D.I.S.C.O.: The Good Hire Process

Cross-posted from WinWinWorkplace.com.

There are few things more important to the success of your organization than getting the right people into your organization (and then keeping them). The costs of a bad hire are enormous — in terms of the financial investment in the hiring process, cost of poor performance, lost time and energy in needless management, and decreased morale and employee retention (There is growing evidence that good employees don’t leave organizations, they leave bad bosses). When you think of the worst things about your organization, you can probably trace them back to bad hires. Likewise, when you consider what is working well, you will probably trace it back to good hires.

There are three ways to get the Best People into your organization. You can Hire them, you can Inspire them (or develop them), or you can Retire them — by repositioning or firing them. Firing people is necessary but difficult and at times risky. Repositioning is often a good alternative, as long as the problem was poor fit rather than poor emotional intelligence or incompetence. Developing is always good, but you can develop people only within their capacity to truly learn. It is hard to take an average employee and develop them into a star, and even more difficult to take a low-performing employee to just the next level. By far and away, the best option for getting the work force that you want is to hire them. It is easier to hire a star than to attempt to develop one over the years (And let’s face it, not everyone is teachable).

One of the favorite things that we do as consultants at Win-Win is to help organizations hire good-fit, emotionally intelligent leaders and then to help integrate them into their new positions and possible new work culture. Below is the five-step “choreography” that I use — let’s D.I.S.C.O.

Define the position. All too often, not enough time is spent thinking about the position to be filled. What exactly are you looking for and what kind of person would fill it? We often assume that we should just fill the same position that has been vacated: It is tempting to just re-use the old job description. If you think like that, you will at best get what you already had. Write a new job description. Think about what you need now and into the future. We are currently helping the president of a company hire a new COO. We are suggesting that he think ahead. Who do you want or need this person to be in two years? Consider the position that you are looking to fill, a new position that is aligned with your current strategic plan. Once you do that, describe the KSA (Knowledge, Skills, and Aptitudes) along with the personality profile of the ideal person. At Win-Win we use a system that profiles the ideal candidate, a system that we later use for assessing and interviewing purposes and even later for measuring success after they are hired.

Identify the best (and fewest) candidates. There are many ways to identify the best candidates. You can identify candidates by simply hiring from a pool of people you personally know or by advertising the position on the Web (e.g. in CraigsList.org or Monster.com) for lower level hires or employing a search firm for C-level executives. (Although very expensive, executive search firms offer the advantage of being able to locate people who are already working and currently “not looking.”) Although at Win-Win we do not identify and recruit, we do help you determine the best way to go about it. We also partner with recruiters and search firms. What is most important in the Identification process is to find the best prospects, and not one more. This involves not just identification but also good screening. You can screen candidates by reviewing their résumés, doing a standardized phone screen, or hiring someone — like a consultant or search firm — to do the screening for you.

Selection. Once you have a final group of good candidates, you now need to go through a thorough selection process. Here are the ABCs of this process:

  • Assessment. We put candidates through a battery of assessments that can assess their strengths, fit to ideal profile, team role, cognitive capacity, and personality fit. We then use this information to guide the interviewing process.
  • Behavioral Interviews. The typical interview has about a 50% chance for predicting success; you might as well flip a coin. Do you want to improve your odds? Then you need to do what is called a behavioral interview. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. In the interview, you want to assess how a person performed and therefore will perform in your organization. If you do this, you improve your predictability to 80%. I would take those improved odds. As consultants at Win-Win, we have both guided this process and sat in on many interviews. And generally speaking, the more “touches” — the more people in the interviewing process (up to a certain reasonable amount) — the better your chances of making a good hire, and avoiding a bad one.
  • Confirm. You want to confirm what you are told. This includes actually following up with references, confirming allegations, and doing background checks. I once worked with a company that was hiring a very important general manager. The chair of the hiring committee found someone who was a friend of a friend (not the best way to identify a candidate) and he apparently had everything that they were looking for in a GM. The chair of the committee loved him was ready to hire him on the spot. Fortunately, two other people interviewed him. One seasoned executive who interviewed the candidate had a “bad feeling” about this prospect. The assessments that we did indicated an average to poor fit for the position. This instigated enough concern that a background check was done. Subsequently, they found he had a history of serious problems that would likely follow him into this next position. If the chair had selected this person — in a manner that many organizations do, without following the ABCs of Selection — they would have hired their next huge headache and unnecessary expense.

Choose. This is the shortest but obviously most important decision you will make in the D.I.S.C.O. process. Bring together all the stakeholders and interviewers, as well as all the assessment data and information from references and a background check, and make a decision. Honor people who have a “bad feeling” about someone. Then again, don’t necessarily trust “likeability” (Remember that narcissistic people are notorious charmers). You need to tie likeability to performance and fit. And after having the basic KSAs in place, few things are more important than emotional intelligence, especially if this person will work with clients, will need to work in a team, or will manage or lead others. You can have a very talented person; but if they cannot control their emotions or they relate poorly to others, you will get more than you bargained for.

Onboarding. The hiring process does NOT end with the hire. This is a mistake that many organizations make. In our process we will stay with the new hire over the course of several months, helping them integrate into the new position, and into the new culture if they are an outside hire. We will monitor and assess their progress and enhance important communications along the way. We will use all the assessment data to both coach the new hire and direct his or her boss on how to mentor the new hire. The purpose of onboarding is to instigate a “soft landing” (integration), detect any issues early on that might be problematic down the road, and hone the new hire’s performance to the strategic requirements of the position.

If you are going to cut costs in an organization, do not cut costs in the hiring process. It will cost you dearly in the end. Instead, learn to do the D.I.S.C.O. and build the team that your organization needs, both now and into your future.

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