Online, I do some consulting for small business people. Nothing major, I do it mainly to learn what people are doing in way of new business ideas. However, there is another group online that always asks for my services, college and graduate school students looking for me to do their homework, not help, do! Being as I did a small stint in teaching, I never take their offer no matter how much money they offer, which usually is not much. One day I got a phone call from a company wishing to recruit me and we talked and I asked them about the process and they got to the point where they said they would do a background check to verify my education. This got me thinking about those students who try to hire me to do their homework. What good is a background check with them? Which led to another issue the hiring process as a whole is not the best.
The typical company hires by doing an interview where they ask a bunch of questions like “tell me about yourself” followed up later with “where do you see yourself in five years” and of course everybody’s favorite, “tell me what is your greatest weakness?” Then the company decides to go further and does a background check or reference check. No where in any of this does it tell you if the person you are hiring is going to do the job you want? No where!
Let’s start with the questions typically asked, they don’t really tell you the real question you want to know as a hiring manager “is this person going to make my company more profitable?” Where a person plans to be in five years makes no difference nor what their weakness is and in no way helps you answer the question of improving profits. What if their greatest weakness is they really like chocolate? Does that matter if you selling cars and what relevance does it have to your bottom line? None!
Background checks are even less accurate, those students that ask me to do their homework, I learned, go on and do find others to do their work for them. In fact at some schools there is a thriving cottage industry where upper classmen do homework for a price. A background check will show they did get their degree, but will not tell you how much of the course work they actually did themselves! How much and how well they understand what the degree claims they should know is the real issue you want to know, background checks won’t tell you that. Reference checks might if you get a good enough reference that is honest.
As a hiring manager, what can you do if these typical tools don’t really answer your question? Nick Corcodilos runs a website called Asktheheadhunter, which helps candidates answer the question of how to show they can do the job you want. He also helps companies as well. I do agree with a lot of what he says, as a manager you want to know how a candidate to can do the job and there are a number of ways to do this.
As someone who has had to hire a lot of people, I found the usual questions or even the testing done, really didn’t answer the real question I wanted answer, can the person do the job as I need it done? This is what set me on a course to find some better ways. I noticed all too often the interview process isn’t very direct and doesn’t really get to the point of what it should. Change this and you get to the real issue which is what both candidate and company want.
First thing is to really understand why you are hiring someone. It’s about the profits, doesn’t matter what the latest guru speak is, your number one or number two reason on you list of concerns is your profits and how you get them. Each job addresses profits differently, a sales person is not going to be the same as an engineer so cookie cutter questions should be thrown out. Know the position you are hiring for and how it will make more profit for the company. When I have been the candidate it does surprise me how many people don’t understand this. Make sure who ever does your interviewing knows how the position will improve profits because if they don’t, they just might turn off your best candidate by the lack of clarity.
After formal introductions I always started out my interviews by asking “so how are you going to make my organization better?” This question was great for a couple of reasons, first it tells me if the person did their homework. If they are serious they would have taken time to at least do a Google search and find out what we do and why we do it! Second, it really shows how a person thinks when presented with a challenge. Two areas I have found are good generals to know about anyone I interview. Mainly because I do want to know about them but really I want to know how they plan on brining in more profit and if they are motivated to at least attempt to understand how they can do that.
Second, I like the person to show me they can do the job. I got this idea way back when I used to work at a company that kept us sharp by giving us test every now and then. We would be sent to another department for a few hours and given a task to do that was very normal in that department but alien to the department we spent our days in. After X number of hours we were graded on how well we did the job. This was done to help us learn new tasks and learn to be self reliant on the job. When it came to hiring computer programmers, I used a similar test. I had lots of people tell me they could program in java or C++, but how would I know unless I could see them do the work. So I had one of the staff programmers create a small application and ask candidates to do the same in X number of hours. Do not confuse this with free work, these applications would useless for operational purposes and I couldn’t use them. If you want someone to work for you to make money, you need to pay them for it! Make sure the test is just that, a test. Some people walked out, those who tried the test, I could then see how well their coding was and if it was to the standard I needed. A two hour test gave me more information than 12 hours of interviewing and all the other usual tools used by most.
Scrap the resume and anything about looking backwards. I know, for some this is blasphemy, but really, when you think about it, it does make sense. All businesses are successful because they look forward to the future, so why hire based on the past instead of what you want done in the future? Instead of asking for a resume and salary history, why not say, “send us your plan to make use a better company.” This will tell you more about the candidate than any resume and cover letter ever will! Yes it is important to know if the person has the skills to back up their ideas but it is easier to use the do the job test than to screen by resume. As Nick points out, he has placed candidates in companies that have had the resumes of those candidates already. If a resume was so great, Nick would not be able to do that!
The hiring process is a broken system asking for the wrong information, relying on the wrong tools. As a manager, take ownership of hiring, don’t hand it to HR, you know what you need so get to work getting the people you need. It takes work but then think of the thousand or in a senior position, millions of dollars it would cost if you didn’t get to answering the basic question you want to know, how will this person make me more profit! Don’t get pulled into the dog and pony show of the traditional hiring process, be your own boss and hire the right way. Engage candidates to answer the basic questions, let those that just want to get by in life work for your competitors while you get the best.