In the early stages of a company, hiring can be a make-or-break decision. Just one wrong hire can ultimately derail the venture. Unfortunately, hiring is extremely complicated and fraught with risk. This is especially the case with founders who may not have much experience with the process. So what to do? Well, I recently reached out to a variety of executives to get some advice.
Let’s take a look:
#1 – Establish Hiring Best Practices
“Cultivating a healthy and positive company culture starts with hiring best practices,” said Mehul Patel, who is the CEO of Hired. “Unfortunately, even the best hiring managers can miss red flags during the interview process that indicate a candidate is prone to toxic workplace behavior. However, there are a few ways to suss out the potential for toxic behavior that are critical for any hiring manager to follow.”
- The more team members who interview a candidate, the better. Each candidate that begins the interview process with your company should be introduced to a well-rounded roster of current employees who will be calibrating the candidate for the role. In addition to the hiring manager, there should be 3-4 additional employees who are interviewing the candidate.
- Of course, “toxicity” won’t be listed on a candidate’s resume. Yet past behavior in the face of real challenges can be a revealing indicator. Try the following questions and listen for signs of overt negativity: What was your least favorite thing about your past employer? Tell me about a time when your team let you down and you had to pick up the slack? What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in your career? How do you deal with an underperforming teammate?
- Use reference checks. Following up with past employers for detailed references is essential to getting a better understanding of a candidate’s work style and interpersonal skills. Was the employee a team player? Were they curious and enthusiastic about new opportunities? What were some of their challenges and how do I set them up for success?
#2 – Interview for Skills, Hire for Personality
When it comes to the hiring process, there is often too much focus on skills. But this can easily lead to the wrong person. After all, you are not hiring a list of functions and duties – rather, you are bringing someone on who has a unique personality.
“The person you select, and their personality, will have a direct and immediate impact on your company culture, so surface level knowledge shouldn’t satisfy you,” said Samar Birwadker, who is the founder and CEO of Good&Co. “Merely paying lip service to culture fit– ignoring that daily interactions with his or her team and manager form the majority of the employee’s feeling about a job– does your company a massive disservice. Incorporating a new personality to your team is like adding a new ingredient midway through preparing dinner for your in-laws.”
The bottom line: When interviewing, you are looking at the skills. Then, when you make the hiring decision, it’s time to look at the fit. In other words, you need to pay attention to the interactions with your team. Is there some tension? Are there some bad vibes? Such things are certainly red flags, even if the person is highly skilled.
You can also use various apps to test a candidate’s personality (keep in mind that this is what Good&Co does and the company has a free app for iOS and Android).
#3 – Speaking Negatively About Their Past Employer
Jason Carney, who is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and the HR Director of WorkSmart Systems, has over 20 years’ experience in staffing. His company is also a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) that serves over 200 client companies with employees in 37 states. Many of these are small to-medium-size employers.
When doing interviews, one of the factors Jason looks for is a person’s reflections on his or her previous jobs. “Even if someone has had a truly horrifying experience in the previous industry or job they were in, they should still be able to talk about their past employers in a positive way,” said Jason. “If they rant about how much they hated their last job, this could indicate to me that the applicant may not take responsibility for his or her own actions. This shows a sign of immaturity if they can’t at least share what was learned from the experience, instead of placing blame on others. What might they say about you when they leave your employ one day?”
#4 – Recruit For Values
Panda Restaurant Group has over 35,000 employees. So yes, a key focus of the company is sourcing talent.
“For a values-driven and team-oriented organization like Panda Express, we find it important to assess employees in terms of a company culture fit to avoid creating an environment that jeopardizes not only the business but also the growth and development of other team members,” said Leonard Yip, who is the Chief People Officer. “Our focus is to evaluate candidates holistically, assessing not only the person’s skillset and experience, but also their mindset. An employee with a positive attitude who is willing to learn can prove to be invaluable.”
This means that – during the interview process – you need to listen for key words like “we” versus “I” or “me.” There must also be a focus on behavioral-based questions to assess whether an applicant shares the same set of values of the company.
For Panda Express, this is about using the P.R.O. questioning method. “It involves asking about past experiences, examining how the candidate responded and determining what the outcome was. By learning about an employee’s past behavior to predict their future behavior, we look for individuals who are energized by problem solving and learn from their experiences.”