Hiring and Retention Tips

January 4, 2019

Hiring and Retention Tip #1

NEVER hire another candidate until you put them through a personality profiling test.

It doesn’t matter the level of the position. TEST everyone!

Anything less than 5 hours of effective interviewing is nothing more than closet psychology. You’re just guessing what’s behind the curtain. Yet, hiring for attitude, behavior, and cultural fit is just as important as measuring whether the candidate can perform to your expectations.

Hiring and Retention Tip #2

Define Success for every position.

Identify the outcomes, deliverables, expectations, metrics, and KPIs. Link this back to organizational and departmental goals. Define your expectations on a timeframe from 30 days extending out to 12 months. Work backwards like Covey mentions in the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

The criteria for defining success should be: what would a top 25% candidate, an “A” player, be able to accomplish. Set stretch, tough expectations that are achievable for a top performer.

Do NOT dummy down the job. Do NOT set minimums for which someone can keep their job by you tolerating weak or average performance. DO NOT fall victim to using a traditional job description which is a worthless tool for managing and predicting performance.

Defining expectations for hiring helps move your level of hiring accuracy and success into the 80-90% range. NOT setting expectations and defining success results in a hit rate of 50% – basically CRAP SHOOT Hiring.

The NUMBER ONE reason for hiring failure is not defining success. Eliminate this cause of hiring failure, and you’re bound to beat the odds on hiring someone who can achieve your expectations.

Hiring and Retention Tip #3

The greatest interview technique I’ve discovered after 1,000s of interviews is to ask for an example in the interview. Help your members be successful in hiring the right people by urging them to ask for examples.

From this point forward, every time a candidate opens their mouth, words spew out, you should have a knee-jerk, visceral, immediate question: Could you give me an example?

Stop accepting superficial, ambiguous, generic, and non-specific answers. Get an example for every comment, strength, statement, claim that ushers forth from their mouth. This one tip will boost your interviewing success right through the ceiling. You’ll be amazed at the depth of information you collect, and how quickly the best actors/actresses self-implode without substance.

By the 37th time, you’ve said: “Could you give me an example?” Hopefully, they are thinking proactively to offer one since they know the question is coming. You’re literally teaching the candidate real-time how to give you the data you need in the interview.

In my workshops, almost everyone agrees that candidates lie, embellish, and exaggerate over 100 percent of the time. Why? Because they know it’s easy to get away with faking it. They know you’ll never dig, probe, validate, cross-reference, or request additional information. They are comfortable lying, embellishing, and exaggerating everything: job title, responsibilities, accomplishments, skills, and abilities.

Once you start to ask for examples, you are now on a quest or the truth. If they’ve done it, they can talk about it all day long. If not, they’ll choke, implode, and disintegrate before your very eyes within seconds.Test this technique of asking for examples in your next interview with every answer or statement made by the candidate.

Hiring and Retention Tip #4

Posting Generic Job Descriptions onto Generic Job Boards is dysfunctional.

From this point forward, STOP allowing your members to post traditional and generic job descriptions!

Instead, I recommend posting a more compelling, outrageous, bold, marketing-oriented statement that gets at what a potential candidate will learn, how they will matter to your success, and what they will become for having been in that role for 18-24 months.

I’ve listed at the bottom of this article a couple of links to other articles I’ve written about writing COMPELLING MARKETING STATEMENTS.

I’ll use the next couple of Hiring HOT TIPS to drill into this idea a little further. Thousands of my clients over the last 20 plus years have filled their funnel with much better candidates through the techniques of posting, networking, and referrals through the use of a COMPELLING MARKETING STATEMENT – NOT a job description.

We go into granular detail in our best-selling book “You’re NOT the Person I Hired” with the Chapter titled “How to Attract the Bottom Third of the Candidate Pool.” Hopefully, you have a copy of the book. If not, shoot me a connection invite on LinkedIn and I’ll attach as a link to the PDF of the book.

