Hiring and keeping the right people is crucial to your organization’s success. Consider this: A study by Harris Interactive indicates that 74 percent of people working today would consider finding a new job. Many of these people stay on their jobs because they pay the bills. They are only working for the paycheck! For a small organization that cannot pay its staff well, it’s really important to find the right people who will stay even if they are not paid competitively.
Over the last three years, I have been actively researching and studying how to match the right people to the right jobs so that people can enjoy their jobs and not have the desire to quit. In the course of that research, I have met numerous great leaders, learned a lot, and grown tremendously. In this article, I share some keys to effectively hiring the right people and matching them to the right job.
An effective hiring process starts with a strategy. It isn’t a chance occurrence. Strategy is based on choice. It is a series of choices we make that allow us to win. Strategy is all about winning. A key part of a strategy is choosing not to do some things (many things) so that we can do other things (a few things) that allow us to win. According to renown strategist Roger Martin, a strategy involves making choices.
- Why. Why play? This is the winning goal and aspiration. This covers your mission, vision, core values, and goals. You have to write down a good winning aspiration for your the new hire that fits into the larger winning aspiration of your department and organization.
- When. Your goals need to be time-bound.
- Where. Where to play: This is the choice of a playing field. What cohort of candidates will you be targeting to win a candidate from? Maybe you will be targeting a certain category of engineers with certain types of competencies and striving to win the best of that group that your resources can afford. That is your playing field; your “where to play.” Also, you have to choose your advertisement and referral channels. That’s also part of your “where to play”. The salary range you can afford will also be part of your “where to play”. The person you are looking for may fit certain demographic and psychographic profiles. That will also be part of your “where to play”.
- How. How to win: The “where to play” and “how to win” choices go together. You have to come up with a method, a recipe for winning. It will involve attracting many potential candidates > screening to narrow your choice> Interviewing a few > Choosing one winner > Effectively onboarding > Evaluating, training, supporting, and empowering, and promoting.
- Who. What capacities do you need to support your “where to play” and “how to win” choices? Capacities refer to core competencies and skills that your hiring team will need to have to be able to successfully carry out the first three steps above and win. What capacities do you already have in your human resources or hiring team? Which capacities don’t you have that you need to get in order to support your where to play and how to win choices? You may need to hire some people with competencies that you don’t already have so that you can fulfill your winning aspirations.
- What. What structures, management systems, and measures need to be in place to support the capacities above so that you can win?
After making the above choices, you will realize that the following elements fit within every effective strategy.
I recommend that you begin the process of hiring by centering on what really drives your life. What drives your life? Why do you do what you do? Renown leader, Rick Warren, remarked, “Everyone’s life is driven by something.” He is right. The first step of hiring is to figure out what that driving force is for you. Our center gives us our most basic paradigm and forms the lens through which we see the world. Your center gives you what Roger Martin calls your winning aspiration; your mission, vision, core values, and life goals. Stephen Covey says, “Whatever is at the center of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom, and power.” He says some people are driven by or centered on their:
- Spouse, spouse-centered,
- Family, family centered,
- Money, money centered,
- Work, work-centered,
- Possessions, possession-centered,
- Friend/Enemy, friend/enemy centered,
- Church, church-centered,
- Self, self-centered
- Principles, principle-centered
Your organization also has a center. It aligns with the center of the founder and the key leaders. You must make sure that your hiring choice aligns with your organization’s center. If you lack alignment at that level, then you are bound to encounter conflict with your new hire. Things will fall apart when the center does not align.
As part of centering, review your organization or department’s overall mission, vision, core values, and goals. These aspects of strategy constitute the winning aspiration.
For more on centering, I recommend reading Day 3 of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. Another resource that I recommend is Habit 2 in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Brian Tracy says the Key Results Areas (KRAs) –also called Key Performance Areas–refer to “those things that you absolutely, positively must do to fulfill your responsibilities and achieve your business goals. There are seldom more than five to seven key result areas in any job or in any business.” Read more on Brian’s article here.
To find a right match, you need to define in detail what winning in that position looks like. You need to paint a vivid picture, a clear vision of winning in that position. The clearer your winning aspiration for that position is, the higher your chances of finding a good match. Writing down the KRAs helps you to define clearly who you are looking for (a profile of the ideal candidate), tells potential candidates exactly what the position entails, and makes clear what kinds of results will make the organization excited that they hired the person for this position.
Dave Ramsey says, “One Key Result Area can be as simple as defining the number of calls and sales volume required in a sales position. It will further define what should happen on that certain number of calls made per week.”
