Yes, people are your company’s biggest asset—so why don’t hiring managers do a better job of attracting and retaining the best assets possible? Here’s a how-to guide for hiring smarter—both figuratively and literally.
Change how you recruit
Many organizations treat recruiting as a discrete activity—something to be done in reaction to an event, like an employee leaving or a new contract signed. But experts say that this is the wrong approach to take—you should always be recruiting, and not in the usual places.
Patty McCord, a former chief talent officer at Netflix, wrote in Harvard Business Review that the media giant is always looking for the Next Great Hire: “Candidates came from everywhere—from professional conferences, from the sidelines of a kids’ soccer game, from conversations on airplanes.”
Just as important, every professional interaction is a potential future recruitment effort, she adds: “The interview and hiring process gives a powerful first impression about how your company operates, for good or bad. So I had an ironclad rule that if people saw a stranger sitting alone at headquarters waiting for an interview, they should stop and say, “Hi, I’m ____.”
The other thing to keep in mind is that, while professional recruiters and HR departments are often a good investment, so are more informal surveys of staff and associates. Ask members of your team who they think might be good prospects. Clients and suppliers also usually have their finger on the pulse of who is tops in their field.
Throw out the textbook on interviews
Job interviews have a certain rhythm and flow—but that doesn’t mean they have to be predictable. In fact, they shouldn’t be, according to Adam Bryant, who conducts interviews with chief executives for Corner Office, a weekly feature about leadership and management in the New York Times.
Bryant identifies three principles that are critical to hiring the right person: being creative in the interview process (finding questions that really help you to understand how they think), allowing your employees to participate (like the recruiting efforts, getting them involved in the interview itself), and being challenging.
That last point is key: challenge the convention of a boardroom-style interview. You want to see how they interact with people in unguarded, unscripted moments. So take them on a tour of your offices, introduce them to some colleagues and see how they interact with others. Better yet, says Bryant, take them out for a meal.
“Going to a restaurant will reveal all sorts of clues about someone. For many leaders, this is the most important part of the interview process. The key is to watch whether the candidate is considerate of others—an essential quality of effective team players.”
Hire smart—but be smart about it
As everybody knows, a smart leader surrounds themselves with smarter people. Especially as you go up the ladder, your skillset becomes broader—and you have to hire folks who have technical abilities that will ultimately surpass yours.
According to Linda Hill, a professor at Harvard Business School and coauthor of Being the Boss, your role thus shifts away from being an individual contributor to an orchestrator. “Your job is to set the stage,” she says, “and by definition that means you will have people who are more experienced, more up-to-date, and have more expertise working under you.”
Part of setting the stage is making sure you properly onboard your talent and making sure you set them up for success, writes Alexa von Tobel, CEO of LearnVest.com, in Inc. magazine. “Have a 30-60-90-day plan once they’re in the building,” she says. “That includes being extremely clear about roles, accountabilities and responsibilities. Check in to make sure you’re doing your end of the bargain, which is supporting them. People are everything.”
Still, it’s important to remember that your role, as leader, is to make space for your smart hire, says Hill. “Create an environment for talent to be expressed. This requires you learn how to step back and enable things to happen. Your role is not to be the smartest person in the room anymore.”