You have to have a process. Hiring without a process is just random hiring. But a process is not enough, it should be a standardized process. Here is an analogy: you are a scientist, trying to prove a theory, and you submit your results paper to a known journal. Your results only make sense if you have a controlled criteria changing over time. If you randomize more than one controlled criteria your work is worthless. You can’t randomize more than more criteria.
Standardized hiring should look the same. You are trying to evaluate if someone fits a role you are trying to fill. You must verify the entire setup is identical between candidates and only the person being interviewed changes.
Before you can hire someone, you must define what you want that person to do. In order to have that cleared out, you have to have a role definition. A role definition is not the job description. It is a competency needed by your company, a job function in the org, if you’d like to call it that way.
For instance, a software engineer is a role, sales manager is a role. You get my point. For every role in your org your should have a role definition doc.
Role definition doc
This role definition doc should include the following:
- A public facing job description
- Internal score card
- Job title
- Level in the org, if you have levels
- Salary range
- Main evaluation criteria
- KPI this person should improve
- Alternative to hiring
- Impact of not hiring
A public facing job description is what you post publicly on job sites and spread within your network letting people know you are looking to fill a function.
We will cover the score card and the evaluation in a moment. Job title, level and salary are self explanatory.
KPI this person should improve is the business objective we are trying to improve by hiring this person. For example - number of leads per day increase by X%, or release velocity increase by 7.2% per month.
Alternative to hiring is what other means of achieving the KPI we have without hiring someone. For example - hire some low level people to manually handle an issue area instead of a leader to fix the root cause. Or establish a partnership with a company that will send us leads.
Impact of not hiring is the description of what would happen from a business point of view if we don’t hire this role. For example, slower lead generation in the fiscal year leading to less sales, and lower revenue.
You should have a score card. The score card have a well defined criteria we want to evaluate against. The most important one is the main criteria. Candidates scoring low on this one, can’t get the job. For each role, you should have a clear criteria, which can be used of course to assess performance of current employees, which is a topic out of scope for this post.
Define your scoring criteria for each role, and measure candidates against it. It becomes easier to pick the right candidate, once you have the scoring numbers for each criteria well defined in front of you.
The next step in a well defined process is sourcing. You want the right people to hear about your open position. Based on my experience the best method for reaching high quality candidates is by friends referral. However, beware, friend referrals tend to homogenize your workforce, and that is a risk. Diverse workforce have better outcomes and improve your business. I suggest mixing and matching several methods of sourcing, referrals being one of them. Holding hiring events and head hunting specific candidates you are interested in are good methods as well.
Like every sales process, and hiring is a sells process, you must have a great funnel in order to get quality output at the end of the funnel. So make sure you have a good source of leads flowing down the funnel in order to get the right person landing on your role.
Bringing someone to interview means you have passed the initial purchasing hesitation, if we continue with the sells analogy. That person is now going through an evaluation, which is not simple for most people. People don’t like to be evaluated. But you are evaluated as well. The way you treat the person and the process overall will impact your selling process to that person. However, since people talk, it will impact your future hiring attempts as well. So pay careful attention to how you treat people.
Again, like I mentioned above, we must have a standardized process. This means we will ask the same questions, at the same order, and score the same criteria for each and every candidate. This means you have to get an answer to your questions, so you can score them. If we let a candidate go by without answering some questions it means we will not be able to score them. It might be caused by lack a skilled interviewer, or the candidate not speaking openly for whatever reason. It doesn’t matter, as an interviewer, your job is to get the answers, so drill deeper, dive in. Rephrase your question, repeat it from another angel, it doesn’t matter how you do it, but you can’t skip a point.
What are your career goals
People should have a purpose when they apply for a job, they should know why they have applied and what are the short, medium and long term goals they currently have in mind. This point is important, we are not asking them to outline their career from now until eternity, we are asking what currently they think there career goals are.
Great candidates know this, and speak about it passionately. Typically younger, less experienced people don’t tend to have as much knowledge about their career goals, don’t let the hesitation draw you back, lead them by saying things like: “tell me more please”, if you create a safe place to discuss it, people will open up and explore it with you.
What are you really good at professionally
By asking this question, we try to find out if the strength areas the candidate sees within themselves align with the core characteristics we are looking for in the score card. Answers to this question should be detailed and elaborated. One word, or one liners are not enough. Ask the candidate for specific examples, and focus on listening to the way the candidates describe them.
What are your great professional accomplishments
This question aims to allow the candidate to demonstrate past success backed by real situations and real numbers. In addition, it helps build trust by allowing the candidate to show competency. Once your have been shown hard evidence of previous success and it aligns with what you have on your score card, you have understood the Strength area of the candidate.
What are you not good at, or not interested in doing
This question moves the needle from the strength area to the weakness area. However, we don’t want to ask about weaknesses as asking about weaknesses will likely be responded by boiler-plate responses. Look after some concrete examples. Unlike the strength question type, this question is harder for people to answer, so give them space, and explore it together with them. Showing some vulnerability yourself can help here a lot, especially if you give some genuine examples yourself.
People often get stuck at this question. A possible way to get them out of that spot is taking an external view, and framing the question from a peer or a boss perspective. For example: “What would your team say you are not good at?”.
How would your previous manager rate your performance when we speak to them
By asking this question, you notify the candidate you are going to speak to their previous manager. Collect exact names, since you in fact are going to do so. In addition, since you set the stage to mention you are going to do it, you will get honest responses. There is another bonus to that, if they had any issues with a previous manager, they will probably mention it, and cover it in details which is also very helpful. Having the score documented and compared to what the previous manager says is a great reality check for the candidate.
What was your mission in your previous job
You are trying to find out if your candidate see the large picture and understand their role in the org. You are trying to find out if they can tell the results and outcomes.
Role specific questions/assignments
You sure do what to look after actual competencies yourself. Be it Pair programming, Algorithm design, System design for engineers. Or product process for product managers, or a mock for designers. It doesn’t matter what role, you just need to see the candidate can actually demonstrate the desired capability.
In the interviewer role your main role is listening and guiding the discussion. Don’t try to show how smart, experienced or valuable you are. Listen to the candidate, ask leading questions, and ask to hear more about interest areas.
This is the sole important point to remember. The candidate is likely stressed, possibly unsure of themselves. Give them the space to feel valued, and the psychological safety that we are trying to become friends and know each other, even if the interview doesn’t work out.
If you found out the person in front of you is a great match, no matter what your process is, move into sell mode. The best candidates get many many offers, and your position should stand out. Once you are satisfied with the candidate, try to close, as fast as you can, while keeping the candidate happy with the way you close.
Closing is worth a post on its own one day, probably. But this post got too long already.
Your exact process doesn’t matter, it might have 1 or 5 interviews, face to face or virtual, in an office or outside. It doesn’t matter. What matters is to make sure your process exists, and it is standardized.