You need to create detailed job descriptions that include the key results areas, pay rate, details of skills and experience required so that people can rule themselves in or out. You don’t want to get hundreds of resumes. You want to find someone who is the right fit. Making a detailed job description helps recruit the right person.
Identify your needs
The first step to writing an effective KRA is to carry out a thorough “needs assessment” of your department or organization. You need to know exactly what your needs are. What capacities do you need to be able to support your “where to play” and “how to win” choices?
Define the position and profile of your ideal candidate.
After you have identified your needs, the next thing to do is to write a detailed description of the position and the profile of your ideal candidate. Put together a team to undertake this process so that you benefit from multiple perspectives and input. For more on how to define the position and profile of an ideal candidate, read this.
Write a Job Description and a Job Posting
A Job Description is an internal document describes the responsibilities and qualifications of the role in detail. The job description will be used for hiring to screen candidates. After the right candidate is chosen for the job, it will be used to set expectations. Finally, it will be used for evaluation and performance reviews on an ongoing basis.
A Job Posting is an external document created from the job description but intended to be used to advertise the job. It is a marketing tool.
It is helpful to view advertising for a position as a 3 stage distribution process.
1. Leverage Your Current Staff & Their Networks
Start by advertising the position with your current staff. Send them an email letting them know about the job description and the profile of the ideal candidate for the job. Some of your team members may be interested in the job. More importantly, they know your culture and would be an excellent source of referrals.
Rally the entire team to seek out new team members that they would enjoy working with. Some experts recommend considering if a referral bonus would work within your culture. It can motivate people and use their networks to find a great hire for you. You may want to offer the referral bonus only to staff members who refer their friends and they are successfully retained after the 3 month probation period. It’s also recommended that you consider celebrating team members who recommend their friends in a public way if that suits the preferences of the team member. People do what is celebrated, rewarded, and inspected. If you want your team members to recommend and recruit others, then reward it. Someone has said that people don’t do what is expected, they do what is inspected. So, inspect it.
2. Leverage those in your larger tribe and their Networks.
Leverage the networks of those in your tribe. Advertise to those in your tribe. The goal is to get them to spread the job description to those in their circle of influence. Those in your tribe could include board members, sponsors or funders, community partners, peer groups, etc. Also, advertise on your website and to your social media tribe and ask them to spread the job description to those in their own circles of influence.
3. Leverage Job Posting Sites
Consider job boards like Idealist, Craigslist, and several other job posting sites. Consider posting ads on training school websites. E.g. if you want to hire a seminary graduate, perhaps consider posting a job on the job section of some respected seminaries.
The “where to play” and “how to win” choices go together. It continues the process of Attracting many potential candidates > Screening to narrow your choices> Interviewing a few and choosing one winner > Effectively onboarding > Evaluating, training, supporting, and empowering, and promoting.
I recommend using three types of screenings: The resume screen, the phone screen, and the reference screen. The purpose of screening is to assess each applicant using a consistent set of pre-established criteria so that you can make the most informed decision possible to rule candidates in or out of the hiring process.
Regardless of the type of screening method being used, experts recommend that you determine the process in advance and make sure that it is aligned with your key results areas, the profile of the ideal candidate, job description, mission, and vision for the role and treats all candidates equitably. This also ensures that the process is discussed with everyone involved in the screening process so that everyone is on the same page.
Resume and Application Screen
Resumes are helpful in that it lists the formal education and past jobs that the person has held. People embellish their resumes, so trusting them is not wise. However, you should still learn about the candidate from them if you know what to look for. For example, you may be able to learn something about a candidate’s organizational skills, writing ability, and attention to detail by simply reviewing his resume and application. In addition to that, the resume will be a good conversation starter during the screening and interview process.
To be effective, first, create a Resume Screening Worksheet to use for each resume or application. How do you create it? First, determine what kind of information you want to gather from the resume. For example, come up with a list of criteria you are looking for in a candidate. After that, reduce the list to just the criteria that you can actually assess from a resume and cover letter. Your Resume Screening Worksheet is used to assess the presence or absence of each criterion and the strength or degree of its presence.
Write down all the questions you are going to ask and consider what answers you would be looking for, which ones are acceptable, and which are unacceptable. Phone screens typically assess for skill fit, culture fit, when they can start, personal budgets, etc.
