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Stefan Kazakis on 26 January 2019

One of the most of the most common challenges I hear from business owners is how to find and select the right candidate for a position. 

In my opinion and experience, the most appropriate selection process is based on behaviour and attitude. 

If you are clear about the role you need to fill and the contribution and responsibilities required, you generally will not get that wrong, unless you are right at the start of your journey when you may not be 100% clear on the skills you need. 

When you are looking for people you need to build a benchmark business, you are clear on what skills you need – so the interview is behaviour-based. They wouldn’t even have made it to the interview if they didn’t have the required skills.

The track record of the person you are interviewing is critical to working out how they will ultimately evolve and contribute to your department and organisation. 

Show me where you’ve been and I’ll show you where you’re going. 

If they don’t have a verifiable track record then don’t hire them. There are always A-graders out there for whom you will be able to establish a track record, dig deep and find out more about them. So, if you can’t do this, why would you hire this person? 

And if you have been on the lookout 24/7/365, you will already have a pool of people you can draw from, and you will already have some knowledge of their background and behaviour. This is a huge head-start when it comes to hiring.

Mix it up. Change the environment. 

interview pub2

Mix it up. Try interviewing in different environments

To help you get a new perspective about the person you are interviewing, change the environment where you do the interview. Take them places they are not familiar with. Changing the environment will help you understand how they may behave when they are in your organisation. Mix it up.

Change the place and the people who are involved in the selection process. This will also allow you to get a few more opinions about what other people see and feel about this person’s behaviours.

You need to embrace the selection process of people as if it’s for a five-year stint. In the current environment, the best you will usually get is five years if you do things right.

There needs to be an element that you like them, but most important you need to respect them for their skill and track record, and their behaviour must ensure they are a good fit. I can hire for skill, but if the behaviour is not right and they don’t fit into our core values and culture, that’s a problem for stability. You need a healthy balance.

70% skills / 30% behaviour

As a rough guide, you want to hire based on the respect you have for their skill and experience, which I would consider to be 70% of the decision, and then the other 30% is their behaviour and how this indicates they will fit into your organisation.

When trying to establish the track record of a person you are considering, the feedback must be as open and honest as you can get from the people you are talking to.

Be as aggressive and assertive as you need to be to ascertain the track record, as it’s crucial to helping you hire the right person.

How do you do this? When obtaining references, I always start with: ‘It seems to me like you’re running a good business, and you seem like the sort of person who will give me a straight answer.’ When you play the integrity card, if they are not giving you a straight answer they will somehow mumble the answer or avoid the question altogether. Sometimes it goes like this:

‘So, can you tell me about Fred’s reliability when meeting deadlines and targets?’

‘Well, Fred is very popular with his team and always brings cake when it’s somebody’s birthday.’

That’s not a good sign.

It’s also important to verify what the person has told you about their skills and experience.

‘Fred tells me he led the team that developed your latest software?’

‘Well…he did lead one of the meetings once, when our flight was delayed and many of the managers were stuck in Sydney…maybe that’s what he means…’

That’s not a good sign either.

Aim for a 20-minute conversation that encompasses and factors in all the answers and information you have been given so far. Like everything, this decision must be data- and evidence-based.

You take all the data down when you have these conversations.

Will this person be aligned with your core values? This person has to be a good fit with your culture and core values. This is nonnegotiable.

This human resource you are bringing into your business must have an advanced level of emotional intelligence.

We’re all born with a ‘sixth sense’ – it’s your gut feeling and emotional maturity. The level of experience is not just about having a beaten track; it’s about life and experiences of success and failure. You can have it in your twenties. People must be rehearsed and practised in real-life situations. They don’t need to be old, but they do need to be mature. This again is about behaviour.

Experience required. But not always.

uni graduate2

The right candidate will usually, but not always, be highly experienced. The right person without experience is better than the wrong person with experience.

The right A-grader for your business will most often – but not always – be highly experienced. They might have just come out of university. It’s about having an attitude of delivering personal best and constant improvement; that’s what you want to be building your business with. The right person without experience is better than the wrong person with experience. 

The right person without experience can be a powerhouse for your business over time. You can train them to do exactly what you need, and work how you want them to.

You don’t need them to be 100% when you hire them. If they are the right people you can get them to where you want to go. There is going to be a problem every now and then as they learn and grow, but the right person will get there. 

They must have a positive outlook on life and a positive approach to choke points and challenges that may occur. The positive/negative outlook balance must be right. If the indicator is swinging minus, as they get more settled the minus will outweigh the positive.

By slowing down the process you can focus on truth not fear.

Questions to ask

Here’s a handful of great questions you can ask of a prospective employee to delve into their decision-making skills and their approach to their work:

  • What’s a problem you experienced in your current or previous role, and what could you have done differently to avoid this problem?
  • What’s one example you can provide of you leading a change in a business over two years?
  • What’s one thing you think you could have done better in your current or previous position?
  • If it was your business, the one you work at right now, what would you do differently?

This is just a starting point. You can add to these as needed. I personally have about 15 of these.

The answers to these questions will give you an insight into this person and how they will fit into and make decisions in your business.

There’s no such thing as they might be okay. That’s expensive – guaranteed. You can’t go through ten people to find the right one. That’s very disruptive to the business and not at all conducive to productivity.

If you go slow in the hiring process and you are not choosing somebody because you fear that you don’t have time to keep interviewing, you will be okay.

An exercise to use in interviews

interview exercise

Give the candidate a list of 3-4 challenges they will face in the role, and allow them 30 minutes to come up with potential solutions

If you’re in the recruiting stage and in the third or fourth interview – not the second – here’s a good exercise that will help you to establish whether you are in alignment with this person.

Put them in a quiet room and give them a pen and a piece of paper. Keep it simple.
Then, give them 3 or 4 challenges they could face if they take on this role in your business.

Talk it through, and then let them go for the next 30 minutes.

Then come back and discuss the solutions they have come up with. This exercise provides a great window into how this person’s contribution in your business will be felt.

If you don’t hire that person, there’s still an upside to this exercise for you and them: you have still been given two or three solutions that might be useful, and the interviewee has been provided with an opportunity to think through some problems and come up with the solutions. This will help them in the future.

Remember, integrity first, always.

If we’re hiring slow and firing fast, you might be able to develop a work experience approach. You might be able to invest six months getting to know this person and teaching them about your business, with a view to hiring them later.

If they are currently working for somebody else, perhaps you can hire them as a consultant after hours. You get to know them. They get to know you, and your business. Then, when it does come time to make a job offer, there will be no surprises.

Or, if you’re hiring frontline staff, put them on the weekend shift or for one or two days a week to see how they go. This can be a very successful approach to recruitment.

You need to understand that they are promotable or deselected. Don’t kid yourself. The brutal truth – once you accept it – will set you free. You might have to work harder to get it right now but in the long term you will reap the rewards. Remember, productivity is about the right people doing the right things right.

There’s no such thing as a cheap hire, so make sure you put in the time.

Power to you!

Stefan Kazakis 

Founder, CEO - Business Benchmark Group


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