Hiring the Right Employee for the Right Reasons

I was recently asked about my experiences when I ran my own shop about the hiring strategies I used to make sure my startup was really getting the right employee, as we all know that when you’re an entrepreneur going from one person to more than one, it’s not only very important, it can mean life or death for a small business. Today, I saw this NY Times article about Google’s ‘people operations’. They reference the old practice of giving brainteasers (retired, sounds like), and then went on to talk about getting lots of great information about the interviewee via Behavioral Interviewing.

I’m not a guru of HR, nor have I hired/fired dozens or more in my career, but I want to talk about what helped me make my decision the best way I could manage: relying on outside help to delve into what the job really entailed. I knew how big the stakes were – some say the wrong hire can cost 2.5x a person’s annual salary, even if terminated within 6 months; others suggest much higher costs.

When I went through the deep dive process of what I really needed, I worked with a great guy, Steve Borek at End Games Solutions, who was using the innovative sounding Target Training International system called TriMetrix HD. At first, I was skeptical, as I was a lone businessman looking to hire a single person – why should I spend the time and money to get the hiring process right? I’m a fine teacher within my trade, I could teach the hire all they needed to know about the technology. I felt I could assess, through some standard interviewing, if the person was going to be a ‘good fit’.

Well, I trusted Steve, and we delved in. With the homework I put into what I’d expect of someone, I was given an in-depth report on:

  • What the job required for skills in areas that most folks are familiar with, like “problem solving”, “customer focus”, etc.
  • What the rewards/culture of the job would be. For example, someone highly interested in social engagement would hate to be a lone developer slaving away over code from documents. Additionally, what the rewards/culture of my organization will be.
  • What sort of behavioral traits would be demanded of the position? For example, how competitive, how frequently do objectives change?
  • What interview questions would help me get to the right answers based on all of the above? If I planned to motivate people in various ways, how could I be sure that the rewards weren’t going to fall flat for this candidate?

This tome of data was worth every penny, but that wasn’t the end of the road – that was just the map.

Next, my ideal candidate was run through a motivation, behavior, and skills survey online (note that Steve recommended that I use the tools at the beginning of the process, not the end, to far more effectively narrow the field in a measureable and objective way). The results was way beyond any Myers-Briggs or other such personality screening test.

Much as with the job itself, I got two detailed report about the results, the first of which was about the Candidate and the Job. This contained some amazing insights, ranging from clear diagrams of per-area / per-skill match/gap to detailed scoring on individual skills. Right at the end was a great summary sheet that could easily be glanced at for a 5 second decision, critical if the interest is high in a position.

The second was a detailed Talent Report that meshed with the first. This focused more on things I didn’t think could be hired effectively for. This focused on how people behaved and how they were motivated. This talked to all the good stuff of how my candidate would behave, not only while under normal workload, but also how the behavior would change under stress. It also gave me areas where the candidate was weaker, and as a manager, I could make sure to focus on those areas. To name a few examples of the core skills assessed, just to give a taste:

  • Long Range Planning
  • Developing Others
  • Self Management
  • Surrendering Control
  • Balanced Decision Making
  • Sense of Mission
  • Evaluating What is Said

I won’t tell if I hired that candidate or not, as my company did not take off due to other issues, but I know that I moved forward from that process knowing I’d never hire another person again without knowing everything I described above. I had over dozens of pages of distilled wisdom, well worth the investment.

So when I read about these very big corporations not relying on tools that don’t assess all these different variables, I often wonder if they don’t know that it can be better or if they think they know better. Chime in below with what you think of different hiring technologies you’ve encountered from either side of the desk – are there better ways? Do you have any horror stories about electronic systems run amok in what should be a clear hiring process?

Note: this, while sounding like a commercial, was completely unsolicited, completely uncompensated, and likely a complete surprise to Steve.

About the author

Jeremy Vyska Jeremy is a technology enthusiast and often plays the part of "wise old man" to his friends and peers.

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