Posting a generic job description on a generic job board is so bad that we have a nickname for it – we call it “Drill Sargent Advertising” because it sounds like a drill instructor in basic training screaming at you: Don’t bother applying unless you have 2 of these skills, and 1 of these experiences

The vast majority of candidates couldn’t care less what is traditionally listed by employers – something that resembles ordering from the fast food line – as in “I’ll take fries and milkshake with that 12 years of experience.” Great candidates want to know in clear language what’s in it for me – what will I learn, how will I matter, and what will I become.

When companies allow traditional job descriptions to masquerade as an effective attraction or marketing tool, you tend to attract the bottom third of the candidate pool. This group is what many of my clients call the “Best of the Worst”, or the “Cream of the Crap”. It’s the 298 candidates out of 300 that are just flinging resumes at you praying you’ll take pity and grant an interview. At best it’s a tactic that resembles “POST and PRAY.”

Sometimes, you get lucky. There is an old adage in the recruiting business that goes something like “Even a Blind Squirrel Can Get a Nut Sometimes”. Unfortunately, building a great team or organization on hope and luck is not a particularly good strategy.

Hiring and Retention Tip #5

Be a magnet to candidates. Draw people to you.

STOP thinking of attracting candidates like your qualifying them first.

START thinking with your marketing hat on of why would someone want to leave their current job and come to work for you in this role? It’s a radical departure from the traditional approach of attracting potential employees.

Most successful and high performing candidates don’t need your job. They are open to a better opportunity, but they are not out of work, being pushed out of their current company, or desperate for a new job.

These folks want a great opportunity. Studies show that 50-70% of the employees in any company are looking to see at any given time whether the “grass is greener” somewhere else through job boards and networking. These percentages correlate closely with the level of employees who are disengaged and dissatisfied with their company, boss, and whether they matter.

These potential employees are not firing off resume after resume. They are very selective in what they will consider. The question is how do you get them to raise their hand to consider your opportunity?

In my last HOT TIP, I declared that you should STOP using job descriptions as your attraction marketing tool. We’ve discovered over the last 20 years, that great candidates who are open to a better opportunity (50-70% of all employees) will respond to a more compelling marketing statement rather than a job description.

These folks want to know what’s in it for me? They don’t care that your job descriptions have a laundry list of qualifications. They don’t care that your job descriptions read like ordering at your favorite fast food restaurant, as in “I’ll take that with fries and milkshake.”

These folks want to know what will I learn in this job, what impact will I have (will I matter to the company, my teammates, our customers), and what will I become when I pop out of the tunnel after 18-24 months in this role?

If you cannot answer these questions in clear language that’s not ambiguous, generic, fluffy statements, then you stand a good chance of improving the quality of candidates landing on your doorstep through advertising, networking, and referrals.

Hiring and Retention Tip #6

Be bold, outrageous, compelling, seductive, and edgy in your headlines. Put on your creative marketing hat – not your traditional human resources hat – to attract great employees.

Send a message that screams warmth, welcoming with open arms, and desire for you to join us. Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes – why would they want to read about your opportunity based on the headline?

In my last Hiring Hot Tip, I recommended never again allowing a job description to masquerade as an advertisement or statement of work to attract a great employee.

Step 1 of writing a Compelling Marketing Statement is a great headline. This is probably the first thing taught in marketing programs and is drilled into copy writers at an early stage. If the candidate doesn’t find your headline compelling, why would they bother to look at anything below it?

Traditional job descriptions with advertising headlines duplicating the job title are about as boring, mundane, and uninteresting as possible. You have to grab the attention of a potential employee like whacking them between the eyes. When are most people looking at jobs – they are doing it on your watch at work, while they are multi-tasking with 3-4 other items like answering the phone, writing emails, and filling out spreadsheets.

Get their attention. Be different. Give them a reason to read about your opportunity.

Perhaps, a few examples will help. By the way, the Chapter, How to Attract the Bottom One-Third of the Candidate Pool, in our book, You’re NOT the Person I Hired, goes into granular detail on how to write compelling headlines.

