1. Test-drive your current recruitment/hiring process.
Why: It’s a useful form of quality control that can reveal weaknesses in the process and opportunities to excite candidates about your company and the position available.
How: Have a current employee apply for a posted job opening and chronicle what happens at each step. Did they receive an acknowledgement that their resume had been received? How quickly? What was the tone? Did they feel they had enough information about the job and the company (including its culture and its commitment to developing employees to their fullest) to apply with confidence? Many recruiters say that applying for a position should be a “wow experience.” Ensuring that the early steps proceed smoothly is key to making that happen.
2. Scout for talent even when you aren’t hiring.
Why: If you hire purely reactively, when an employee leaves or a new position is created, you’ll be starting from square one each time, and you’ll also be likely to rush the process. If you maintain connections to people you’d like to bring on board, you increase the chances of hiring a great person who you’ve come to know well and who knows the organization.
How: This is all about networking and about making the time to stay in touch with promising candidates so that when a position does open up you can quickly take casual talks to the next level. Talk to recently hired people in your organization about colleagues they regard highly, and who might be open to a career move if the opportunity arose. Engage with professional online communities and social networking sites, and attend live events in your area with the express purpose of meeting people who you might one day want to hire. Be open about the fact that you don’t have a position available at the moment, but that a regular chat could be in both parties’ best interest, eventually.
3. Rethink the job description.
Why: Odds are good that the current description focuses on skills and experience when it should focus on performance objectives.
How: Don’t specify the numbers of years of experience or the college degree(s) a person should have, or even, in many cases, the skills. Such an approach is useful for weeding out weak applicants, who will be discouraged from applying, but does nothing to attract the high performers you want. What will attract them is a job description that emphasizes a solid career path and that clarifies what exactly the person will be expected to achieve on the job. This assures candidates that they are applying for a position with a company that wants to invest in them over the long term, and also lets them make a strong case for their suitability by describing how what they’ve done to date qualifies them to do the things you need them to do.
4. When interviewing, make no judgments until the 31st minute.
Why: “More hiring mistakes are made in the first 30 minutes of the interview than at any other point in the hiring process,” says executive recruiter Lou Adler. Interviewers take a too-gentle approach with candidates they warm to immediately, and a too-tough approach with candidates who don’t make a great first impression.
How: It’s challenging, but withhold any personal judgments for the first half hour. Stick to a script so that every candidate answers the same questions early in the interview. Don’t let the conversation get sidetracked down the path of shared interests or connections or similar small talk. While you will ultimately have to decide whether or not you like the person, spend the first part of the interview assessing their skills, career trajectory, and organizational fit, not their hobbies or travel experiences or (and Adler says this did once derail a highly qualified candidate) their laugh.
5. Build some provocative questions into the interview.
Why: Savvy candidates have read up on how to field all the standard job interview questions. To pierce the veil and really understand what the person is all about, be willing to think differently about what you ask.
How: Among the questions recruiters say yield the maximum insights are: How would you solve [specify an actual problem that will face whoever is hired], and how have you solved a similar problem in the past? One company cofounder asks interviewees to spend five minutes explaining something to him—anything at all. Whether they take time to think before launching in, and whether they check to make sure he’s following them, are, he says, great predictors of success. One recruiter asks, “If we get to the point where I’m calling your references, what are they going to say about you?” In any case, if your idea of a great interview question is “What’s your greatest weakness?” you need to devise some new questions.
BUILDING THE STRATEGIC CFO
Chapters in the CFO action series presented by Build and GE Capital:
Chapter 1: Own the Big Picture
Chapter 2: Create More Time
Chapter 3: Build a Better Team
Chapter 4: The Great Communicator
Chapter 5: Big Data, Big Results
Chapter 6: Think and Act Sustainably
Chapter 7: The Leading Edge
Chapter 8: Think Global, Whether You Are or Not
Chapter 9: Building a Risk-Intelligent Culture
Chapter 10: How to Win the War for Talent
Chapter 11: Technology & You
Chapter 12: The Art of Strategic Influence
Chapter 13: Building the Customer-Centric Organization