Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Stitches in Time - PART III

The Template and The Bar

You have interviewed six people for a particular post. None particularly caught your eye as being superb, but there was a clear ranking as to which were the best candidates. Which do you choose?

I’ll give you a hint – it’s not the best of that bunch. You don’t take anyone on in that scenario.

What I like to do with a panel before we start any interview is give them a grilling of my own. I ask them to imagine the candidate they want. Imagine how that ideal candidate would answer their questions. How confident, empathetic, understanding, knowledgeable or charismatic they would be. Even what kinds of clothes they would be wearing and how they would be groomed. This is then the yardstick – or template – by which I ask them to measure each interviewee. Sometimes – where interviews last for days – I re-focus the panel and go through the exercise again so that that image, that template, isn’t blurred.

I like to think of the template as a bar. It is the minimum standard at which a candidate has to be in order to be seriously considered for the role. In any given interviewing session, it is possible for all interviewees to be over the bar, only some interviewees to be over the bar or no interviewees at all to be over the bar. In the last case, don’t be afraid to re-advertise, it is the smartest strategic decision in the long run.

It is only those interviewees that make it ‘over the bar’ that should then be ranked against each-other. This may seem self-evident, but too often, interviewees are simply ranked against each other, not the ideal template. A panel, or lone interviewer, can then be struck with information overload and begin to make the hiring decision on arbitrary information that differentiates the candidates.

The benefit of the template and bar are then twofold:

Stops ‘the best of a bad bunch’ being hired.

Eases the final decision by giving one more step at which candidates are sifted out.

The Commitment

Am I asking for too much commitment of time and resources? How important a decision is this hire?

Say that it’s a £20,000 per year role – that’s junior administrative pay. The average stay in your company is six years. You’re making a £120,000 decision. Puts it in a different perspective, doesn’t it?

What are the usual procedures in your company to purchase something at that cost? What level of management usually signs it off?

Place recruitment in the perspective that it deserves and make the commitment to doing it right now.

Other Benefits

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to re-hire everyone in your organisation this way? In the current legislative climate, every poor hire is a serious liability for several reasons. Not only do they not give value in return for their salary in one way or another, they are very difficult to dismiss. Poor staff are also organisational morale and change-killers. People who are not happy at work are generally voluble about this fact, gossiping with workers, mulling over losses and bitching about management without having the impetus to get up and change whatever it is that’s annoying them so much.

I propose that hiring excellent people can be an antidote for some organisational problems. Positive, proactive people can and DO change the organisation around them – just as negative people can poison the organisation around them. As long as positive people are actively supported in the work they do and for the attitude they display, they can act as empowered and trusted agents of change dispersed throughout the organisation.

I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to hire the best that you possibly can. People are what make the organisation work – whether they manage or execute, they are all important and have serious impact in every facet of the value chain. Organisations that realise, capitalise and leverage this have become leaders in their fields.

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