You’re looking for a Director of Human Resources. Instead of using that job title as your headline, perhaps you should call it:

Chief Talent Officer

Talent Gardener

Chief Cultural Officer

You’re looking to hire a receptionist. In the Chicago metro area, how many receptionist positions are being advertised right now – thousands. How do you get your opportunity to bubble to the top and grab the attention of a potential employee? Maybe we should use one of the following headlines (remember the job title is still receptionist):

Front Office Ambassador

Head Greeter

Director of First Impressions

Are those headlines not slightly more compelling than the job title “receptionist”?

Recently, a client asked me to help them create a Compelling Marketing Statement for a role in which they were struggling to find candidates. My client manages hotel properties in exotic locations around the world. They were looking for a corporate manager of engineering to ensure that everything mechanical in a guest room works perfectly. The headline we used that drove an incredible response was: Captain Kirk is seeking another Scotty.

Hiring and Retention Tip #7

In our last Hiring Hot Tip, we talked about the need to write a compelling headline for advertising and networking messages. Once a candidate gets excited by your headline, you then need to hook them by challenging them with one question: to consider that not raising their hand might cause severe regret. Paint a picture of remorse in your one sentence question if they don’t raise their hand, they’ll miss out on something very unique and special.

Show in this one sentence what they’ve been missing, what they will overcome, and what benefits will rain down upon them for considering making a move – financial security, more money, promotions, accolades, personal growth and learning, higher levels of impact and “mattering” to management and clients/customers.

Keep in mind that this large group of candidates are not blasting their resume all over the Web to every open position. They don’t need your job. They don’t have to leave their current company. These candidates want to understand why should invest time with you? What do I get if I just stay here and don’t put forward an application?

Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re looking for a Controller or CFO. You want someone who can do more than basic debits/credits. You would like someone who can put together cash flow forecasts, budgets, variance analysis, dashboard metrics/reporting, and customer profitability assessments.

Your CHALLENGE Question might go something like this: Tired of being relegated to NOTHING more than a back office function?

CFOs and Controllers would look at this challenge question, and think “that’s what I’ve been waiting for all this time. They are thinking to themselves – my job sucks. I do feel like I get no respect, I’m not involved in helping to advise or recommend business solutions, I don’t matter, no one cares whether I am here or not. I should raise my hand and check out this opportunity – because that statement “speaks to me.”

We want to answer the question: Why would you leave your current job and come to work for us in this specific role?

What could be more important for success than hiring and retaining an outstanding team?  Let’s take off the dunce caps and recognize what’s really happening in our organizations when it comes to hiring.

Hiring and Retention Tip #8

Most CEOs and senior executives don’t consider the non-monetary impact of average and mediocre hiring decisions going on through-out their organization.

Why do we talk out both sides of our mouth when it comes to building a great organization? Why do we have an element of our mission statement that goes “our people are our greatest asset”, yet when it comes to the execution around creative sourcing/recruiting, asking the right interview questions, and having a rigorous hiring process, we rationalize that our approach and the candidates we’re seeing are “good enough?”

My experience over 30 years with thousands of companies is that when it’s tough to hire in a strong job market like right now, most hiring managers find a way to “work around” the culture just to get jobs filled.

Most hiring managers and department heads are more focused on getting jobs filled quickly than filling them with the best person possible for that open role. There are a wide variety of rationalizations for not remaining focused on hiring the very best for every open position.

I understand the pressure involved for hiring managers – work is falling through the cracks, the team is overstressed, customers are complaining, the manager is doing that job plus their own, they are worried about a hiring freeze, and they are worried the boss might wonder if they really need to fill the job since it’s been unfilled for so long.

Most importantly, they ran the advertisement and pulled the bottom third of the candidate pool – the rejects, poor performers, toxic personalities, and actively disengaged. A month or more has gone by, and they realize your organization is probably not going to see any better candidates than the ones you’ve already seen using advertising as your primary channel to attract candidates.

