The importance of hiring the right employees hasn't changed, but the talent pool is evolving quickly.
Whether you're looking for great employees or hoping to become one, I have some advice that you can use to increase your effectiveness. For the hiring managers, I'll challenge your current mindset and process. I'm going to convince you that your current practices are misled and the cause of your poor results. For the candidate, there's enough inside information here to give you a great advantage over the majority of the people you'll be up against in your next hiring cycle.
In 19 years of hiring, managing, and leading employees at three different companies I've learned a lot and tested several different processes. I've literally made dozens of poor hiring decisions and focused on all the wrong things during the evaluation process. I also struggled early on to develop an effective leadership style, getting less-than-the-best out my best hires. After struggling to find the right pieces in the early days of Revenue River Marketing in 2009, I decided to invest in a lot of counsel and tools to improve results. I knew I needed to hire the right employees for our little agency to scale, and I knew I needed help.
Since implementing my current approach, our agency has been completely transformed. From recruiting and evaluating, to training, motivating, and managing we've scaled quickly and retained top talent. These results can be measured by the quality of the team, their satisfaction, their longevity, and the agency's growth and profitability. I know there's some element of my system that can help you hire the right people or win the offer letter you're dreaming of.
How to attract the right employees people for the job
Build a culture everyone wants to be a part of - If you're hiring young talent you need to realize how important the environment is to their motivation and happiness. Building a work environment that the Millennial generation can thrive in requires some adjustments to traditional office structures. Give them what they want and they'll give you what you want. Give them some cool technology, some snacks, beer, games, and team outings. Don't yell, bitch, moan, and talk shit about your clients and vendors. Laugh with them, build them up, challenge them, and reward them often. You can literally build the environment they're looking for, you'll probably find you like it too.
Cast your vision for the future - Everyone looking for a rewarding career is dreaming about what they can grow into at the company that gives them a chance. The right candidates will be motivated to grow and advance. They'll want an opportunity to learn, prove themselves, be rewarded, and grow. The wrong candidates are just looking for a job. If you can't help the right people see that you're the right company to take them there they'll probably take another offer. When you give them the stage and they begin asking questions you better be able to paint them a picture. Tell them about your goals, your growth projections, and your recent promotions. Tell a story about someone in your organization that achieved what they want. Help them visualize their role and contributions as the company grows and you'll cast a vision they want to be part of.
How to identify who the best candidate really is
Test them on character points necessary for your success - The interviews you hold are your chance to evaluate talent, not resumes. The problem with many 'experienced' candidates is they can look pretty good on paper. If you find yourself thinking, "look at all this great stuff they did" or "wow, what they did for their last company is just what I need them to do for me" you might want to change your mindset. I firmly believe that character traits are much more important than experience. Instead of asking them questions about what they did here or there ask them questions to reveal their character. Start by identifying the most important traits you're looking for and build a list of questions to see if they have what it takes. I have questions for every candidate that help me learn how they'll do with coachability, transparency, desire, organizational skills, and humility. If I'm confident the best candidates have these personality traits I'm confident my team can teach them how to be fantastic marketers.
Allow them the ability to demonstrate their skills - Everything in our hiring process is a test. From their form application to their communications and assignments I'm equally as concerned with how they've prepared and followed up as I am with their answers and deliverables. When structured and measured properly you'll get a fantastic second look at the character traits you questioned them about in their interview. The candidates with the most desire, organizational skills, and transparency will almost always win out. The candidates that come up short will likely weed themselves out before you have to break the bad news to them. This really works well, I've avoided some big hiring mistakes by staying true to our process and letting poor candidates reveal themselves.
Understand what they're really looking for - Everyone wants to get paid, but that's never really going to make them happy. To understand what makes each candidate tick you have to test them on it. We use a profiling tool that I can't say enough good things about it. By answering only a few dozen questions about themselves, it produces a strengths report that's a must-have evaluation tool for our agency. In that tool, there's a section on motivators. Each finalist is asked to answer the questions and complete the motivators section as an additional assignment. Again, this is yet another test of their desire and transparency. But even more importantly this allows me to understand what they're hoping is 'in it for them'. Understanding their highest priorities are for happiness allows me to evaluate whether or not we'll be able to retain them.
How to ensure they're really ready to be great
Find out how they'll react under pressure - Everyone has a backup style, and everyone reveals it under stressful situations. Agency life comes with pressure, deadline, difficult clients, etc. I know I can create a culture that reduces stress, but I'll never create one with no stress at all. Because of this I really want to know how my candidate's going to act when shit gets real. Our profile tool helps here too, providing some great insight into who they are in their natural state and how their behavior changes under stress. By identifying their stressors and backup style, I can first determine whether or not they'll fit with others on the team but also learn more about how to support them when they're feeling the heat.
Allow them the chance to weed themselves out - This is an expansion on their demonstration of skills from above. You might be amazed at the differences between candidates when it comes to their ability to execute professionally during the hiring process. The right people will be so motivated to earn a job they'll impress you with the timing and execution of the steps you ask them to go through. The wrong candidates? They'll fail in comparison as their lack of execution gives you an idea of what you can expect when they're given a really important job assignment. If they can't impress you when they're trying to earn a job they probably won't impress you while they're struggling to keep their job.
Empower your team to play a hand in the process - Your best employees are one of your best options for a second opinion. Part of our process is to have finalists interview with a couple team members they'll be working with in a peer group. I want peers involved instead of management for this step because our culture and team approach is so critical to our success. If someone doesn't impress their future team mates like they've impressed me we have a problem. When this is the case we discuss as a group and add an extra step to the process to make sure we're all on the same page. Another advantage this step provides is to cement the vision, culture, and team with the candidate. The right person for the job is reaffirmed that this is the job they've been looking for when they meet people just like them that are clearly happy working for us.
Empower your employees reach their goals and they'll help you reach yours
Without the proper guidance and leadership you'll never retain the kind of people you're trying to attract. The best way I know how to build a recipe for success is to focus on the principles. Focus on the fundamentals of leadership and let it guide your every action.
Align Systems - Employees need processes, tools, and technology to produce results at a high level for an extended period of time. Give them the best and you'll get their best.
Clarify Purpose - People get behind what they understand. Don't tell them to do something, ask them to do something after you explained the purpose of the action and the potential impact. If you can help them connect their actions to the overall success of their peers and your company you'll find they'll go above and beyond to achieve for you.
Clear the Path - Understand this, it's important. Your role isn't to micro manage and direct, it's to enable and support. Millennials are looking for this approach more than any other generation in my experience. They're simply not looking to have you stand over them and bark orders. Expend your energy clearing as much bullshit off their plate as you can so they can happily produce fantastic results for you and your clients.
As long as you have the same kind of character and integrity you expect from your people these principles can guide you to real results. Your team will work well together, strive to improve their skill sets, and be committed to excellence if they're led to do that. What's important to you will be important to them. Remember, most people want to be led towards happiness and opportunity. Set the course and clear the path.
Revenue River Marketing is a Diamond HubSpot Marketing Agency Partner that specializes in marketing strategy and execution in a digital world. If you're looking for a great career at a dynamic company that's growing like crazy, apply here.If you want to learn more about the generation we're targeting and how they behave I recommend going through this sexy slide share
Editor's Note: This article, originally published in August of 2015, has been updated with new context from experiences