Getting the right people on the bus

We all know Jim Collins and Good to Great, right? If so, then we know how important bringing the right people into the organization is. If not, go here to catch up then meet me back here!

I recently found this article, How to Hire Like a Superboss, on Harvard Business Review, one of my favorite lunchtime reads. It talks about bosses hiring and finding employees in non-traditional ways; in other words, outside of HR, no resumes or cover letters in sight.

I like it.

Who a person is, how they will perform, what types of ideas they create, is really hard to effectively capture on paper for the interviewer. It’s also hard to appropriately convey when you’re trapped in an uncomfortable heels in a stuffy room full of strangers grilling you on your grad school coursework. I’ve been in interviews where the interviewers went in a circle around the table, recited a pre-rehearsed question, listened to my answer, then the next person asked their pre-rehearsed question. I wanted to get up and scream, Stop! Can’t we just talk? This isn’t me! Let me tell you about WHO I AM! I left that interview feeling like they didn’t get to know me one bit and like I had no clue about the culture of the organization, other than robotic.

I think we need a balance though. We need something between simply liking someone and hiring them then figuring out later what they can do (um, let’s first define the business need for hiring them, please!) and a terribly formal, rote interview process where we learn virtually nothing about the candidate except canned answers to boring questions.

Here are some tips to help you get the right people on the bus:

Treat the interview like a conversation.

Create a list of questions to guide you but let the conversation go where it goes. Don’t obsess with taking notes on every single answer; look your candidates in the eye, ask probing follow-up questions and try to learn who they are. Their grad school transcript will not be indicative of their success in the organization; let’s assume they’ve made it this far because on paper they are absolutely qualified. Can you imagine communicating with them daily? Working on a high-impact project together? Watching them interact with your board or other stakeholders? How do you feel about all this?

Ask the right questions.

Speaking of questions, don’t ask stupid ones (or illegal ones!). If you were stuck in a jar, what kind of fruit would you want in there with you? is ridiculous and tells you nothing about the person. Don’t try to be funny or clever. Here are some great pointers on asking the right questions. I especially love the forward-thinking questions: outline your plan for this job or forecast the evolution of this job.

Be mindful of formality but don’t be uptight.

The nonprofit field can vary wildly in terms of formality. I’ve seen everything from the Monday through Friday suit and tie crowd to leggings and hoodies all be acceptable. As an interviewer, I expect job candidates to put effort into their appearance and show me you care about the job. I do not expect, however, ultimate formality. I’m not deducting mental points if you don’t have a leather folio (I actually despite those things!) or perfectly coordinated belt, shoes and bag. Be yourself and dress like you care, that’s all!

Invite other departments/groups to participate.

When it comes to hiring, more minds can be better than just one. Notice I said “can be better” – please do not have a search committee of ten people. That will be chaos. It’s important to get other departments’ perspectives on how this person would fit into the organization since it’s unlikely she will work alone 100% of the time. How does this finance person come across to non-finance people? Does his communication come across as effective or arrogant?

How does your organization handle the recruiting process? Need help creating a process? Or maybe just filling a role or two? Call me; I can help!

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