In my career I have participated in over 150 position searches. Our staff at EMP has conducted over 500 searches in our various roles. These searches ranged from maintenance staff to Commissioners, Vice-Presidents, and Presidents. Many of the 150 plus searches I conducted myself and some of the higher-level searches were run working with a consulting firm who provided support. I have learned that every successful search was a result of strong planning, hard work and full diligence into the candidates we were considering.
Being a CEO of a consulting firm, it might surprise you that I have not previously been a big fan of hiring a consulting firm to run talent acquisition searches. My experience with these firms is you get the same candidates run through their interviews and very seldom have I seen more than one candidate you find fits the job description. As a candidate for open positions, I have been involved in some great search processes and in some of the most poorly run ones imaginable. Not everyone can run a well-executed and planned search. Either way, if you run your own search or hire an outside agency, here are some guidelines I have found helpful to preparing and executing a well thought out search process.
Start with a well thought out job description. Know exactly what you want this position to be capable of doing. Don’t hire a candidate that needs a year’s worth of training if you need immediate results from them. Spend the time to detail what skills and experience are needed for a position before hiring someone who you might put into a no-win situation. Develop a realistic timeline for the candidate to achieve your desired results. Not for their benefit, but for yours so you understand the patience it will take to fulfill a role. Fully understanding the needs and expected areas of impact from a position, will help you better formulate and write the job description.
Put in place assessment pieces to fairly evaluate the position as the candidate performs in it. This will also allow the candidate to know exactly what you want from them before the hire, the timeline you need it accomplished in and the performance level you expect- up front. Define the necessary skills and traits the selected candidate must have to be successful in this role. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the staff working with this position and how does each candidate fit within that framework?
Finally analyze the market value for an employee that brings the tools, experience, and traits to the table that you want in the final candidate. Compensation must match the desired candidate’s skill set. Trying to hire someone who has $250,000 worth of skills and talents on a $80,000 salary is a recipe for disaster. It is important to understand the role of technology in your search. Applicant tracking system software is not cheap but necessary if you want to run an efficient search in a manageable timeline.
When posting the position, post it in areas and locations that are going to attract the candidates you are interested in. Sometimes it costs more to place advertisements for open positions in certain job site media locations. Be willing to pay upfront to get your position in front of the right people. If working with a search firm, make sure that firm has the connections and ability to get the job description in front of the right people and the faith from those candidates that the employer they are working with is trustworthy.
Assemble a team to help with reviewing and evaluating candidate’s material. I like to form a committee of peers and supervisors that represents all areas of contact a potential employee might have. It is best to have input from as many areas and people as possible. However, all individuals involved in a search must be full trained in proper search etiquette. Assessment of applications is time intensive and takes a lot of scrutiny. You cannot take short cuts with ethical evaluation and procurement processes. It is not the right way to operate. Follow standards and state and federal law. Many searches can place employers in legal jeopardy because those running them do not follow the policies and procedures in place for a proper evaluation of candidates. Know what is allowed and who may or may not be contacted before you contact any former employers or employees of a potential candidate.
Once you have narrowed your list of candidates down, you need to determine the best way to interview them in a timely manner. Everyday wasted is a day that might lead to the loss of one of your top candidates to another opportunity. There are different ways to begin your process, but I like calls or zoom interviews with your top eight and a final three or four brought on site. Those final candidates brought on site need to have well detailed and defined itineraries. Your committee needs plenty of time to meet and interact with each candidate.
To best evaluate candidates, you should have consistency in your process. The same people give the tours. The same questions are asked of all candidates. The same one on one or group meetings should be held for each candidate. Develop a way to collect and compile feedback and consistency in how it is shared. Be creative in who is involved and find ways to place your candidates in situations where they will show their true selves to you. I like to have any candidate on site have a meal with members of the search team. Many candidates’ true identity surfaces during a meal. Watch how candidates interact in situations outside of the immediate job role. Finally listen to those who voice their opinions in your assessment process. The entire process is geared to answer three questions.
First, does the individual have the skills, experience, and traits to perform the role you are hiring them to do. Secondly are they genuinely interested in and supportive of the work you are doing? And third, do they treat people with respect regardless of position of authority or connection to their role? Are they competent, manageable, and good people?
The final key to performing a great search is to have well defined and thought-out questions. This should be a two-way process of you interviewing the candidate and them interviewing you. In asking questions, think outside of the box. Instead of asking about their three references everyone asks for, ask for someone who they would never ask for a reference and why? Most of all, develop questions you can share with your committee members that get the potential employee to talk openly and honestly about themselves and their experiences.
Executive Management Partners has enormous experience in conducting searches. Let us help you with your next search process and make sure your next hire is the right hire.