To me, hiring someone is like buying a house. It’s a huge decision we make based on few interactions and hope for the best. When my wife and I bought our house, we walked in, looked around, we checked the report and made an offer. All in 1 day! Happily I don’t hire as fast as I buy houses, but still, by the time I have given a candidate a job offer, I have spent no more than 5h with the person, (often less) and I have never seen them interact with people outside an interview context. Imagine deciding to spend 8h a day with someone and imposing that choice on everyone around… You’d feel a bit of pressure wanting the person to fit in right? Imagine making such a decision after only 2–4 interactions? I find hiring one of the scariest responsibilities I have.
First, hiring is often a game of luck. Unless you are headhunting, being lucky enough to have the perfect candidate apply for a job you just posted is never a guarantee. Who knows where this perfect candidate is, what they are up to and if they are looking for new opportunities. In my career, I often see that the best hiring happens when all stars align and there are no recipes for that.
Hiring is hard for many reasons and here are the ones that I find the hardest:
- Assessing applications: over the years, I have come to assess many applications and honestly, I don’t think they give most applicants the merit they deserve. Applications aren’t all equal and don’t always give all the information I need. To mitigate this, I do phone screen calls with EVERYONE I find a little bit interesting as I don’t think it’s fair to judge someone based on a two-pager. Often a phone conversation is way more revealing. I also check every candidate on LinkedIn. In many cases, I think the LinkedIn profile provides more or extra information the CV didn’t give.
- Personalities: everyone has one and it can be really hard to uncover one’s true self during the hiring process. Yet, once a candidate gets the job and starts working, we will work with that person and their personality. This is always a gamble and for that reason, I often try to keep some parts of the interview process very casual to build enough comfort for the candidate to show, at least in part, their true self so I can assess if we can work together and if they are a right fit for the team.
- Past experiences and skills: over the years, I have come to see great value in candidates’ employment history where I can see that they have held more than one role at their previous employer(s). This often means they were promoted and were good to high performers. This is a good indication of talent, although never a promise.
- References: It’s hard to assess a candidate based on references. Candidates always include people who will back them up and therefore, I am never sure how seriously to take references.
- Education: I have a bias against specific education as most people I know ended up in fields of work that were not directly linked to their degree. Therefore, I rarely take education as an important selection criteria. When that is said, I know other managers really care and often the recruiters will too.
As I find hiring hard and an immense responsibility, I have learned in recent months to expand my hiring methods and include others in the process. In addition to relying on the recruiter appointed to my hirings, I now fully embrace the “loop” where I have 4 peers or other employees interview the best candidate and provide feedback. Adding this step to the hiring process has three important positive impacts:
- As everyone’s time is precious, I want to minimize the number of loops my team, colleagues and peers have to do. This really forces me to evaluate thoroughly, from a 360 standpoint, any top candidate before submitting them to my colleagues. The candidate not only needs to be a fit for the role, but also for the team.
- Bad hiring: although no one hopes to hire the wrong person, it can happen to anyone. Realizing this is hard and it is a painful process to have to let someone go. The loop might not prevent me from hiring the wrong person, but it considerably reduces the probability. Although I have the last say as the hiring manager, I am not the only one choosing any future employee and receiving feedback on any future hire really helps make sure we hire the right person. I strongly doubt 5 people could pick the wrong person together.
- Bias elimination. We all have biases. For example, I know that during the hiring process I tend to be more lenient towards expat and international employees as I know how hard it can be to live and work abroad. By including others in the hiring process, I make sure that my biases are counterbalanced by the ones of others enabling us to hire the best person for the job.