A Room Full of Me: Confessions from a Hiring Manager
When I first became a hiring manager, I prided myself on my ability to build a strong, high-performance team. I loved everything about the hiring process – from pre-screening applications for red flags, to the in-person interviews, to onboarding those who made the cut. I was able to find top-notch employees with a positive, can-do attitude, who always came to work with a smile, took their role of helping the customer seriously, and also found ways to be silly and enjoy their work throughout the day. We were a group of like-minded, similarly-performing people who loved coming to work every day.
We were a strong team and life was good. But, after a while, something happened. The store wasn’t cleaned and stocked to standards. People were arriving a few minutes late for their shifts, and then the next day they would arrive even later, but this time with a Starbucks latte in hand! Team members stopped wearing their name tags and sometimes the trash wasn’t taken out at night. All relatively simple things, and overall pretty easy to fix, but the question is – why did this happen in the first place? If I was hiring such positive, hard-working, like-minded individuals who were so happy in their roles – why were we missing key tasks and falling short of standards?
You might have already guessed the answer: I was hiring people who were like me. I built a team with the same strengths and opportunities. Sure, because we all excelled at delivering incredible customer service, we had fun, a stellar sales record, and customer conversion was through the roof. Everyone was supported and appreciated and we laughed all day, but no one was completing the checklists and making sure everything was in place. It took me a while to fully accept responsibility for this. It can be hard to understand that sometimes hard-working, positive people aren’t enough – especially when you, yourself, are one of those people. However, once I swallowed my pride and allowed myself to accept this truth – I took one simple step that solved the problem: I changed the way I hired.
I realized the critical importance of diversity. I don’t only mean diversity based on individual differences like race, religion, and other protected classes (this type of diversity is crucial – but, not where I was lacking at the time). What I needed was diversity of performance, thinking, and strengths and opportunities. Then, I needed to determine how I was going to find this type of diversity. How can you build a team with a variety of strengths and ways of approaching retail operations? What are the core competencies for excellence in retail?
Finding the answer meant I needed to stop trying to do everything myself and start talking with some experts in the field. I researched how to hire, spoke with other hiring managers, and finally found out that I was lacking the essential tool of having a structured hiring process. Sure, in the past I asked interview questions, and most of the time I followed the questions as they were written (at least at the beginning of the interview). But, I often found myself going off-script, and in the process not evaluating many of the key competencies required by the position. Not following a standardized hiring process worsened the ability of my experience and intuition to help me hire A-Players.
When I committed to following a structured process, I noticed the interview tools I was using were generic. You could use them for almost any job in any company. While I could pre-screen applications and resumes, keeping an eye out for the standard yellow and red flags, the interview questions were not predictive of performance or helping me determine how to best support new team members and leaders once hired. It all of a sudden made sense why I was only hiring people who were so similar to me: we are naturally drawn to people similar to us and I didn’t have the tools in place to find people who would bring diversity to my team.
Creating a Structured Hiring Process
I went to work on learning as much as I could about building a reliable and predictive structured hiring processes. This extends far beyond an interview.
I knew Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) could track candidates and their contact information, including applications and resumes, so I was on board with setting one up for us. An ATS can also make it easier to attract a larger pool of candidates. However, I had very little knowledge of pre-employment assessments. I knew that assessments were great predictors of performance, but I didn’t understand how they would fit into the hiring process. I was also concerned we would lose qualified applicants because they didn’t want to spend the time taking the tests.
However, carefully constructed and validated assessments have very low “candidate abandonment” and much of this is functional: candidates realize they are not a good fit for the position and self-select out – making the process even more efficient. Pre-employment assessments can screen for values, personality, and abilities that are linked to performing the job. It’s also possible to build a seamless process between the application and the assessment – making it easy to provide a positive candidate experience. With the addition of the ATS and pre-employment assessments, I would not only be finding more better-qualified applicants, I would be saving myself and other hiring managers precious time and money on bad hires!
Now that I had the application and assessment pieces complete, the next step was to review our interview process. I needed Structured Interview Guides that were streamlined, legally defensible, and that fit our company culture. It was then necessary to take a few steps back in order to create interviews that matched our company’s culture and the needs of each position. My company’s Competency Model, essentially the performance dimensions that comprise the job, and then our Job Descriptions were a great blueprint for designing the interviews. Once both of these were defined and in place, we could create Structured Interview Guides that asked precise questions supporting the hunt for candidates who met our overall position essentials.
The time I spent constructing an intentional and standardized hiring process more than repaid itself. With the system in place employee churn became almost non-existent, new hires came up to speed faster, and we saw a significant reduction in manager time devoted to hiring and recruiting candidates. Candidates who came to the interview were already vetted by the assessments: allowing us to focus on better understanding their strengths and opportunities based on the useful information we already gathered from the hiring process. Turnover continued to decrease year after year as we continued to calibrate the process and also because we had built a team of A-Players. Eagles do not want to go to turkey school – and sound hiring practices have the benefit of building a team that A-Players are attracted to and want to stay a part of. Our employee engagement and customer satisfaction scores also benefited from our sound hiring practices.
To make clear all the processes that you can put into place, the Hiring Funnel below shows how you can cast a wide net with recruiting and then narrow your applicant pool with steps that take little to no time. In the later stages of the process you benefit from precise, job-related information collected from the previous steps. What’s more, because the process is established you can train and coach your team to interview and evaluate candidates – and feel confident they will make sound decisions.
A Passion for Hiring Solutions
This experience not only made me a more successful Store Director, but also ignited my passion for hiring and talent management. I realized I wanted to help companies find and keep the best people, and to help employees develop in their careers. While I started off with a room full of me – I now help organizations build diverse and high performing teams – not only to better the bottom line, but also to create a rewarding experience for employees that allows them to flourish. Now I am honored to be the resource to help others similar to those who supported me in my journey.
Now it’s your turn. Are you confident you’re making the best hiring decisions? Do you have job-relevant performance dimensions/competencies to build a sound framework? Is one or more step of the hiring process taking too much of your time?
We created an eBook to help you determine your next steps. It’s a how-to resource that contains much of the expert knowledge I had to seek out. Even if you feel you’re a hiring expert – is your team? Our eBook can help you ensure that each step of the process is consistent, fair, and predictive of performance. Then, you can feel confident that anytime you’re in a room with your team you are surrounded by a diverse team of A-Players – ready to help you achieve a reputation for excellence, human goodness, and being best-in-class.