Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thinking Outside the Box

This is not just a cliché or esoteric business strategy, it's a practice.

If you read my blogs, it is fairly clear, I'm all about change. Here are two situations where "outside-the-box" thinking was successful when applied to hiring.

Maintaining my philosophy, "If the people grow, the company will grow," I needed a manager who could apply this principle. It took quite a bit of time and I actually when through two previous hires, before landing someone with the right blend of qualifications.

Did he come from the marketing/advertising industry? No. I hired a professor. A person with all the industry skill sets and the added punch of knowing how to convey this knowledge. He could also motivate. He built on the staff's current strengths and taught them new skills. On the management team, he brought a broad perspective.
It worked.

Next, I needed a Business Manager. A prevalent practice of mine, when building organizational structures.

Did she come from the marketing/advertising industry? No. I hired a financial analyst from the banking industry. I needed a number cruncher. She brought not only accounting skills, but helped me set up productivity metrics. On the management team, she brought an outside-the-industry perspective. It worked.

This philosophy can be applied in any position. Don't look for the candidate that matches every detailed bullet point in the job description. If you do find such a person, you will get what you don't need–change or new thinking. Look for skill sets. Skill sets that can be applied to your real needs. These skill sets are referred as – transferable.

Examine your job postings. Do they represent functional duties or skill sets? If you require help determining your needs or examining this subject matter, hire a consultant (like me). Consultants bring an unbiased "out-your-box" viewpoint, as well as their broad experiences.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Candidate Assessment

There are a number of tools to help HR and hiring managers assess candidates. It seems the lower the level position, the more complex the assessment. I have frequently seen IQ type tests used for minimum wage jobs. I relate these test to many student's comments about math, "Where will I ever determine the area of a trapezoid? "

Take two cities 87 miles apart. A train is traveling at 42 mph towards one town and a car is traveling at 55 mph back towards the train's origin town. At one point do they intersect. Who cares as long as the car isn't on the train tracks?

An elevator holds 2500 pounds. Susie, Paul, Mary and Bill take up 60% of the capacity. Paul weighs 155 pounds, Mary 108 and Bill's been eating twinkies. How much does Susie weight? Well, every time I'm in an elevator, this really concerns me. NOT.

This is not to say math has no purpose, because it does. This is not to say all assessments are bad, because I've seen and used many excellent ones. This is to ask, are the right assessments used for the right purpose? Back in the 80's there was a major move from IQ, Intellectual Quotient, to EQ, Emotional Quotient, to assess candidates. There were many good books written about this alternative to evaluating candidates. Why do we still see IQ on minimum wage jobs? Because some companies just don't change.

As I said earlier, there are a lot of good assessments out there. The good ones emulate the work environment, are dialogue based and reveal the candidates experiences and/or thought processes, without determining Susie's weight. Also sad, these test are all online, as are most application processes.

A question you may ask, "A minimum wage job candidate may be fresh out of High School or College, with no previous work experience. How do I assess them?" Talk to them! The best assessment is face-to-face. Character can be revealed in presentation, speech, vocabulary, appearance, etc. What they did for extracurricular activities, classes they studied or part-time jobs can also reveal character. (Side note - unless your hiring for an academic based position, GPA is irrelevant. GPA just indicates the candidate can absorb and regurgitate information. Think EQ, not IQ).

"But I don't have time to personally interview candidates, in a high turnover, minimum wage based, industry." One fact about minimum wage jobs, there will always be high turnover. Hopefully, this is because people want to grow.

What about mid and higher level positions? The same rule applies. Talk to them! The best assessments are live and the same qualities are revealed, as for minimum wage positions. There is a big advantage in this environment, you can use the infamous HR statement, "tell me a time when ... " It works. Pre-qualification can come from the résumé.

Candidates, you can assess the company by their hiring practices and once you gain a live interview, assess the interviewer on the same characteristics as mentioned above. After all, matching candidates and companies is a two-way street (and not the street with a train and car headed for a collision). See my previous post discussing culture.