How to Tame 500-Pound Gorillas (a.k.a., Your Hiring Managers)

Over the past two years, I’ve attended 15 different recruiting events and HR-related trade shows. Surprisingly, over 95% of the recruiting solutions presented had more to do with technology, sourcing, Web 2.0, assessments, and tracking data more efficiently.

Yet in our annual recruiter survey, 50% of most hiring problems are attributed to the lack of assessment, interviewing, and recruiting skills on the part of the hiring manager.

Taming this 500-pound gorilla is the big problem that should be addressed, not seeing more candidates who won’t get hired by anyone. From this cynical perspective, here are some ideas on how to tame your personal gorillas:

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  1. Make sure you and your hiring managers know the job. Don’t start looking for candidates unless you know what the person is actually going to be doing on the job. To uncover this, just ask your hiring managers what they’ll be telling your candidates when they ask, “tell me about the job, some of the big projects and the growth opportunities?” If they can’t answer this question, you’ll wind up hiring the best of the average candidates. Require a list of the top 5-6 performance objectives describing what the person will be doing as part of the req approval process as a first step in the taming process. Here’s an article on how to prepare these performance-driven job descriptions.
  2. Don’t sell the job, sell the next step. The best people want to explore opportunities in bite-size chunks. So if you rush to push a specific job in a specific location with a specific title and specific comp, you’ll only attract those who are actively looking. Instead, set your processes up with the idea that they’ll use each step in the hiring process as a means for your candidates to get more information about the job and whether it’s a good career move or not. This means hiring managers must be willing to meet people on an exploratory basis. Great managers do this anyway, so by making it part of your hiring process, you can tell every other manager this is a “best practice” benchmark. Here’s an article on how to implement this type of “sell the next step” process.
  3. Use a structured performance-based interview that directly assesses on-the-job performance. A comprehensive interview can be conducted using two core questions in combination with a detailed work-history review. The first question focuses on digging into a candidate’s major accomplishments and is then repeated to evaluate consistency and performance over time. Comparing these accomplishments to the performance expectations of the job is a major part of the assessment process. The second question involves a give-and-take dialogue around a real job-related problem to assess thinking, planning, and creative skills. This type of interview is scalable with different interviewers using the same questions, but digging into different accomplishments and looking for different job success factors (e.g., planning, team skills, managerial fit, and motivation). If you don’t have some type of structured interview process in place that assesses on-the-job competency and motivation, managers will do their own thing and focus on what they believe to be important to them.
  4. Be a juror, not a judge. Errors due to emotions, over-valuing intuition, bias, and lack of preparation can be reduced just by eliminating the yes/no voting system. In its place, implement a multi-factor assessment process where interviewers formally debrief and evaluate each job success-factor independently. This way, no one makes a hiring decision until all of the evidence (facts, details, org charts, test results, etc.) is shared and discussed. HR must implement this process and ensure it’s being followed. This alone will tame your gorillas without having to be in the cage.
  5. Increase your close rate by creating an opportunity gap and getting the candidate to sell you. The best people accept jobs based primarily on what they’re going to be doing, learning, and becoming. Unfortunately, telling people these things is not as impactful as them learning it for themselves. This can be done in an interview by demonstrating the difference in their accomplishments in comparison to real job needs. For example, suggesting to a software developer that you think he’s a bit light to handle a major project alone will get the person to sell you on why the person is qualified for the job. This is a great way for managers to present the job as a series of growth and learning opportunities instead of trying to convince the candidate to take an offer. Here is an article describing in detail how to do this during your next interview.
  6. Manage and sell time. Time is a critical asset that most managers waste and most candidates overlook. Preparing performance profiles up-front, using a structured interview, conducting a formal debriefing process, and working closely with their recruiters will save managers time during the hiring process by seeing fewer, but more qualified candidates. It will save even more time after the person is hired since the person will be motivated and competent to do the work required, rather than having the manager over-manage them. This idea of managing time can also be presented to the candidate as a recruiting point, by suggesting that the steeper the learning curve of the job the faster the person will be able to move up in the organization. This point alone can offset a 5%-10% difference in salary between one offer and another.

Taming hiring managers is the 500-pound gorilla in the room. Somehow, most recruiters and HR leaders don’t even see it sitting there.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


1 Comment on “How to Tame 500-Pound Gorillas (a.k.a., Your Hiring Managers)

  1. I really enjoyed your article Lou, and no doubt like many acknowledge the need to go back to basics and not allow ourselves and our abilities not to be overshadowed by technology.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love new technology and I think for many of us we get caught up in the excitement of shinny new things. Particularly those that seem to offer us a quicker way of working – though not always a more effective way!

    Unfortunately the downside is that all this great new technology gives us an excuse to avoid speaking with our hiring managers and increasingly even offering a contact point for potential applicants. We can only automate so much when it comes down to what is largely a service that requires a lot of human contact via phone, email, face to face!

    I suspect if as hiring professionals we cannot bother to take the time to meet with the hiring manager and get solid understanding of the job brief, to ask questions, challenge them and advise and so on, we will continue to spend a lot of unnecessary time and money fixing problems that should not have arisen in the first place.

    Kelly Magowan
    Six Figures, the Executive Job Site for $100K+ Jobs

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