Very few people will be foolish enough to give you a list of references that they are not sure will say good things about them. When you talk to references, listen for excitement and voluntary illustration of what they say with examples of the person’s character. Only when you can sense a genuine enthusiasm should you even consider what references say. Even then, it should be low on the scale of things that help you make a decision. Ask the reference what they would say a weakness is that the candidate has in which they could improve in order to fulfill the position better. If they don’t give one, ask them for any weakness they know in the candidate. If they can’t give you even one weakness the candidate has, then they may not know the candidate that well or are not being honest. If a candidate doesn’t give a good reference, that attests to his poor judgment.
I recommend multiple interviews. I don’t mean multiple interviews on the same day. I mean multiple interviews with different people over a period of a few months. One of the worst things you can do with hiring is to try to rush it so that you can either fill the position quickly or avoid losing someone. If you are being pushed to rush, you can be sure that you won’t make the right decisions. Hiring is like dating for marriage, it should never be rushed unless you are indeed not concerned about the pain of divorce. Start with a short “get to know you” interview to jump start the process. Then follow that up with several interviews.
Personality testing is an important part of the hiring process. Personality tests should not be used as the only tool in making decisions but as one of the indicators of a good job fit. You want to look at: 1) How their personality fits with the job, and 2) How the personality fits with the rest of the team that they will be working with, and 3) How their personality fits with their immediate supervisors. Good personality tests to use are the DiSC test or the Myers-Briggs test.
As you interview, make sure that you check for underlying assumptions (both revealed and hidden). Watch this video of a lesson in one of my classes at Austin Bible Institute. How to choose co-founders and key leaders that last.
Sometimes, you can’t put your finger on why you don’t like someone or why you do like them. There is a place for your gut feelings when it comes to hiring people. If you just don’t feel like you should hire someone, then you probably shouldn’t even if everything on the surface seems right. Hire people who have the same philosophy of life that you have; who have the same beliefs and values. Trust is built on these common beliefs and values. For more on this, read Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why. In addition to your gut feeling, you want to assess for chemistry or compatibility.
You cannot forget this one. As you interview, you need to be assessing candidates to see if they are great team players or not. How do you do that? Look for qualities of effective team players in them. As you will see in that article, there are many indispensable qualities of effective team players. All of them are important. However, two are worth sharing here:
Passion and Calling
Do they light up when talking about the job you are offering? Can you really tell if this person would do the job for free if all their needs were met? Is it something that is their heart beat? Something that they see themselves as self-actualizing by doing? You want people who are called and passionate. If you hire someone without a high degree of passion, you will have to spend significant amounts of time encouraging them. You don’t want people who are simply looking for a job or paycheck. As a sign, you don’t want to hire people whose first question is asking about how much they will be paid. If they are preoccupied with pay and benefits, it will be hard to pay them enough to stay.
One thing that you will notice is that a good hiring process assesses the DESIGN and calling of the candidate.
You want to hire people whose winning aspirations in life (their mission, vision, core values, and goals) align with those of your organization. People will only stay long-term if they are fulfilling their purpose by doing things within your organization. The only reasons people will stay with your organization if they are not fulfilling their life calling are if: 1) They are ignorant of it, or 2) They are working for the paycheck. If they are ignorant of their calling, they would not be fulfilled doing work within your organization and so you would have problems working with them. If they are there for the paycheck, then they will leave for their passion when they earn enough. While with you, they would only be hired hands, not truly committed to your mission because it is not their mission.
Mission & Vision Alignment: Picture of a desirable future for this candidate. Can we lead this person? A good employee is a follower, a disciple of the organization and its cause. A leader must be able to hold a person’s hand and point him to a desirable future of his life and the follower must believe that that future is indeed what he wants–his calling and passion–and also have confidence that the leadership of the organization can take them to that desirable future. Again perception is key here. The person must perceive it. They must believe that the leader and the organization can get them there. Both showing them the desirable future and having them believe that the leader and the organization can accomplish that is key. Note, again that the desirable future I am talking about is not the desirable future of the organization or company, but the desirable future of the person himself within the organization. This desirable future must be attractive and compelling enough to the followers that it will pull them to follow the leader and the organization even through difficult circumstances. That’s the kind of future Martin Luther King Jr. provided to the over 250,000 people who converged on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to hear him speak. He provided them a dream. That dream was their desirable future. It wasn’t just Dr. King’s dream, it was their dream also. People work within an organization for themselves, not for the leader or the organization. People care about themselves, that’s how we are designed. There is nothing bad about that. Jesus’ disciples followed him for this same reason. Read Matthew 19:27-30 and Mark 10:28-31. Also, remember that the sons of Zebedee valued these perks so much that they sent their mother to ask Jesus that they should sit on his right and left in the kingdom. This made the other apostles furious. These two sons wanted these eternal perks so much that they were willing to die for it (Mark 10:35-45). In Luke 9:46-48 the disciples of Jesus are fighting over which of them would be the greatest, i.e. the leader. Remember, people follow leaders for themselves, not for the leader! That is a universal law of human nature. Read, Why People do what they do. With fulfilling the fundamental human needs, it’s important to remember that perception is key. Their perception is their reality.
