A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to listen to Emily Heath, the Chief Information Security Officer of United Airlines. She’s a dynamic speaker with impressive credentials. Unlike her peers at other airlines such as Delta, American and Southwest, she has no formal education. When she was interviewing for the top security job at this Fortune 100, her CEO’s main interview question was, “tell me your life story.” Heath talked about the adversity she overcame and her story is quite amazing. UAL is lucky to have her.
This interview question begets another question: Should this be an approach that every hiring manager adopts in the interviewing process to find their next high performer?
I’ve recruited people to companies big and small. Along the way, I’ve made hiring mistakes that were very painful and in hindsight, maybe avoidable.
Years ago I developed a playbook that helped my employers achieve a better track record hiring the “rockstars” while passing on applicants who were not the right fits. For clarity, just because someone is not a fit for your organization, does not necessarily mean they won’t work out somewhere else. It’s on us, as leaders, to own that pre-hire assessment. You need to look beyond the CV, the list of accomplishments and personal references, and any clever answers you might hear during the interview. Over the years, I’ve iterated on a process that has improved my “high performer hire” success rate.
Sharpen Your Pitch
What’s the one reason why a rockstar will want to work for you? The word “culture” has been bastardized by so many companies that it usually falls on deaf ears. Why would anyone leave their current organization to move to one that does not have the type of culture they desire? Rockstars see through this and there’s enough insight on your company culture that provided to the well-researched candidate through Glassdoor, Linked-in and own network. I have found that a more relevant and meaningful pitch is one that articulates how that person will grow faster and better “with” you, more so than anywhere else. This is especially true for almost anyone early or mid-career. In some cases, it applies to people at the pre-C level in their career. All of us have much to learn and should always have a growth mindset.
Stress-Test the Candidate
Gaining a better sense of the candidates’s post-hire performance can be reflected in a more rigorous pre-hire screening. Unfortunately, many interviewing processes at small and big companies fall short. Outside recruiting firms will continue to profit until hiring managers and their HR organizations improve their methods. A hiring manager finds out very little during interviews no matter how many of behavioral questions they ask. Psychological exams may help, but that’s a separate, more involved topic.
In order to get a better semblance of how candidates will perform on the job, the hiring process must involve several forms of stress testing. If you’re looking for someone to fill a marketing role, have them run a competitive analysis on your product and present ideas on how they would improve it and show the ROI. This is where candidates from outside your industry might shine. Make them present to you individually as well in a group setting with your peers. Work with your peer group in advance by defining the role each of them need to play to best simulate the environment. Some may argue that this would not apply for senior level hires, but hiring mistakes are made at ALL levels. CEOs pride themselves on balancing strategic and gut thinking, but leveraging a more analytical process matters. The failure to inject more objectivity into the process leads to those avoidable hiring mistakes.
Look for the Hustle Quotient
Companies that have stopped hustling are prime targets to be disrupted. That underdog grit is under-appreciated by most. If you’re a large company, you should seek it, because your more nimble start-ups and competitors are. Having intelligence (IQ), smartly managing emotions (EQ), and being a cultural fit (CQ) are must-haves in your next hire (few candidates have them all). However, there’s one other critical skill that is necessary to build great companies: Hustle Quotient.
The definition of a Hustle Quotient is evident in the name. It’s not a breakthrough concept. The author Jim Collins identifies principles which separate great companies from the good ones: Fanatical will, plow horse mentality, personal humility, and ambition for your Company. These principles are core to hustlers and these are the people who have had success on a shoe string budget and have done the things that their peers are unwilling to do. They’re the folks taking a middle-seat on a red-eye flight to save the Company money and time (incl maximizing time with their families). They will write code for days with little sleep to help your Sales VP deliver a world-class demo. They may share a desk with their colleague and sleep in budget hotels. They will seek out meetings with their senior mgmt. team and propose new ideas backed by data and analysis. They are senior leaders who regularly talk directly with customers and their own front-line employees to understand the current health of their business. And they are able to articulate overcoming adversity, like Emily.
Do you have a hiring method or strategy that has worked well for you? If so, please connect with me: www.linkedin.com/in/chrisgreco/
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