I was recently asked what was the single biggest mistake I ever made as a manager. I responded without hesitation, “Not doing strategic recruiting and selection.” And I believe that many managers make the same mistake. Because getting work done is often pressing, the single overriding impetus is usually to fill the job as quickly as possible.
Also See 5 Tips For Hiring (PDF)
This sense of urgency kills careful strategic thinking. All too often, we end up hiring someone who initially looks good, throw him into a problem situation, only to find out later we’ve got the wrong person. And now, we’ve got another problem. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of strategic, proactive recruiting and hiring. Recruiting and hiring are ultimately more important than training and development. So, budgets and management attention should clearly reflect this.
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It always pays to take a long-term perspective and find a strategic fit between the candidate and the position. Both character and competence must be considered in the process. Here are five guidelines to hiring and recruiting strategically:
• Create a long-term strategic plan for the organization: It is difficult for any manager to recruit strategically without having a clear and compelling direction and set of goals and values in place for the organization. The need to define a clear purpose and direction is especially critical today because we are challenged to perform in a climate of relentless change. Hiring strategically means finding people who can not only fulfil immediate needs but who also have the potential to adapt and grow with the company.
• Develop strategic criteria for each job: Align job criteria with the organization’s overall strategy. First, define the role and responsibilities of the position by assessing the firm’s needs—both immediate and future—and consult with key stakeholders. Second, clearly identify the qualifications needed to carry out those duties. Third, outline recruiting and selection activities and processes. Step back to get the big picture and ask yourself: How will this position help us achieve our strategic goals?
• Examine alternatives: Using the strategic criteria you’ve developed, assess candidates from several angles and from different people’s perspectives.
Conduct an in-depth background check. Try to decipher patterns in their career and personal choices, look at their work habits. For example, has the candidate been in the service industry? Does he or she require and work best with flexible hours? Have they changed careers or professions successfully? Does this candidate’s abilities and experience match your criteria? Or will he or she bring something new that would add value in a different way than you originally thought of? This may lead you to seek alternatives and explore new ideas for either the candidate or the position.
• Be forthright with the candidate: A candidate deserves to know what he or she is getting into; they need to understand your strategy, needs, criteria and selection process.
Moreover, they need to be apprised of the firm’s corporate culture, your value system, purpose and goals. It is important to engage in open and free discussions in order to educate the candidate. It is also helpful to involve other associates in the dialogue and to solicit their perspective.
It’s important to cultivate an easy, open, relaxed feeling—perhaps walking around and meeting other people informally. Lastly, when you make a job offer, don’t ask for an immediate response. Give the candidate time to discuss the offer with family or other people with whom they are close.
• Hire the person for an initial trial period of three-six months: This is a period of time to see if this is a good fit for both the new employee and for the organization. It is a time for feedback from both parties. Perhaps the new hire isn’t getting the challenge he anticipated. How can you provide this?
Ask the person for their ideas about what responsibilities or tasks would challenge him more? Or maybe the person you hired isn’t learning as quickly as you had expected or you discover a weakness in skill sets. Find ways to remedy the situation. Maybe additional training or mentoring will provide the necessary support. You may ultimately decide this candidate is not a good fit. In this case, it is better to cut losses early on rather than compromise the needs of the organization.
Following these guidelines will help you bring people on board who are ready and able to make significant contributions to your firm—and be happy doing it. Your employees are your firm’s most important long-term investment. So think, recruit and hire strategically. And don’t forget, hiring right is more important than training right.
Stephen R. Covey is vice-chairman of Franklin Covey Co.(www.franklincoveysouthasia.com), the global leader in organizational and personal effectiveness. He is an internationally respected and sought after leadership authority, teacher and organizational consultant. Covey is the author of several books, including The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.