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  • Writer's pictureSomer Hackley

7 steps to knowing a good hire

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

I’m sitting in a bakery/coffee place trying not to listen in on the interview being conducted next to me.

But I can’t help it.

The interview is to work here.

By the end of the half hour an offer of employment is extended. Everyone’s thrilled.

But how does the shop owner know that this is a good hire?

Sure, the cookie was probably amazing and she said she can work under pressure, but how do we really know?

I will firstly say that I’m an optimistic person. Everyone starts with five gold stars in my book. If you want a glimpse of my new-hire-optimism just ask anyone who worked in contingent recruiting with me… I hired everyone to be a recruiter on my team. I thought they could all do it. I liked them.

Fast forward fifteen plus years. There’s a lot more to qualifying someone than asking vague questions and having a gut feel.

Of course there are the tell-tale signs that someone is a good candidate.

They run in the same circles as people who are respected or famous. They worked at a company you respect, and therefore someone else already did the hard work of interviewing them there so they have to be good! They have job stability, or the reverse; they’re an entrepreneur. Their resume is a replica of your job spec, with all the right words in all the right places.

But the reality is that people thrive in different cultures. They have faced different challenges. The starting point of their journey may not line up with where you are now or how you would define success for Your Company 2.0.


Step 1 — Know what your job is

This may sound simple but now that this topic has been raised, I encourage you to listen for it. So many times when I ask someone to describe the role, they instead describe what they want in a person. Those are related, but different questions. What is the person walking into? Where do you want them to have impact (tech, revenue, the customer journey, team/org building)? What roadblocks will they face along the way? Why is no one internally being considered for this? There it is, your job.

Step 2 — Know what you’re looking for

It’s easy to slap a round number of years and buzzwords on a spec and call it a day. What’s important is how you’re going to screen people in versus screen people out. I find that team size is the biggest hangup for some people and it’s very easy to disqualify a great candidate by being stuck on a simple number. The reality is that different functions are structured differently depending on the company. Some Product heads own engineering, some don’t. Some Digital heads have responsibility for tech and others have P&L. Titles rarely translate from company to company. This is what makes this part tricky, and thinking outside the box will bring a more diverse slate to the table. What types of industries are relevant to yours? What other companies have gone through this sort of transformation before? What are the key traits of someone at your company at this level? What types of people are successful?

Step 3 — Ask fewer interview questions

Fewer, better questions. Situational questions are key, ones that start with “Tell me about a time when…”. I used to start off with “So, tell me about yourself” but then my interview was lacking relevant data. It’s much more telling if the person talks through an example, and then you don’t move on. You dig. You dig to find out this person’s role in the transformation they’re describing, what credit they take and what they give. If more than one person at a company claims the same thing… there’s more digging to do.

Step 4 — Call people out

If someone isn’t a fit, tell them why you think that’s the case. Then listen. Maybe you’re wrong. Or maybe they give you a referral to someone who is a better fit. Bonus: a good candidate experience.

Step 5 — Note the non-interview cues

People show their true colors as the search progresses, especially as we’re approaching offer stage. Note how this candidate conducted themselves with every touch point along the way, not only with the interview slate. I used to think that my looking young was a disadvantage. But in all honesty (and maybe I’m showing too many cards now) I love taking a step back and analyzing how people interact with me. Am I “just the recruiter” or am I seen as a true partner and executive search consultant? Of course some of that is on me, but ultimately it’s interesting to reflect on the dynamics. They key though, is that you have to be willing to act on what you discover.

Step 6 — Recruit

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Boolean search and a well written InMail. But that’s not the secret sauce. At the end of the day recruiting is all about… recruiting. You’re gathering references and external data points.

Step 7 — Weigh the importance of other people’s opinions

Collaboration is wonderful, but sometimes there is someone on the interview panel who you ultimately disagree with. That’s OK. Discuss. At the end of the day it’s your hire, and as long as you’ve been true to the process and the steps above you’ll have enough data points to know that this person will be a good fit. There may be some internal selling to do versus simply needing more candidates.

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