What would most hiring managers do at this point? The hiring manager mental process shifts from let’s get the best person to let’s just get a warm body – because a warm body is better than nobody. At this point you dummy down the job, take expectations off the table, and settle.

Are you allowing your hiring managers to settle when it becomes tough to find and attract great employees?

Are you unconsciously creating an average and mediocre organization, because you don’t value improving the recruiting and hiring process, or you’re making the false assumption that your team of managers has the right skills when it comes to recruiting and hiring, or the most common reason – you just don’t know what to do beyond running generic advertisements on generic job boards, and how to conduct an effective interview to hire the best.

NOT settling and maintaining standards must start at the CEO and executive level. Are you actively driving this important element of culture and success, or are you letting “unconsciously incompetent” hiring managers and department heads dictate your standards of excellence?

Is it time for a hiring check-up to validate that you have the right hiring manager training, tools, and methods to find, attract and hire great employees?

Hiring and Retention Tip #9

In tough hiring markets, many managers don’t want to invest the energy it takes to hire great employees – getting referrals, defining success, writing compelling statements of work beyond the boring job description, leveraging tools like LinkedIn, and boosting networking efforts. They don’t want to spend the time marketing the role in the interview, or by asking the tough questions. They take the easy road and only look at active candidates who desperately need a job coming off the advertisement.

I guess the first question would be whether or not you’ve trained your hiring managers to be great at finding and selecting candidates. I’m assuming you’ve given them all the tools to help them be successful at replicating the process of finding and selecting people. If that’s not the case, then we need to take a giant step backward and make sure they are well-trained and have the appropriate tools.

Let’s assume for a moment, you’ve put them through training, given them the tools, and coached them to make great hiring decisions. Yet they don’t use the training, they don’t use the tools, and they continue to “settle” for weak, average, and mediocre people.

Why do you allow this to occur in your organization? Is there an unwritten cultural value that “good enough” is okay? Is there an unwritten cultural norm that says when it’s tough to hire, it’s okay to settle, dummy down the job, and lower our expectations?

Is teaching GRIT and Mental Toughness the key to getting hiring managers to be focused around only hiring the best person for an open role, rather than a “good enough” person to fill an empty seat?

Is it time for a hiring check-up to see if your organization has enough GRIT and mental toughness to hire the best? Shoot me a note back and I’ll send our popular one-page 8-point Hiring Check-list – maybe it will clarify where hiring and recruiting improvement can be made.

Hiring and Retention Tip #10

We’ve developed these 5 questions based on over 1,000 executive search projects, interviews with over 250,000 candidates, and in presentations to over 30,000 CEOs and senior executives. We are probably the most prolific publishers of content around hiring mistakes and errors – and how to overcome them.

  1. Initiative: The very best candidates consistently go beyond the call of duty in doing more than they are asked. They anticipate, show initiative, are proactive and don’t wait to be told what to do.
  2. Flawless Execution: The very best don’t always do it the way you want it done, but they GET IT DONE. They don’t allow obstacles and roadblocks to prevent them from hitting your expectations and delivering on the metric, timeframe, budget, or goal.
  3. Leadership: If they are in a management role, they possess all the traits of a great manager/leader in coaching, development, engagement, and getting the highest levels of performance out of their entire team. If they are in an individual contributor role, they demonstrate personal leadership by helping their team and teammates to be successful – they are selfless in a team environment.
  4. Success Factors: You can predict with a high degree of confidence the candidate can deliver your expectations over the next 12-18 months. In most situations, if they can do this for 12-18 months, they will continue to deliver outstanding results.
  5. Adaptability: The candidate can adapt to your unique culture, environment, pace, energy level, rigor, and communication style easily from the environments they’ve come from. Many candidates fail in new organizations because they cannot adapt to what they are most comfortable within their previous environments.

These five categories and related questions will produce a level of information far beyond what most companies typically collect in the interview process. You’ll move your interview success from what most studies show is roughly a 50% success rate well into the 80-90% range. Imagine how they might impact your organization?