Alignment with Our Beliefs and Values. This is key because trust is built on shared values and beliefs. Dave Ramsey said he refused to hire someone because, in the interview process, he trashed President Bush, who is somebody whose values he agrees with and his organization espoused the same conservative values. He advises being careful on this one. Hire people who believe what you believe. That’s what will motivate them. They have the same “why” as you do. Simon Sinek agrees. We once had a wonderful sister who got really offended during the interview process when we criticized someone that she liked who was, in our view, and expert opinion doing orphan care in ways that are damaging. This sister’s anger showed that she didn’t believe the same things we believed. We let it go and she and her husband eventually quit within six months of being with us. Hire people who believe what you believe. By this, I’m not just saying that they are Christians or go to the same denomination etc. I’m talking about when you look at everything that matters to your organization, they believe the same things you believe. They must believe in your leadership style, your organization’s view of the world completely, etc.
Personal Mission Statement. Experts recommend requiring everyone hired to build a personal mission statement. Dave Ramsey says, “We want their personal mission statement to show how the position they accepted is them living their dream.” This is a powerful thing to do. People will stay with your company or organization if they see that their role within the company is a channel for them to fulfill their dream or calling in life. To learn how to write a mission statement, I recommend reading Day 40 in the Purpose Driven Life and Habit 2 in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Rick Warren and Stephen Covey explain very well how to write a good personal mission statement. Note, even though Pastor Rick Warren calls it a purpose statement, what he talks about is the same thing as a personal mission statement.
Does the candidate have the kind of experience that is needed to prepare them to be effective on the job?
In general, I like to see at least three years of full-time past work history in the corporate world where they depended on the salary and kept a job. You want people who are “self-made” or have, through work, been able to carry their own weight by working and making money to live on without any help or cushioning from rich parents, a family inheritance, or even middle-class parents who are spoiling their child and won’t let the child learn discipline to work for themselves when they make bad choices. Parents, both rich and poor, can do this. Again, the work acceptable as part of this three-year experience should not be similar to what a “rich kid” would do just because he wants to, but someone who has depended on the paycheck to live; who really understands what the real world is. It should also not be a “lazy kid” whom the mom has worked her butt off and paid for college and everything else. Neither should it be someone who has been on food stamps and didn’t really depend on the job etc. Call corporate employers with the permission of the candidate.
- Look for commitment to their last job. Past behavior is a great predictor of future behavior.
- Look for dependability on their last job.
- Make sure they actually worked and depended on the salary.
- Ask and answer to yourself: If this person was to quit working for us today, will they feel the pressure of getting a job and working elsewhere to make ends meet immediately or would they basically be able to continue to live well or be supported by a willing family member for a prolonged period of time so that they don’t feel that pressure of job loss? We’ve had three volunteers (one single lady and two young couples) who would have failed this test because they had wealthy parents who had spoiled them. They all quit without any qualms. So avoid these people.
Do you want people to focus on your business or organization? Then hire people who don’t have financial problems or debt that is weighing down on them. And make sure that what you pay them is enough to cover their living expenses and help them save and achieve their financial dreams. If that isn’t happening, they wouldn’t be able to concentrate on working. Dave Ramsey says, “People who are broke don’t make good team members.” He is right. Making sure that you can meet people’s financial dreams to the level where they can focus is the right thing to do.
Win-Win Relationship. The organization should ask and answer the question: What’s in it for them? What do they get out of working for the organization? Is it enough to enable them to fulfill their dreams? While the cause is an important draw, this is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the fundamental things that motivate humans–including financial security, self-actualization, etc. Let passion for the cause be icing on the cake. I’m not saying passion and commitment to the cause are not important. You must definitely have them. It’s non-negotiable. But realize that your organization is likely not the only route for them to pursue their passion and support the cause. If it’s a non-profit like Shaping Destiny whose mission is to make disciples and serve the poor, they can quit and join any one of thousands of organizations that will happily take them. If it’s a for-profit organization, they can also work for the competition. There are thousands of ways for them to fulfill their passion without your organization. Passion draws them to the industry but what you offer them that they cannot find elsewhere in the industry draws them to your particular organization within the industry. Does the organization provide for them something material that they can’t get elsewhere?
