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We Found a Rock Star!  
Hiring the Best of the Best 

By Lonnie Pacelli

Colleagues, I feel your pain on this issue.

Scenario #1:  You’ve got a critical position that needs to be filled by a qualified candidate, and quick. For every day the position doesn’t get filled, your in-box fills up a bit more with work to be done because your unfilled position hasn’t been staffed. You see tons of resumes and have interviewed scores of candidates, but the rock star you’re looking for isn’t emerging.   You refuse to “settle” for a mediocre candidate, but the work is piling up and you’ve got to do something.

Scenario #2:  Three months ago you thought you had the perfect candidate for a job and decided to hire him. You negotiate a compensation package, relocate the candidate, and do some internal public relations work with the team. Two months after the candidate hit the job, you realize that your candidate was a PURE (previously undetected recruiting error); the candidate had a major issue with responding to pressure and would become rude and angry with peers, employees, and customers whenever the heat was turned up. You’re now faced with either making a massive investment in the person or making a job change. Not a pretty picture.

Finding the right candidate for a job can be highly frustrating for both managers and recruiters. If you wait too long, the work will keep piling up and your management may start thinking you can get along without the position. Pull the trigger too soon and you risk hiring a candidate that is a PURE. There are legitimate situations where it just takes a long time to find a suitable candidate. You need to minimize the situations where you either hire the wrong candidate or take forever to find the right one. Here are some simple techniques to help you find that rock star for your organization: 

Know what you are looking for:  Sounds pretty basic, but I have been amazed at how frequently managers dust off a job description that hasn’t been changed in years to use as the basis for hiring a new employee. Hiring to an out-dated job description can lead to ineffective resume screening and poor-fit candidates. Give the job description a good working over and ensure the skills documented in the job description accurately reflect what you’re looking for.

Use multiple interviewers who can focus on different skills: Based on the job description, your candidate may need a combination of functional, technical, leadership, and people skills. A candidate who may be a technical wiz may also have the people skills of a head of lettuce. Use trusted interviewers who have expertise in each area of focus and ask them to drill the candidate for their respective area to ensure the total skills package is there.

Look beyond the obvious:  One of my best hires several years back didn’t meet the stereotypical requirements of the job, but had some outstanding core skills that were easily translatable to the new job. Had I stuck with my mental image of what I was looking for, I would have rejected the candidate during the resume screening process. If your job for a procurement analyst requires strong analytical skills, consider looking at candidates from other functional disciplines, i.e. finance, to fill the role. I’ve continually been amazed the number of times “out-of-the-box” candidates have become rock stars. Don’t limit yourself to candidates with stereotypical requirements.

Get a glimpse into critical thinking skills – Okay, so you’ve probably heard about the “why are manhole-covers round” type of questions and may be chuckling at the prospect of asking a candidate such an off-the-wall question. The truth is, critical-thinking questions are a great way to understand how a candidate thinks through problems, how they respond to pressure, and how quick-on-their-feet they can be. I’ve changed my hiring decision (both ways) based upon the critical question I asked during the interview. A great approach to this is to think about your own business and create some hypothetical questions, i.e. if you’re an automobile manufacturer ask the candidate how they would design a car that gets 200 miles per gallon. Think about the “tough questions” you can ask and observe your candidate as they wrestle with their response.

Get a hundred-day plan from the candidate – Wondering what a candidate would do when they land on your doorstep? Ask them!  During your final selection process, ask each of your candidates to put together a hundred-day plan of what they are going to get accomplished during their first hundred days on the job. This technique is very effective in assessing how a candidate will take the ideals discussed during the interview process and put them to action if they were to be hired.

Give peers and candidate’s prospective employees a voice – A key aspect of a candidate’s fit potential is how they will get along with peers and, if the candidate will be managing people, his or her prospective employees. You may have a functional and technical maestro but if he doesn’t have the teaming or collaboration skills you might be creating a mess for yourself and the team. Just be cautious to get a cross-section of opinions; you don’t want to base team chemistry decisions on just one person’s viewpoint.

The rock stars are out there and can be delivering value in your organization; just make sure you keep focus on some of these basic hiring strategies and you’ll get the best of the best driving results for you.

Read other articles and learn more about Lonnie Pacelli.

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