I know the answer but I went to the Harvard Business School website and clicked on the course catalog for their MBA program just to be sure. There I found courses offered on digital marketing strategies, entrepreneurship, general management, and managing human capitol. Nowhere to be found was a class on “how to interview and select top talent.” I can’t think of anything more important than knowing how to build and create a great team. The fact that most business owners are winging it due to their lack of formal training only contributes to weak performance achievements, more disciplinary issues due to poor job fit, and high turnover that drains your time and energy away from worthwhile pursuits.
Below is a list of things NOT to do. If you do them, you are inviting problems onto your team and into your busy schedule. The list is not extensive but conveys the most common mistakes I have seen business owners and leaders make.
1) Small business owners often have a heart for helping people. In addition they are extremely busy and therefore look for quick and simple solutions. This often means hiring friends and family. I am not saying NEVER hire them. I AM saying do not hire them because they are some you know. It feels good to hire your buddy’s daughter or your neighbor’s wife but inevitably a performance discussion needs to take place or worse a termination. What started out fun and awesome has turned ugly quickly. Build your business on qualified capable people. Make your children earn the right to be there and pay them appropriately.
2) Don’t hire the first person that comes in the door that is remotely qualified. Before you begin the selection process agree and commit to interviewing at least 4-6 qualified candidates. You may want to jump on candidate number one but don’t. After you meet candidate number 6 candidate number 1 may look better or worse to you. Either way you will have confidence that you selected the best candidate available from a pool of at least 6. Often the first candidate pales in comparison to later candidates you meet.
3) Don’t interview candidates without a structured process and a goal. I teach my clients to make the first interview no more than 30 minutes. Write out 5-7 questions that you will ask all candidates. And then in each interview take voracious notes. There is tremendous value in the selection process when you compare what each candidate said in response to the same question.
4) Never hire someone after the first interview! There are people who make great first impressions. Maybe you felt a connection or experienced a strong chemistry with a candidate in the initial interview. These are emotional reactions and are not to be trusted. If they are qualified ask a candidate back for a second look. Have 10-12 questions written out. Ask all the questions of each candidate. Fight the urge to “like” the candidate.
5) Never let a candidate tell you anything that doesn’t make sense. Listen to them tell their story with a curious and critical ear. What is the candidate’s goal in the interview process? They want a job offer. Remember, they are framing their responses to tell you what they think will get them the job. All will embellish. Many will obfuscate and a few will lie through their teeth. If a response to a question intrigues you, ask a follow up question. Ask them to tell you more. Ask them “why” they did something or made that decision. By getting them off script you are more likely to hear the truth. As spontaneous question will get an unrehearsed answer. Cover all gaps in employment! Do not apologize for probing into their story until it makes sense to you. If it doesn’t make sense, take a pass.
I’ve been interviewing and selecting talent for 30 years. It takes time to learn. Let me help you avoid the same pitfalls I made in the early days. Avoiding these 5 things is a good start!