The importance of hiring the right employees in an evolving talent pool
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 my 21 years of hiring, managing, and leading employees at three different companies I've learned a lot and tested several different processes. I've made countless poor hiring decisions and have focused on all the wrong things during the evaluation process. I've made all the mistakes you're worried about making.
I've also struggled over many years to develop an effective leadership style, getting less-than-the-best out my best hires with repeated errors. After struggling to find the right pieces in the early days of Revenue River Marketing, I decided to invest in a lot of counsel and tools to improve results. I certainly recognized the importance of hiring the right employees for our little agency to scale, and I knew I needed help.
After applying a lot of practical tools and advice, our agency has been completely transformed by our process for identifying and attracting fantastic people. From recruiting and evaluating candidates, to training, motivating, and managing talented employees, we've scaled quickly and retained the best of our people. 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 talent from younger generations you need to realize how important the work environment is to their motivation and happiness. The younger generation has a different set of values than previous genreations. 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. You might have to spend less time concerned with reducing overhead, and more time investing in your environment. You might need to boss people around a little less and extend trust more often. Maybe, create an environment where laughter over a video isn't going to earn a lecture. Maybe, spend some time laughing with them. You'll get more mileage out of building them up, challenging them with opportunity and responsibility, and rewarding individuals for small accomplishments. If you really set your mind to it, you can literally build the environment they're looking for. You'll probably find yourself enjoying your new culture just as much as your team does.
Cast your vision for the future - Everyone looking for a rewarding career is dreaming about who they can grow into, at the company that gives them a chance. The right candidates will be motivated to grow, learn new skills, and tackle new challenges. 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 their turn at 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 uniquie contribution as the company grows and you'll cast a vision they want to be part of.
How to identify who the best candidates really are
Test them on character points necessary for team 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 related questions. I have developed a lot of different ways of asking the same questions. This help me work them naturally into conversion, learning 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 in executing within their specialized job role.
Allow them the ability to demonstrate their skills during evaluations - 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 job history and interview answers. When structured and measured properly, you'll get an in-depth look at the character traits you questioned them about. The candidates who demonstrate humility, desire, organizational skills, and transparency will almost always win out. The candidates that don't demonstrate these qualities will likely weed themselves out through testing. This approach has really worked well for us, as we've certainly 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 the right candidates 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, how they handle this assignment is yet another test of their desire and transparency. There's a lot of freedom in interpretation and delivery style. Even the delivery provides fantastic insight. But, even more importantly, this allows me to understand what they want to be 'in it for them'. Understanding their highest priorities are for happiness allows me to evaluate whether or not we'll be able to provide properly. Fulfilling an individual's motivators is the best way I know to retain top talent.
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 potentially be working with. 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 might 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 to 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 sales and marketing strategy, technology, 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.
Editor's Note: This article, originally published in August of 2015, has been updated with new context from additional experiences.