Choose Wisely

The Shoe Maker’s kids go around with holes in their shoes.  I hear this repeatedly as an analogy for how recruitment companies run and operate.  People, production, performance, motivation and integrity issues, dysfunction, no team work, inconsistency, and turnover are rabid epidemics.  When a consultant first challenged me on my internal human resources issues I found that I was first a bit defensive, then apprehensive, and then frankly – depressed.

I was making more money than ever before, had my own business, had fourteen employees, and had what was thought to be a viable business model.  I was dealing with constant employee issues, complaints from customers and employees, inconsistent performance, processes that were continually not being honored or followed, turnover, and more.  Throughout these few years I was taking myself on, going to management training seminars, taking on personal transformation, working with a coach, assessing myself, trying to get better at managing as to avoid or limit my “employee crises, issues and drama” any way I could.  You name it, I was taking it on.

During this time of constant personal reflection and correction, my executive coach, a very wise soul, pulled me aside and questioned me about how I went about choosing my employees.  He asked:

•    “How do you know that you have the very best talent you could have?”
•    “Is there any chance you are hiring the best and placing the rest?”
•    “Are you hiring the left overs, the people you interviewed for whom you had no job, so you ‘found’ something that would fit a need for yourself and them?”
•    “Are you hiring people who are a fit for your culture, goals and methodology, or are you hiring the same type of people who would have ‘fit’ in your past employers’ environments, which simply would not fit in your company.”

As he was questioning me, I became overwhelmed and relieved simultaneously.  I realized that I was and was not the problem.  I had been spending so much time fixing myself to be a better manager and what I realized is that the true problem was in my internal recruitment (or lack of) process and with my on-boarding (or lack of) processes.

I began the journey of developing an internal recruiting and hiring process in 1998.  Upon assessing my own staff of fourteen, I found that five were the biggest problems. It immediately became apparent that I had hired a group of people who were highly disorganized, highly flexible, highly restless and not internally driven to succeed.   Upon reflection, I saw right away why these folks were hired.  They seemed like me!  They talked fast, were energetic and dynamic, like me.  However, what I missed because I did not even know how to look for it was that they were not built internally like me – they lacked the internal drive and motivation to succeed.

I am embarrassed to say, but back then I felt anyone who took on what was being offered was automatically motivated to succeed.  Why wouldn’t they be?  So I was attracted to people who on the outside reminded me of myself, and never delved deep to see if they were really like me.  Hence – mistakes, forgetfulness, processes not being followed, candidates not pushed forward fast enough, etc. etc.  I was frustrated, upset and annoyed more than I was happy, motivating and inspirational. That was my first breakthrough, and yes, one-by-one these people were out boarded.

Next I took the training from the ‘Center for Entrepreneurial Development’ and developed specific Comprehensive Position Requisitions for every position within the company, and every position that might be added later.  Each CPR began by outlining the specific Key Performance Indicators – specific performance expectations for that role.  The CPR then defined the Core Functions of each role.  A specific description of how a person in this role would achieve the key performance indicators (what their day would be like, what would the role be expected to do on a daily basis).

Then I added selection criteria – who are these people, what do they think like, act like, interact like, how will they get the work done?  I listed it all out, utilizing my behavioral interviewing training to define the right behaviors.  Gut instinct and experience were used to define what their motivational levels would need to be at.  I used a few assessments that I had been administering for my clients to define and assess other key traits – need for money, independence, competition, ability to work at a fast pace, wittiness, memory recall, pro-activity, and so on.

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This was my second breakthrough. I now had specific criteria with expectations and, before extending an offer, could be pretty confident the person would be able to achieve these expectations, as well as operate with the level of integrity required.  Now I have 1/3 of the people I had in 1998, working smarter, faster and much more in line with whom I say Alliance is and what we are about.  I recently read and highly recommend “The Truth about Managing People and Nothing but the Truth” by Stephen Robbins that expresses this concept.

My third breakthrough in hiring right and managing effectively is that there are several types of people who can do different elements of a job the right way. They probably have different communication styles, and different ways of relating to others.  However, all of these styles are effective if properly aligned with the right type of tasks, projects and people.

I have utilized a very powerful people reading instrument extensively, although not for hiring, as it is not a tool that is approved for that usage. This instrument has several modules for training in management, customer service and sales.  I have found that the more I know about this specific instrument, and the more I know about people in general, I have become better at utilizing talent and much better at delegating work to the right people.

Also, I stopped trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole.  If there is an employee who is dynamic and eager, and sometimes misses the finer details, then I match them with a steady, conscientious employee who is less strong with people and stronger in the area of making sure the details are correct.  While this type of theory won’t necessarily work if you are building an entire empire of straight commission, independent operators, it is very powerful if you are building your infrastructure with the team concept.

In conclusion, I now run a business that not only utilizes behavioral interviewing and personality assessments in our internal hiring process, we also include these comprehensive assessments and services in our service offerings to our clients.  In upcoming articles, I will share the different methods, sales approaches and services that we now offer to our clients that have allowed us to separate ourselves from the sea of competition, open up new revenue streams, and have our candidates consistently emerge as the top candidate in the search and hiring process.

Named “Chicago Woman Business Owner of the Year” by the National Association of Women Business Owners in 2004, Margaret Graziano is committed to empowering people and organizations. Graziano is currently celebrating 11 years as a business owner of Alliance HR Network, and she continues to innovate and offer new and cutting-edge services and products to her clients.

Magi Graziano, as seen on NBC, is the CEO of Conscious Hiring® and Development, a speaker, employee recruitment and engagement expert and author of The Wealth of Talent. Through her expansive knowledge and captivating presentations, Magi provides her customers with actionable, practical ideas to maximize their effectiveness and ability to create high-performing teams. With more than 20 years’ experience as a top producer in the Recruitment and Search industry, she empowers and enables leaders to bring transformational thinking to the day-to-day operation. For more information on Magi please visit    


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