Hiring and Retention Tip #11

Employees with initiative hit the BULLSEYE all the time. Frequently, they exceed your targets and expectations. Is Initiative one of the major areas you focus on in an attempt to hire top talent – great employees – outstanding performers?

What is Initiative on the Job?

We’ve discovered that INITIATIVE is a primary element of success.

Top talent has extreme levels of initiative: They anticipate what needs to be done They go above and beyond the call the duty They are proactive They are a step ahead of their peer group They don’t wait to be told what to do.

Who do you have on your team that demonstrates initiative? What if you could get another one or two? You’ve probably come to recognize that the ones with initiative exceed your expectations, frequently go above and beyond, and get more done in a single day than the majority of their peers.

Measuring initiative is easy.

Initiative is a life-long pattern of behavior. You don’t wake up at 13, 25, 32, or 47 and suddenly declare that you’re going to be proactive for the rest of your life. The candidates who have it will share an example after example with you in the interview. The ones who don’t – they’ll struggle to come up with a few substantive examples.

Initiative in Sports

As many of you know, I coach high school girls’ basketball. We can predict future success when a new player enters our program from middle school/junior high. What is this one trait that separates average and mediocre performance from exceptional? You guessed it – initiative.

Have you ever played a high school sport or had children that played a sport? How do most kids treat their high school sport? Like a part-time job. They clock in seconds before practice starts and clock out seconds after it’s over. What do the very best do? They consistently show up early and stay late to work on their skills and competency. They take initiative. They are proactive.

I can observe a freshman for a few months and predict with a high degree of accuracy what she’ll be like 4 years later on our varsity team if she sticks it out for 4 years. How can I do this? By observing initiative that is an obvious pattern of superior performance. She may lack the skills, strength, and knowledge when she enters our program, but by the team, she’s a senior – she’ll be a rock-star – primarily by applying herself at a much higher level than her peer group.

You can easily see this among potential applicants – regardless of the level of the job. Initiative is that one trait that acts a multiplier. Individuals without the right experience, education, missing skills, and lacking knowledge – can frequently overcome those deficiencies through initiative.

Do you have good examples of members of your team demonstrating initiative? Do you believe this initiative is a one-time anomaly OR a pattern of consistent behavior?

My favorite book (next to the one I wrote – of course I’m just slightly biased) is Steven Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Covey claimed in his book that one of the 7 most important habits of highly effective people was that they were Proactive (Initiative). In fact, it’s so important he put it up at the top as his number ONE habit: Be Proactive.

This is the one trait that stands “head-and-shoulders” above other success-based behavioral traits. We find it in all top performers, and we find it missing in average and mediocre employees. This is why we consider the “INITIATIVE” question to be the first question in our 5-core question interview approach.

Probing Interview Questions to Uncover Initiative

The initial interview questions start with: Can you give me an example of two of where you demonstrated initiative in your last job/previous role?

Sometimes the candidate is confused by your statement of initiative – so it’s important to be clear and precise what you mean by initiative. You might indicate “our best forklift drivers show initiative by noticing damaged products and cartons and bringing those to the attention of our QA team as soon as they see it – vs. hiding it/pretending that’s not part of their job. Where have you taken initiative, proactivity, gone beyond the call of duty, or beyond your job description in your current/previous role?

Once you get the example – then you can start to play detective as you peel the onion:

  • When did this occur?
  • How long did it last?
  • What was the specific impact?
  • Why do think this example reflects high initiative?
  • What was your specific role?
  • How did you go above and beyond the call of duty on this project?
  • Where on the project/example did you anticipate the next steps without being told what to do?
  • How would you approach this differently the next time?
  • Could you have shown more initiative on this project/example?
  • If I was to do a reference with your current boss, would your boss concur that this is a great example of initiative, and it reflects a pattern of behavior you demonstrate all the time? What specifically would they say? What other examples might they share with me?