales talent you want to recruit might include:
- Do you have an established revenue stream and want to expand growth or are you penetrating a new market and developing new customers?
- How is sales success measured? (In gross revenue, net profit, or other objectives?)
- Is the role of your sales talent to simply generate revenue or more than that?
- What is a realistic timeframe for results? (weeks, months, one year, two years)
- What are the “On-Target-Earnings”? (base compensation plus bonus plus other)
- Have you validated that your On-Target-Earnings are competitive in your marketplace to both attract and retain top talent?
- Does the compensation package encourage sales performance that exceeds the revenue target?
- Is there an included bonus earnings cap?
- Is the compensation package clearly defined and understood by members of sales, management and leadership?
- Are you insuring that earned commission is paid accurately and on time?
Hope you find these suggestions to be helpful to you and your organization. Best of luck with the new hire.