Only hire people that can both rely on your organization for some support and at the same time be happy and content with the level of compensation and benefits they get. There has to be a healthy interdependency between the two parties. A sort of symbiotic relationship that is unique and satisfies both parties in ways that the two believe (perceive) are hard to find elsewhere. Perception is key. The organization would depend on them and they also depend on the organization to the same degree physically. Be wary of having anyone in a key position who has complete financial freedom and is doing the work just to help unless they have proven themselves with years of commitment to the organization. When times are hard, many people will stay on a job simply because it provides support that they need. Real ministry is full of hard times. Seek win-win ways for people working even for a non-profit to benefit financially from their work and to rely on it to live and do their work. Every worker is worthy of their wages. You would be amazed that if you seek to find win-win relationships before you can hire people, that you will find many.
Compensation, Benefits, Culture, and Review. As the interview progresses, discuss in depth exactly how they will be paid. Talk about their salary, commission (if any), any benefits. Also, discuss the culture of the organization, the key operating principles and how they will be evaluated.
Be extremely careful with overqualified people. U.S. News has a good article on why employers don’t like to hire overqualified people. Bill Hybels believes that “the church is the most leadership-intensive enterprise in society.” John Maxwell agrees and says that’s because “positional leadership often doesn’t work in volunteer organizations… the only thing that works is leadership in its purest form: influence.” Many people will work and cooperate with the leadership because it controls their paycheck–salary, benefits, and promotions to higher positions of increased earning power. Their livelihoods depend on their jobs. However, for voluntary organizations, leaders don’t have that leverage. The only thing that keeps people from quitting is the leader’s influence among the people.
Ask: Is the potential employee at a level in their leadership development where they will naturally find the current leadership of the organization to be a kind of leadership they can support and grow under? It’s difficult to allow yourself to be led by a leader when you are confident that you are better than them. This is a key question. The idea here is not that an organization cannot bring in leaders that the current leaders can learn from. That should be done. However, the approach could be different. Hire a new CEO or a key leader in the organization who requires little supervision. No matter how kind they try to be, most people quickly become resentful when they are supervised by someone they are convinced has subordinate leadership, skills, knowledge experience. They would feel that they should be the boss, not the one supervising them. Read this Forbes article carefully, focus on the data cited. I think the author’s interpretation of the data is flawed.
I first started doing spousal interview a few years ago after I learned it from Dave Ramsey and a handful of other leadership experts like Michael Hyatt. It is extremely helpful and you would be surprised what you can discover at the last minute. It is one of the last interviews that Ramsey does. It basically involves going out to lunch or dinner with your spouse and the potential candidate and their spouse. As you eat in a relaxed environment, simply observe their interaction. Also, share the job offer and working conditions with the spouse and hear what they have to say about their spouse’s potentials for success. The spousal-interview is an invaluable tool to effective hiring.
After a candidate is hired, many companies enter into a mutual probation period of three months. It’s mutual (two-way) because the candidate is on probation as far as the company is concerned and the company is on probation as far as the candidate is concerned. This is a very good thing to do. During this time, there is neither a commitment on the part of the company to the candidate nor an obligation on the part of the candidate to stay with the company. During these three months, they are welcome to quit anytime. After three months, if both parties decide to continue then the relationship is taken most seriously.
It may be best to view it as a three-month stint that allows both of you to establish the presence or absence of job fit. At the end of the three months, there should be a mutual evaluation of the company and the candidate. Set the meeting up in a way that the discussion is not awkward if either party decides not to continue the relationship. During the three months, expectations on both sides are limited to three months. This is especially true for voluntary work where job fit is the only reason most people stay with the organization. At a Whole Foods location in Austin, TX, after three months the team members vote to either accept the new person on the team or not. If not, that person either joins another team in the company or is out of luck. That may be something good to consider. It is unwise both for the company and for the candidate to make a long-term commitment without the benefit of the three-month trial.
Orientation. It’s essential that every new hire should receive an effective orientation.
Appoint a mentor. In addition to the orientation, it is good to appoint a mentor to help the new hire onboard well.
Recommended Resources for further reading
- Purpose Driven Life
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player
- 21 Indispensable Qualities of a leader
- Developing a roadmap for the hiring process.
- The 3 Marketing Personas You Should Hire Today
- The Most Effect Hiring Strategy is Process-Driven
- Forbes, I’m Outta Here!’ Why 2 Million Americans Quit Every Month (And 5 Steps to Turn the Epidemic Around