“I trust my gut.” Every time I hear an HR professional or Leader speak those four words, I get a sinking feeling in my own gut. Hiring is just too important to be left to something as vague and subjective as a “gut feeling.” There are amazing tools out there to radically up the odds of a successful hire. “Gut check alone” typically isn’t one of them.
Every organization needs star players to succeed. Yet the percentage of new hires that end up as disappointments is estimated at 75%, according to research by Topgrading, a leading provider of online hiring tools. Those are expensive mistakes. Let’s take a look at how leaders can avoid common traps, take the guesswork out of hiring, and find and nurture star players.
Five Steps To Taking The Guessing Out Of Hiring
- Slow down.According to Topgrading V.P. Chris Mursau, “companies need to slow down [and] put some real thought into the process up front.” Yes, there’s always pressure to fill a job slot, but hasty hires are always a mistake. So slow down, put some real thought into the process up front. Get together all the stakeholders who will be impacted by this hire. Define what skills and qualities you’re looking for. Define your culture (you may think you know your culture well, but a succinct, up-to-date restating is always helpful) and what a good cultural fit would look like. What does the person look like who will be a star player and a cultural fit? Thoughtful, unhurried preparation exponentially ups the odds of a successful hire.
- Recruit from networks.Yes, the more traditional means of advertising a job opening – ads, search firms, postings – still have their place. But a personal connection is by far the best way to find compatible star players. If you’re looking for a software designer, for example, call the best software designers you know, no matter where they work, and ask them for potential referral candidates. Also contact star players in related fields and ask for recommendations. Also use social media and professional associations to seek out the very best. Use networks first because they are often the fastest and easiest way to connect with top talent. Only if you come up short, do you need to spend the effort and money on more traditional means.
- Triple check references.Most hiring managers have fallen into the charm trap. You meet a candidate who has a seemingly terrific resume, is high energy and personable, and has strong professional and social skills. You hire this person. They end up a disappointment. You ponder why, and realize you didn’t do a thorough check of references. When you do, you quickly realize the candidate did some dissembling if not outright lying. Pre-screen all applicants for holes and exaggerations in their resume. Make a personal conference reference call with former employers a requisite part of the hiring process. Star players will be delighted to do so. Caveat: sometimes star talent isn’t a good fit for an organization’s culture or needs. Understand the difference between a mediocre talent and one who may not have been a good fit at their last job – but may be a star in your organization.
- Have all stakeholders present at the job interview.You want the people who will be working directly with the candidate to sign off on the hire. You may not get unanimous agreement, but you want to get as close as you can. By bringing stakeholders into the process, you get a much better assessment of cultural fit. When a candidate is hired, his or her transition will be smoother — they’ll be able to hit the ground running with high morale all around.
- Turn new hires into partners. Look beyond the immediate job and discuss career development and goals with applicants. Ask them to envision various success and promotion scenarios within your organization. The more research they do on your organization, the better. In most cases, surprises rarely work out well. You’re looking to make applicants partners with these exercises. Investment and commitment grows on both sides.
In line with Chris Mursau’s question of, “Would you ask someone to marry you on the first date after you get to know the person for an hour?” No you wouldn’t and you shouldn’t hire someone in haste either. You wouldn’t marry someone after the first date. And you shouldn’t hire someone in haste either. Take your time, be methodical, use the tools – and leave your gut out of it.
A version of this was first posted on Forbes.