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Employee Retention: Hiring “Right” The First Time

hiring retention Dec 29, 2021

You’ve hired people before and you’ve lost people before. You know the secret to building the team you’ve always wanted is to find the right people and hold on to them. In this blog series on employee retention we’ve talked about the culture that makes your organization a great place to work, how engaging employees means designing roles where they can do what they love, and how being fairly compensated communicates they are valued by the organization. If you do all of these great things and don’t hire the right people, then all of that effort and energy doesn’t bear fruit.

Hiring thoughtfully (and sometimes more slowly) can save you time and money AND you are more likely to retain the candidates you do hire. So, how do you get more thoughtful in the hiring process so you can find and retain great talent? Here’s some things to think about:

Get More Specific on the Job Qualifications

Many job descriptions I review have 10 - 12 qualifications as broad categorizations of ambiguous qualities like “good communicator” or “team player”. These non-specific qualifications are difficult to assess in an interview and leave an awful lot up to the interviewer's subjective intuition. Getting more concrete, specific, tangible qualifications can serve as a guide to evaluate candidates more objectively. 

  1. Grab your list of qualities and review them. Are there any that are ambiguous?  If so, can you make them more specific?
  2. Pick the top 3 - 4 qualities that define the skills required to do the job.
  3. Dig deep into them one at a time and note examples of that qualification.
  4. Utilize these focused and specific qualities to look for evidence in candidate resumes.
  5. Design your interview questions to draw out specific experience with these core skills 
  6. Ask candidates to “showcase” their skills. A portfolio, examples of writing, samples of projects, skill-based tests designed for hiring purposes.

Don’t Stop At Qualifications, Also Assess Values

Skills can be trained while the intangible qualities like character or values are often greater predictors of candidate retention. Assessing candidate values, however, actually starts with you and your organization first. Assess your team’s culture. What values or qualities make it unique? How would you describe it tangibly? What are examples of those values expressed in the daily work your team does? Now, with language that describes your culture, let’s evaluate candidates: 

  1. Look again at that long list of qualities that you reviewed and prioritized.
  2. Pick 3 - 4 qualities from that list which exemplify the values and culture of your team.
  3. Think of specific examples of how these values will play out in this role.
  4. Design interview questions that create conversation around these values.
  5. Share your team’s values with the candidate. Ask what resonates with them.

Let Great Candidates Evaluate You

Lack of “fit” for new hires is usually a mismatch in candidate expectations and the actual job or team culture. You have an idea in your mind of what the job will be like, and you’re also an insider with insider language and insider nuances that are often difficult to articulate. Creating opportunities for the candidate to evaluate the role and the organization helps them self-sort into or out of the job opportunity. Some ways you can do this:

  1. Give them a tour and introduce them around. They get a feel of the environment and you get a feel for how they interact with others.
  2. Offer a practice opportunity. Provide a “real-time” decision that's on the table or situation relevant to the role and ask for their advice or insights during the interview process. Or, ask for their feedback to a specific assignment or project that’s germane to  the role.
  3. Evaluate how your hiring process reflects your organizational culture. This is the candidate’s first experience with your organization. How does your hiring process  demonstrate your values? Is it cumbersome, slow, unresponsive or is it engaging, personable and clarifying? Notice what the process will communicate to candidates about your organization and whether this is the message you wish to convey.
  4. Introduce them to the team. Should your team interview candidates or not? Your answer depends on your culture. If you choose to utilize a conversation with the team, try less of an interview style and more of a ‘meet and greet’ casual opportunity to create connections that help the candidate get a sense for their own fit. 

Check Your Gut - What's It Saying?

“I knew something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.” We’ve all been there, choosing not to listen to that inner instinct, the flag of intuition telling us something that didn’t quite make sense. Sometimes it’s way too easy to ignore. Sometimes it can carry too much weight. How do you listen to and yet not be overly influenced by that intuitive sixth-sense about a candidate?

First, don’t ignore your gut. It might be seeing something the details are missing.

  1. Bring in another objective person for the second interview to check your gut.
  2. Check references asking some specific questions in areas where you see potential red flags.
  3. Pray and seek discernment and wisdom >> invite others to join you in prayer.

Second, make sure your intuition isn’t hindering your chance to build a diverse team by leading you to hire people who are just like you or your team:

  1. Identify where your team’s gaps are and look for evidence the candidate can help fill that gap.
  2. Find objective ways to assess qualifications AND character for each candidate so you don’t depend too much on your gut which may default to people who are just like you.
  3. Consider integrating a hiring assessment for the new candidates. Even better if your team has taken the same assessment and you can get a team comparison. Just make sure the assessments you choose are designed for hiring and not a personality assessment!

Next Steps

If you can’t find the right person. Be patient. Consider hiring a temporary employee, interim candidate or using a temp agency. Hiring decisions can have “long tails'' so doing your best to get them right will pay dividends both in the short term and the long term.  You, your team and your organization will benefit from “hiring right”.

Need some support getting clear on qualifications or writing interview questions to evaluate qualifications? Grab a FREE 30 minute strategy session and let’s get you started with some practical tools.

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